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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Kittu Reddy, Ranganath Raghavan, and Sumita Khandpal

Hindutva exercises a weighty bearing on Heehs' imbroglio Heehs' imbroglio continues to ferment and newer dimensions of practical aspects of spiritual life and organisational shortcomings come to light constitutin...

Response to FIRSTPOST on the Scheme Suit issue – by Bireshwar Choudhury -On 14 January 2016, the Editor of the *FIRSTPOST* has referred in passing to the petitioners of the Scheme Suit in a most disparaging manner in an article ...

For those who do not know what transpired prior to the filing of the Scheme Suit, let it be noted in indelible letters that the Ashram Trust did not even listen to the protesting disciples in most cases, and even if they gave a hearing, did very little to soothe their feelings with regard to the vilification of Sri Aurobindo. It is primarily this intransigent attitude of the Trust that aggravated matters to a flashpoint and left the disciples no other option but to seek justice in the Court of Law. In the beginning of the crisis, when Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya (personal attendant of the Mother and head of the Ashram Physical Education Department) supported the view of the disciples, the Trust resorted to a cat and mouse game with him because of his huge popularity among the followers of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, both within the Ashram and centres outside. A petition signed by him and the majority of the Ashramites, demanding (1) the immediate removal of Peter Heehs from the Ashram Archives and (2) issuing a public condemnation of his book, was handed over to the Ashram Trust in October 2008 – only to be contemptuously ignored.

After Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya died in January 2010, there was no strong personality for the Ashramites to rally around and to oppose the Trust’s wilful inaction with regard to Peter Heehs. In May-July 2010, three senior disciples of the Ashram, Kittu Reddy, Ranganath Raghavan & Sumita Khandpal (an ex-Collector) exchanged letters with the Trust after a couple of fruitless meetings with the ever evasive Manoj Das Gupta, the Managing Trustee. The correspondence abruptly ended with the Trust threatening them with stern legal action in its letter of 2nd July, 2010.  (Should this be called intimidation of the Trust by the disciples or the reverse? The truth is that the present Ashram Trust has constantly intimidated the inmates by the threat of the withdrawal of food, shelter and other basic necessities of life, because of which most of the inmates have been forced into silent and shameful submission.) At this point, after all that had happened, Manoj Das Gupta said he was constrained to bring back Peter Heehs to the Archives – this was the last straw on the camel’s back. It was after he voiced this preposterous intention to reinstate Peter Heehs as the chief Editor of the Ashram Archives in spite of writing such an obnoxious biography of Sri Aurobindo, that the Scheme Suit was filed by five Ashramites on the 23rd of August 2010.

The fact that the Scheme Suit was admitted four times, twice in the Pondicherry Court and twice in the Madras High Court, shows that it was certainly not a frivolous suit meant only to harass the Trustees of the Ashram. It should also be mentioned that the Supreme Court did not deem it frivolous either. It dismissed it for the very technical reason that the Orissa High Court had not arrived at a final judgment on the book, without which the Scheme Suit could not be admitted, because the latter was closely linked to the former. The Scheme Suit was filed to dismiss the Trustees for not taking action on Peter Heehs, who was an inmate and had written a book that went against the very grain of the Ashram. But as long as the final judgment on the book itself was pending, there was not sufficient ground to dismiss the Trustees, despite the Gazette Notification of the Orissa Govt. banning the book in April 2009.

All said and done, the Ashram Trust has managed to win the case through clever court tactics, deceitful public stands and tacit support to Peter Heehs. In the Court it has praised to the skies his so-called scholarship! Outside the Court, it has expressed its strong displeasure with regard to his book, and removed him from the Archives. (It has yet to be seen whether Peter Heehs will be reinstated with full honour as the Chief Editor of the Archives!) Finally, it has defended him tooth and nail on the basis of free speech, while at the same time taking severe action on all those who dared to criticise him and the Trustees. This is the sordid tale of the Ashram Trust’s duplicity and double game behind the serene atmosphere of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Incidentally, this serene and peaceful atmosphere, which every sensitive visitor to the Ashram spontaneously feels, is due to the occult presence of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother which persists not because, but despite the arrogant and inept administration of the present Ashram Trust.

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