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Title : Aurobindo Ashram in knots Author : T Manivannan Publication : The Indian Express Date : February 16, 1997
Long simmering internal problems in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, a spiritual institution teaching integral yoga, have now spilled over to the public arena with matters being brought to court by a section of its inmates.
The Ashram - a revered institution with a large following of devotees - is at the centre of a messy legal battle with a group of its sadhak-inmates, over the issue of an association formed by them and its subsequent decision to expel some of them from the Ashram community.
A local civil court, which heard the petitions from the newly-formed Sri Aurobindo Ashram Inmates' Association and four others against the expulsion of four inmates by the Ashram Trust on February 11 passed interim orders directing the Ashram management to maintain the status quo as it stood prior to January 4, till the disposal of the original suit.
However, with the Ashram management yet to comply with the order, the four expelled members have moved against the Ashram for contempt of court. Issuance of notices to the Ashram management on the contempt petition was also ordered. The arguments on the petition were heard on Friday but the orders were reserved for February 18.
The four Ashram inmates - Srikant Jivarajani, Bailochan Parida, Dilip Agarwal and Kamal Dora -were expelled by an order of the Board of Trustees of the Ashram on January 4. The orders charged them with "acts of indiscipline" and withdrew all the facilities and amenities accorded to them with effect from January 5, including work in the Ashram departments.
The legal battle between the Ashram and the Inmates' Association revolves around two issues. The first issue, taken to the court in the original suit filed by Association President Narayan Swain, a resident of the Ashram for 31 years, involves declaration of the Ashram Inmates' Association as legal and valid. He said the Registrar of Companies (cited as the third respondent in the suit) had refused to register the Association under the Societies Registration Act on the ground that the Association should get a consent letter from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
In its counter, Ashram managing trustee Harikant C Patel prayed for dismissal of the suit as the Ashram was "in no way concerned" with the formation of the Association or the refusal of the ROC to register the Association.
However, the Registrar of Companies, in his counter, has stated that he sought the views of the Ashram trustees regarding the registration of the Association as the name of Aurobindo Ashram was sought to be used.
The provocation for the forming of the association is the disenchantment among the inmates of the Ashram over the "lack of transparency, accountability and democracy" in the running of the Ashram. The Ashram management however remained tightlipped on the causes. Management sources told The Indian Express that the expulsions were related to the maintenance of discipline in the Ashram.
Sri Aurobindo Ashram Beneficiaries Association was founded in the year 1997 with a group of inmates and devotees of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Kamal Dora, Srikant Jivarajani, Patit Pavan Ghosh , Vairu Kannu and several others were some of the founder members of the Association. The Association had taken up the cause of exposing various atrocities taking place in Sri Aurobindo Ashram at the instance of the Trustees and their hencmen. The Trustees had allowed tampering of Sri Aurobindo's writings in the name of textual editing, restoration of Master's original writings and had handed over such sensitive work to Sri Aurobindo Archves & Research Department headed by a group of foreigners including Peter Heehs & Richard Hartz.