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Molestations Alleged at Maharishi's Compound

Excerpts from "The Troubled Guru: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Faces Tough Times," by Anuradha Dutt -- ® 1988, The Illustrated Weekly of India.

He's the ultimate dream merchant.

...Maharishi Mahesh Yogi offers you, on 70 mm screen, the biggest, brightest and most colorful dream of all time: peace. Merchandised under his trade name TM, short for Transcendental Meditation -- the shortcut to nirvana.

A fortnight back, the sleuths of the finance ministry suddenly swooped on his ashram in New Delhi and its branches and offices all over the country, claiming that the fabled guru had stashed away a fortune abroad and violated the fiscal laws of the land.

This may or may not be true. But the raids on the Maharishi have certainly created a furore[sic], for the high-flying guru with a penchant for the megabuck was never seen as a law breaker in the sense that Rajneesh or Chandra Swami may have been....

[The author provides a brief overview of the TM movement, Maharishi, and his place among modern "godmen" in India.]

In late 1984, just shortly after Indira Gandhi's assassination, the yogi moved into the ashram complex called Maharishinagar at the New Okhla Industrial Development Area (NOIDA) on Delhi's outskirts.... His assets in India are calculated at Rs 500 crores [$700 million US] at least, consisting of TM centres, land holdings, factories, buildings, business corporations and industrial cum agricultural complexes. Precise details of these, however, are a closely guarded secret....

[A discussion of Maharishi's rumored troubles with Indira Gandhi.]

The Swiss government, according to some reports, had made things difficult for him, allegedly for not paying taxes in full and also for transferring large sums of his money in the accounts there to other countries. Valuable foreign exchange to the extent of Rs 15 crores [$1.3 million US] is estimated to be coming into India alone each year for the upkeep of his many organizations....

[A description of the luxurious compound and its guards. Further detail about the government raids.]

Raids were simultaneously conducted at Jabalpur, where the Maharishi's associates and various organisations own a great deal of property..... This is not the first time that the revenue department has launched an offensive against TM adherents.... Late last year [1987], prosecution for tax evasion... was launched against the president of one of the trusts, a doctor by training, two accountants and the Maharishi's nephews, Anand and Ajay Srivastava....

Among the yogi's relatives, his brother J P Srivastava's sons, Anand and Ajay Prakash, seem to be in charge of accounts and administration. The [Maharishi's] brother, reportedly, is not given much importance in the family hierarchy, for reasons that date back to the illustrious younger sibling's youth. Mahesh Yogi, apparently, had early in life forsaken hearth and home after being allegedly ill-treated by his brother....

The yogi, is reportedly, fondest of his niece, Kirti, his sister Indira's daughter.... She has two brothers, Praful and Pramod. While Pramod has settled in West Germany through the benevolence of his uncle [the Maharishi], Praful operates from India, say sources. The Maharishi's munificence extends to more distant relatives as well. Girish Varna, the son of one of the yogi's paternal uncles, has comfortably settled at NOIDA....

Briefly the three most serious charges against him [the Maharishi] ar that, one, the acquisition of 600 acres of land at NOIDA, violates the Uttar Pradesh Land Ceiling act; two, the construction of the ashram is illegal as it falls within the green belt; and three, the young brahmin boys inducted for training as Veda pandits have been molested by their teachers and generally ill-treated....

[Discussions of the violations of the Land Ceiling act, which an ashram spokesman admits to, saying the TM movement has "appealed for exemption" after the fact.]

Even if the Maharishi manages to extricate himself from these difficulties, he still faces the spectre of a scandal revolving around reports of the reported death of some young boys in the custody of the ashram....

There appeared a spate of media reports in September last year [1987], on the ill-treatment meted out to the boys and how a few of them had died under research by vaids, at the ashram's clinic, Arogya Dham. The reports charged that at least five boys had died under mysterious circumstances and that about 8000 of the 10,000 children admitted to the vidya peeth in the past five years had run away because of the "torture" they had been subjected to inside.... The reports also said that the ashram had been abruptly closed after the staff union strike in June, in order to avoid a scandal....

Dr Govin Sharma, formerly employed at the ashram, charged that some of the boys were also subjected to sexual abuse by the teachers. ...A boy by the name of Bhagat Singh... [gave] testimony in this regard.

The boy... confirms that the reports of sexual abuse are indeed true.... He also says that living conditions in the ashram were poor.

[Some boys selected as spokespeople by the ashram dismiss reports of death, starvation, molestation, and homosexuality.]

Ashram officials in turn dismiss the reports as fabrication of "anti-social" elements and union members with "vested interest." In their account of things, the ashram was closed simply because that particular academic session had ended and not in order to hush up a scandal....

Mahapatra [directly in charge of the boys] points out that more deaths occur in a hospital every day. He finds the allegations of homosexuality equally preposterous and motivated. "We want want the boys to grow up in a satvic (holy) atmosphere," he says....

Brahmachari Nandkishore [the Maharishi's closest assistant] is of the opinion that some multinational pharmaceutical firms that fear the potential popularity of ayurveda, have been circulating these reports of deaths under research, in order to discredit the traditional system of medicine.

Sidebar: "Maharishinagar is Self-Styled" [excerpts from an interview with Indian Governement official Mahendra Singh Bhati, Lok Dal- B MLA from Dadri.]

Q: Where are they [the ashram boys] now? Have they been transferred elsewhere?

A: Transferred or left. Some of them were working here in tea shops, in Dadri.

Q: About these boys who left the ashram, can you say more?

A: One of the boys stayed at my house. I asked him whether I should write to his home or arrange to send him back. He said, "Guruji [the Maharishi] told me that if I ever saw my mother's face, she would die. I can't go home."

Q: They used to be brainwashed?

A: Brainwashed. He used to tell them that you are all going to rule the whole world. By the medium of Veda and science.

Q: How were the children treated?

A: Completely ill-treated. The food which was handled by someone else, contained insects in the rice, roti -- you can't imagine the ill-treatment.

Q: Were they clothed by the ashram authorities?

A: They gave them clothes. I've been to their sleeping quarters. Small rooms in each of which 12 to 15 boys slept. They had also got corrupted. Even the teachers were not proper.

Q: What do you mean by that? Are you referring to homosexuality?

A: Yes.

Q: And the teachers were also involved?

A: Yes. The teachers were involved in this too. Out of fear some of the children became homosexuals.

Sidebar: "Many Anti-Social Activities Went on" [an interview with Govind Sharma, a former ayurvedic physician at the Maharishi's ashram from 1894-1987]

They make many ayurvedic drugs without licences and sell them abroad. They don't sell these here. They do have licences for some of the drugs but use these for exporting other drugs too.... There was a pharmacy as well but the government cancelled the licence over six months ago. They do not bother to get licence renewed for years....

The strike began at the end of June [987]. The reason was that in June and the month before, some of the children at the ashram had died because of neglect. While the officials and their wives all have cars at their disposal, to go wherever they wanted, there were never any cars available for sick children or workers. As a result, every year there were four to six deaths. One boy... died due to severe dehydration... [Another] was under treatment by an unqualified vaid.... The vaid was of the view that he would recover.... He died because of sheer callousness.

The children used to suffer from malnutrition. The food was cooked in unhygenic conditions and it was so bad that even animals would not have been able to eat it. When people went to complain to the Mahesh Yogi, even showing him the bugs in the rise and roti, he would get agitated and say that this was being done deliberately, to defame him and that some disruptive elements had entered his ashram. He disliked hearing complaints of any kind....

In certain cases the boys never went back. Till today their parents are searching for them....

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