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The Sri Aurobindo Society’s duplicitous plea

Some comments on the Society’s duplicitous plea.

One watches with great unease the goings on related to “The Lives of Sri Aurobindo” by Peter Heehs. Though it all started with the book, it has now taken a direction which hits at the very gut of every devotee all over the world….

We were under the impression that this harakiri started with a letter written by Ranganath Raghavan and Raman Reddy, titled “The Role of Peter Heehs in the Archives,” which was submitted to the trustees around the beginning of September 2008. This was followed on September 6, 2008, by a letter to the Managing Trustee of the Ashram disingenuously headed “Mahakali’s saving Grace” and on September 11, 2008, by a duplicitous set of extracts from The Lives compiled by Raman Reddy and put into circulation by Ananda Reddy. In it passages were used out of context to misrepresent the author’s intentions, by systematic distortions, deliberate misattributions, and selective omissions.

Three days later, on September 14, 2008, the motive behind this assault became clear when Ranganath Raghavan wrote a piece titled “The Sri Aurobindo Ashram and its Internal Management,” in which he concludes that “the present arrangement by which trustees are appointed for life and their successors are chosen by themselves must be put an end to.”

Two weeks later, on September 30, 2008, it was the turn of Vijay N. Poddar, Member Executive of the Sri Aurobindo Society’s Executive Committee and the Society’s chief ideologue, to send a letter to the Ashram Trustees in which he writes that “with a combined effort we have to block completely the printing of the Indian edition and explore what can be done to stop the distribution of the American edition”. He presents The Lives as “a direct attack of a very hostile and evil force, which has been able to enter because of our lack of purity and sincerity, and which is using us as its instruments to directly malign Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and to delay their great work of transformation of humanity.” He even notes approvingly the shameless past attempts to prevent the publication of Mother’s Agenda, which is to say, of the Mother’s own words. (Were the Mother’s words also an attack of a very hostile and evil force?) That’s how it all started.

And why only “at the very gut of every devotee all over the world”? Why not at the very gut of every defender of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which in its preamble states that “the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people”? Why not at the very gut of every person who stands up against religious bigotry and fundamentalism?

We seem to be hurtling towards disaster. The happenings are hurting not just the Ashram but all related institutions.

Such as the Sri Aurobindo Society? Poor Society! Let us connect some dots (in bold face).

On November 4, 2008, Mrs. Geetanjali Jain Bhattacharjee filed a Writ Petition at the High Court of Orissa. (The court orders that the petitioner “may make representation” before the Secretary of Home Affairs, the Secretary, Internal Security, and the Secretary, Information and Broadcasting, adding that these agencies “may ensure that there should be no publication of the book ‘The Lives of Sri Aurobindo’ by Peter Heehs without obtaining no objection from them during the pendency of the representation”. None of the three central government secretaries named have expressed any interest in the case to date.)

On November 26, 2008, the printed version of the Writ Petition “challenging the inaction of the Govt. of India allowing this book” was filed. The bulk of this petition consists of passages from an email by Sraddhalu Ranade posted on the SAICE yahoo group on September 25. On January 13, 2009, the case was heard by the High Court, which denies a prayer by Geetanjali’s lawyers seeking to prevent Peter Heehs from speaking to the press. Geetanjali’s lawyers add the Ministry of Human Resources development to the list of central government agencies “arrayed” in the case. (The Ministry of Human Resources development has not expressed any interest in the case to date.)

Geetanjali Jain Bhattacharya is the wife of Jayant Bhattacharya (a.k.a. J. Bhattacharjee), former classmate and close friend of Sraddhalu Ranade as well as son of Gopal Bhattacharjee (a.k.a. G. Bhattacharya), a member of the Society’s Executive Committee.

