APPEAL TO UNESCO AND INDIAN GOVERNMENT TO RECONSIDER FUNDING AURO-VILLAGE
The Other side, journal for Socialist Action and Thought Volume 17, Number 9 of October 1997 edited by Comrade George Fernandes published my interview titled Aurobindo Ashram Takeover by Central Government Demanded and a sub title Dravida Peravai General Secretary Speaks, wherein the editor gave his introduction as follows: “There has been a persistent demand for the take over of the Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry by various individuals and institutions. In the forefront of this campaign is the General Secretary of the Dravida Peravai N.Nandhivarman.
Nandhivarman has over years been exposing for public view the unsavory goings on in the Ashram, which have brought this once hallowed place into disrepute. We are publishing here below a question answer report which is an interview with Nandhivarman. We hope the authorities will take note of this report and take action in the matter before it is too late to stem the rot.”
Aurobindo Ashram is a religious institution. The demand of various political parties for take over of the Trust by the Government amounts to interference in religious matters. What is your comment?
In the Shirur Mutt Case [AIR 1954 SC 282] the convention is laid down. “The Court noticed that while cl[b] of Article 26 guaranteed religious denomination to manage its own affairs in matters of religion, other clauses of the Article dealt with the right of a religious denomination to acquire and own property in accordance with law. The administration of its property by a religious denomination having thus been placed on different footing from the right to manage its own affairs in matters of religion [page 290 of AIR] .The latter is a fundamental right which no legislature can take away, whereas the former can be regulated by laws with legislature can validly impose.
Mr.F.S.Nariman argues that Aurobindo Society was registered under Societies Registration Act 1960, and purely a religious society could not have been registered under Societies Registration Act. Section 20 of Societies Registration Act provides what kind of societies can be registered under the Act. It does not talk of religious institutions. Of course it includes a society with charitable purposes. The Memorandum of Association does not talk of any religion.
The Society professed to be a scientific research organization to the donors and got income tax exemption on the footing that it was not a religious institution. The Society has claimed exemption from income tax under section 80 for the donors and under section 35 for itself on that ground. Aurobindo Ashram was different from Auroville. The Ashram Trust had applied for Income Tax exemption and got on that very ground. The teachings of Aurobindo only represented his philosophy and not a religion.
It is evident from the excerpts of the Supreme Court judgment in the S.P.Mittal vs. Union of India [AIR 1983], that the teachings of Aurobindo are not religion. Hence we cannot be accused of attacking religion. Tax exemptions were obtained for specific purposes and we are within our limits in demanding the Government to oversee whether the exemptions availed is put into proper use. And if found contrary, cancellation of exemptions and take over of the trust is demanded.
Further Aurobindo in his writings categorically states: “An ashram means the house or houses of a teacher or master of spiritual philosophy. All depends on the Teacher and ends with his life time, unless there is another Teacher who can take his place. The Ashram is not a religious association [16th February 1934]
After Aurobindo and the Mother there is no Ashram. The Ashram ceases. The question before us is concern about mismanaged trust and its tax evasion. The responsibility of the Government to monitor conditions is a political affair and parties are within their rightful limits in raking up issues pertaining to Ashram…… so Nandhivarman continues the interview in The Other side. Like commercial break in TV serials, let us take a break here to know tampering of Aurobindo’s lines quoted above by two Americans.
Let me quote from OUTLOOK dated 15th March 1999 titled Editing Aurobindo: The Trustees of the Aurobindo Ashram are accused of tampering with his original works.
“SAAT was formed in 1956, six years after Aurobindo’s death and the copyright was obtained much after the death of the author, and hence SAAT has no authority to tamper with the original versions. The main grouse though is in the deletion of a sentence that actually calls for the ashrams winding up. Pranab Bhattacharya, the ashram’s physical education director, points out in his book I Remember “The editor must have thought, himself to be very clever in avoiding one line and bringing changes perhaps thinking that it could change the Ashram’s fate. The line in question is in The Teachings of Sri Aurobindo and Sri Aurobindo Ashram” first published in 1934. In that Aurobindo explains his concept of an ashram. “An Ashram means the house or houses of a Teacher or Master of spiritual philosophy in which he receives and lodges those who come to him for the teaching and practice. An ashram is not an association or a religious body or a monastery, it is only what has been indicated above and nothing more. Everything in the Ashram belongs to the Teacher. The sadhaks [disciples] have no claim, right or voice in any matter. They remain and go according to his Will. Whatever money he receives is his property and not a trust or fund, for there is no public institution. Such ashrams have existed in India for centuries before Christ and still exist in large numbers. It all depends on the Teacher and ends with his lifetime, unless there is another Teacher who can take his place. By deleting the last line, which actually means the ashram’s rationale for existence ended with the passing of the mother, the trustees, say opponents are sustaining an institution against the teachings of Aurobindo. They point out that till the 1972 birth centenary celebrations; there has been no tampering with Aurobindo’s works. [Courtesy: outlook]
So far we have dealt on our party and other 10 political parties joint demand for takeover of the Ashram Trust, please note not the Ashram but Ashram Trust. We are not going into the debate whether ashram exists or not, as debated in OUTLOOK and later in Courts of this land up to Supreme Court. As public we know there is a samathi, which attracts his followers. It has been the practice in Tamilnadu over the burial places of Siddhars; idols of Gods will be installed and made into temples. In famous Palani Murugan Temple, the samathi of Bhogar, one of the 18 siddhars of Tamilnadu remains. Over that samathi the idol of Lord Muruga, made out of a combination of 9 poisons, known as navapashanam, was installed by that Siddhar. The idol contained medicinal properties, the blessed water cured diseases, people say. Nearer to Aurobindo Ashram in the famous Manakula Vinayagar Temple beneath has the samathi of Thollaikathu swamigal .So we are questioning the existence of samathis, temples and its worship.
