Home > serious posts > The sting that stinks to heaven

The sting that stinks to heaven

On April 30, 2012, the central hub of lies about The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, which claims to be “committed to objective, academic, respectful and honest discussions” though in reality it is anything but, published a post beginning with the following claim:

About the same time that the Heehs controversy was brewing in 2008, the CNN-IBN news channel had carried out a bold sting operation on the Trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust and on Manoj Das Gupta (Managing Trustee) in particular.

Senior journalists of CNN-IBN posing as businessmen setting up a holiday resort in Pondicherry met with Manoj Das Gupta at his residence one evening and secretly videoed their interaction with him. They allegedly recorded Manoj Das Gupta receiving cash bribes for favours.

Further down the blog’s General Editor (one of Sraddhalu Ranade’s henchmen if not the Master of Deception himself) expresses bafflement:

Three hours before the broadcast was due, the promos mysteriously stopped, and the program was cancelled without giving any reasons. No explanation has been forthcoming to this day.

Will CNN-IBN shed light on this? The public have a right to know as the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust is a public charitable institution and its trustees are accountable to the public.

Indeed. Recently a new blog titled Well-wishers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram has begun to do just this. The revelations are serialized for maximum soap-operatic effect. Here is what we have learned thus far. Watch Well-wishers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram for more.

Time: towards the end of June 2007. Place: Pondicherry. Dramatis personae: one Mr. Sashi Mukherjee (SM), one Ms./Mrs. Sujata Venkatesh (SV, apparently the former’s assistant), an unnamed representative of the Ashram identified as SB, the Ashram Managing Trustee (MT), and others.

SM and SV claimed to be acting on behalf of a real estate firm based in Delhi engaged in setting up a resort in Pondicherry. They requested SB to introduce them to MT, which SB was less than keen to do. SM then met MT a few times on his own.

What follows is the bulk of an email sent on February 14, 2008, by SB to Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor-in-Chief of the IBN18 Network (which includes CNNIBN). Read the complete text here.

[…] In July 2007, a Mr. Sashi Mukherjee, unknown to me, asked me to be of assistance to him as he was claiming to be acting on behalf of a real estate firm based in Delhi wanting to set up a resort here in Pondicherry. I clearly conveyed to him that I had no particular expertise in this matter or any direct interest. Though Mr Sashi Mukherjee went on insisting that in this venture Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust would be getting a share of the profits, I conveyed to him that I have only a general feeling of goodwill for anyone who has respect for the Ashram, and in such matters I have no role to play. Thereafter Mr. Sashi Mukherjee requested me to introduce him to the trustees of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust so that it may help him carry forward his plans. I told him clearly that the trustees are as such accessible to anyone who may wish to meet them and therefore he was certainly free to do so, but it would not help him for his projects in any way, since the Ashram is definitely not connected with real estate or resort-setting activities. I came to know later on that he had met at least two trustees of the Ashram a few times and, as I had informed him, both the trustees were categorical that the Ashram is not involved in such activities.

However one evening during his visit, he tried to give Rs 5000 to the Managing Trustee of the Ashram, letting it remain ambiguous whether this money was an offering to the Ashram or whether this money was meant to be for the Managing Trustee’s personal use. When the Managing Trustee refused to accept any money unless if it be a voluntary offering to the Ashram and unless he was given the name and address of the donor, Mr. Sashi Mukherjee left behind his visiting card as also a handwritten address.

Exhibit 1: SM’s visiting card

This money was accounted for in the books of Account of the Ashram the very next working day. The official receipt of the donation was dispatched twice to the office as well as the residential address indicated by Mr Sashi Mukherjee but both the times the letter was returned, as both the addresses were fictitious.

Exhibit 2: Copy of the donation receipt

Exhibit 3: Copy of the covering letter sent with the first receipt

Exhibit 4: Copy of the envelope of the first returned letter

Exhibit 5: Copy of the second receipt letter

Exhibit 6: Copy of the envelope of the second returned letter

A few days later, I saw your channel’s Mr. Shashikumar on television and, to my astonishment, recognised him as Mr. Sashi Mukherjee. Subsequently, a communication was received by me from Mr. Shashikumar explaining that he was investigating some allegations against the Ashram and would be sending a questionnaire for us to answer. To us, his whole approach seemed unfair, motivated and dubious. It left a bad taste and this impression was reinforced when the questionnaire was received and it was found that it had nothing to do with any declared purpose for which Mr. Shashikumar had met the trustees under his alias. To this day we have not been able to fathom as to why this whole exercise was undertaken and what was the conclusion drawn from it.

In any event, a representative of the Ashram, Mr Matri Prasad, went to Delhi in mid-September 2007. He met Mr. Shashikumar in the presence of Mr. Nair and answered questions for over 4 hours. Mr Matri Prasad returned with the impression that the CNN-IBN team was more than adequately satisfied with the answers he had provided.

In fact, some of the questions asked did not even conform to a consistent point of view. For example, one was how someone alleged to have been unfit to remain in the Ashram could still continue to be an inmate of the Ashram, while another accused the Ashram of having asked some individuals to withdraw from the community! It was also explained and shown with documentary evidence that some individuals are repeatedly filing court cases against the Ashram, even on those issues on which the courts have already definitely pronounced themselves several times in favour of the Ashram. Such cases are bound to get dismissed in due course but given the nature and structure of the legal procedure, it can only be after the normal process is fully gone through and which necessarily takes time. On CNN-IBN’s request, the Ashram submitted written replies, sometimes running into over a dozen pages, for every question asked. In order to remove any possible doubts or apprehensions, the answers we submitted were also supported by annexures consisting of copies of (mainly legal) documents containing in all about 2500 pages. […]

More about this stink operation.

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