On November 23, 2009, Mrs. Surekha Jain, the mother of Geetanjali JB, filed a Writ Petition at the Madras High Court. The Writ names the Regional Registration Officers, Department of Immigration, Chennai and Puducherry; the Managing Trustee of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram; and the Superintendent of Police, Pondicherry North as deponents. S. Jain ( or rather Geetanjali JB, who speaks throughout for the ostensible petitioner) demands that the court order the Immigration Department to take action “against the said Peter Heehs to forthwith deport him from the country”. Heehs subsequently filed a petition to be “impleaded” (listed as a deponent in the case), which was accepted by the Chief Justice of the High Court. On February 4, 2010, the lawyer representing Surekha Jain informed the Court that he will no longer appear for Jain. In March the case was adjourned on two occasions, and on April 28, 2010, it was dismissed.

On August 23, 2010, Sraddhalu Ranade (who till then had claimed that he was not involved in any lawsuits, despite his documented correspondence with lawyers involved in the cases against Heehs) and four others filed a suit at the Puducherry District Court against the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust and its five Trustees. This was a so-called ‘leave application’ under section 92 of the Civil Procedure Code, which deals with public charitable trusts. Any beneficiary can approach the competent court of law with such an application if he or she deems that the trustees are not duly discharging their function. With this application the plaintiffs, who were claiming to be beneficiaries of the Ashram Trust, sought the leave of the court to institute a suit against the Ashram Trust and its Trustees.

In this Affidavit Ranade and his co-petitioners claim that the Trustees committed a gross breach of trust by “instead of promoting Sri Aurobindo’s tenets and philosophy … continue to harbour, defend and openly extend support to Mr. Peter Heehs, who authored ‘The Lives of Sri Aurobindo’, a sacrilegious book”. (The book is described by the petitioners in the wildest and most irresponsible terms, which do not correspond to anything Heehs has written. The effect of this rhetoric is to draw attention away from the real motive of the petition, which is to replace the Trustees, who are longtime direct disciples of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, with ambitious figures who have made use of the Heehs affair for their own purposes.)

The petitioners further claim that the Trustees’ refusal to expel Heehs from the Ashram, on the basis of absurd charges, constitutes breach of trust. The Affidavit states, “By allowing such an unbeliever to reside in Sri Aurobindo’s Ashram, the Respondents/Defendents as Trustees have allowed the propagation of such false and malicious ideas about Sri Aurobindo amongst the rest of inmates and believers. The continued presence of such an individual within the Ashram has been extremely deleterious to the interest of the other inmates in their pursuit of Sri Aurobindo’s spirituality.” The Affidavit concludes by praying to the court to “grant leave to institute a suit” against the Ashram Trust and its Trustees as they have lost total confidence in the Trustees’ ability and willingness to execute the trust and its properties as per the Trust’s objects. “In the circumstances, the present Trustees have to be removed and new trustees who will protect the interest of the Trust have to be appointed.”

In fact, the image of all devotees has dropped to a ridiculously low level.

Thanks to rabble rousers such as Ranade and Dr. Alok Pandey, frequent speakers at events organized by the Sri Aurobindo Society. Pandey, who as recently as Aug 17–23, 2012, conducted study sessions at Society House (formerly known as the Society’s Beach Office), is particularly adept at descending to ridiculously low levels, labeling those who disagree with him as “rats, bandicoots, lizards and serpents”. It is noteworthy that Pandey wrote about Heehs on June 8, 2009: “if he chooses to move out of the Ashram and stay in Auroville, where he has a number of admirers, or to some other place where he can follow the yoga in his own way, then, perhaps the court cases might be dropped.” He could not have considered dropping the court cases unless he was actively involved in them!

It is difficult for one to answer the queries of people who are avid internet visitors and who are also exposed to all kinds of rumours. But we continue to watch as bystanders helplessly looking at the cross-fire.

BYSTANDERS!?!?! Here is how that goes: throw a firebomb on somebody’s house, fill the fire buckets up with petrol, then, when the thing gets out of hand, say:

Let all sides call a halt—we owe it to the Mother. We all must sit down together, introspect and talk to each other to hammer out a final solution with trust and an open heart. The Society will be happy to join.

Let us also note that, as recently as February 2012, the Trustees had to call off Vijay Poddar‘s talk on The Lives.

In view of the Sri Aurobindo Society’s persistent aiding and abetting of the malicious campaign against the Trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, directly or indirectly by aiding and abetting the malicious campaign against The Lives, what the Society needs to state clearly is that it strongly disapproves, not The Lives, but these malicious campaigns. The rank-and-file of the SAS as well as the public at large deserves to know the Society’s stand on the matter.

Specifically the SAS must state clearly their position with regard to the recent visit of a handful of “Inmates, Devotees and Disciples” to the office of the Collector led by Ashok Anand (MLA) and instigated by Jayant Bhattacharjee, during which Jayant presented a Memorandum demanding an immediate Government probe into “the sordid activities of the Trustees” and asked for the appointment of an Interim Administrator by the Government “in order to protect Inmates from sexual harassment, intimidation and victimisation”.

Jayant at the Collector's office

Jayant (left) at the Collector’s office

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  1. August 27, 2012 at 10:13 am

    In view of the Sri Aurobindo Society’s persistent aiding and abetting of the malicious campaign against the Trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, directly or indirectly by aiding and abetting the malicious campaign against The Lives, what the Society needs to state clearly is that it strongly disapproves, not The Lives, but these malicious campaigns. The rank-and-file of the SAS as well as the public at large deserves to know the Society’s stand on the matter.

    Specifically the SAS must state clearly their position with regard to the recent visit of a handful of “Inmates, Devotees and Disciples” to the office of the Collector led by Ashok Anand (MLA) and instigated by Jayant Bhattacharjee, during which Jayant presented a Memorandum demanding an immediate Government probe into “the sordid activities of the Trustees” and asked for the appointment of an Interim Administrator by the Government “in order to protect Inmates from sexual harassment, intimidation and victimisation”.

    Yes, We expect clarification from SAS management.

    Viswanath R. SWamy

  2. curious sadhak
    August 30, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    Look at those grinning away :
    1. Sudha Sinha – who spits on people in school because she hates them
    2. Jayant Bhattacharya – The giant swindler
    3. Bailochan Parida – the one who has swallowed huge money that he had borrowed. Today they are quoting Pranab as a source of inspiration- how convenient. Have they forgotten the notice that Pranab had put on for years in the Playground about Bailochan???
    4.DR. Radhikaranjan Das – who beats children
    5. Sadhana Ranade – who does her own business sitting right inside the Ashram

    Why are the 5 sisters not there?? Too embarrassing to be seen near them????

    – Curious Sadhak

  3. auro plumbers
    August 31, 2012 at 7:40 am

    curious sadhak :

    Sudha Sinha – who spits on people in school because she hates them

    Hey Curious Sadhak, which one is SS?
    PS. Sadhana Ranade is, of course, Sraddhalu’s mother representing her son, presently rabble-rousing rich bored housewifes in Mumbai and God knows where else.

  4. curious sadhak
    August 31, 2012 at 8:53 am

    Dear AP

    Sudha Sinha (SS) is the lady (???) in dark green kurta (half -seen in this picture) who is standing besides the one and only one Jayant Bhattacharya. She was seen more clearly in the photograph the was published by a local newspaper.

    I have said whatever I know – so no more RS VP now on this subject. OK?

    – CS

  5. auro plumbers
    August 31, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Hmm. I think I must change my initials. Too reminiscent of another rabble rouser.

  6. Paul Vincent
    January 21, 2013 at 10:40 am

    In the seventies, the SAS tried to destroy Auroville and now they are trying to destroy the Ashram… Avidity and greed seem to be guiding those people who are harming Sri Aurobindo and mother works…

  7. Well-Wishers of the Society
    October 30, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    Please give your suggestions for the SA Society here:
    http://wellwishersofsas.wordpress.com/

  8. Hardi (name given by Mother)
    November 5, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Even The Mother was not happy with working of SAS particularly with the behaviour of the then secretary Navjat and his way of working stating that he is interested in acquiring properties rather than to work for aim for which SAS was created.

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