We are attacking the mismanaged Trusts. Let us go back to continue from the break of the earlier part of my interview in The Other side.
Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Trust Board is trending the wrong path, inmates lament, and any comments?
Nandhivarman: Lawrence Marshal Pinto son of Lawrence Belarmino Pinto is 90 years old. On 18th December 1967, he was instrumental in floating Sri Aurobindo Ashram Harpagon Workshop Trust, which now is known as Sri Aurobindo Udyog Trust. All business units of erstwhile Aurobindo Ashram come under this umbrella organization. Still at 90 he wants to cling to the managing trusteeship of Udyog Trust. Apart from this he is also a Trustee in Honesty Engineers and Contractors Trust. [The word Trust will become lackluster in its usage. At the Ashram every activity needs only the suffix trusts] List of positions headed by the dreaded 90 year old L.M.Pinto alias Udhar Pinto is endless.
In Pre-cast Concrete work Trust also he holds a position. The complete control of the major businesses by an old man who refuses to retire proves the power craziness of the Ashram ruling clique. Oriya writer Manoj Das for undisclosed reasons resigned from the post of Aurobindo Ashram Trust. But he remains Trustee of Udyog Trust. Mr.Manoj Das Guptaji is against one-man one-post principle. He is the scheming Trustee who has his eyes on the coveted Managing Trustee’s post. He is also the Registrar of the Aurobindo International Center for Education. He is Chairman of Agricultural Coordination Committee in charge of all farm lands and agricultural activities of the Trust. He is in charge of Shantiniketan at Bengal.Manoj Das Gupta is also a Trustee in Auro Travels Trust. He is the Chairman of the Technical coordination Committee, even the president of USA has only 2 terms. Lifelong positions for Ashram Trustees only. Auroform Trust, Aurofurn Trust, Fragrance and Perfume Trust and numerous Trusts are there. In all a handful and their coterie will rule the roost.Manoj Das Gupta controls all farm lands.
This is in 1997.Currently he is the Managing Trustee of Aurobindo Ashram Trust, wherein the President post occupied by French woman Mirra Alfasa is kept vacant. So a decade ago we campaigned against power mongers grabbing positions and multiplicity of sub trusts within Aurobindo Ashram Trust first initiated by Lawrence Marshal Pinto, a Goan. Now we see similarity in Auroville Foundation too. The information provided to us under Right to Information Act is given below, so that you can arrive at your own conclusions.
1. Artisana Trust: Mr.Michael Hutin and Ms.Mariam Isaac
2. Ankur Trust: Ms.Abha Tewari, Ms.Suzane Sabatier
3. Filaure Trust: Ms.Valerie Anne Tait, Mr.Michael Tait
4. Free Flow Trust: Mr.Frederic Laurent Codonnier, Ms.Martina Anna Maria Lj, Mr.Oliver Hetzel
5. Toujours Mieux Trust: Mr. Robert Leo Trunz, Mr. Jan V.D.Dikkenberg
6. Auromics Trust: Ms.Roberta Keeping, Mr. André Deplechin
7. Auroville Export Trust: Mr.Jan Imhoff, Mr.Hemant Lamba
8. Health and Healing Trust: Ms.Hilde D’Hiedt, Mr. Albert Zwaan, Mr. Jacques Verre
9. Auroville Service Trust: Mr.M.Ponnusamy, Mr. Ulrich Wolfgong Bretschneider
10. Arvinda Trust: Mr. Paul Pinthon, Ms.Laura Reddy
11. Kalki Trust: Mr.Paul Pinthon, Ms.Laura Reddy, Ms.Adelina Intanno, Mr. André Hababou
12. Altecs Trust: Mr.Clement Gruttman, Mrs.Christa Gruttman, Mr.Bernard Grenier
13. Guest House Trust: Ms.Simonette Smits, Ms.Srimoyi Rosseger, Ms.Afsaneh Bader
14. ABC Trust: Mr.Carsten Michelsen, Mr.Marco Feira
15. Kattida Kalai Trust: Mr.Moreno Jean Marc, Mr.Herrea Carlos, Mr.M.Palani
16. Discovery Trust: Mr.P.Karuna, Mrs K.Uma, Mr.Jean Francois Bertaux
17. Mereville Trust: Mr.Ragnetti Gianfranco, Mr.Pratap Chatterjee
18. Auromitra Trust: Mr.Peter Clarence Smith, Mr.E.Rathinam, Mr.Joss Brooks, Ms.Dee Decew
19. Inside Trust: Mr.Klaus Onken, Ms.Shama Dalvi
20. Auroville Village Action Trust: Ms.Dee Decew, Mr.M.S.Subhashchand, Mr.Alain Bernard, Mr.D.Selvaraj, Mr.L.Dhanapal
21. ADPS Trust: Ms.Van Der Vlugt, Mr.Franz Fassbender, Mr.Bobby Patel
22. Aurore Trust: Mr.Hemant Lamba, Mr.Theo Hekena Baetens, Mr.Gilles Alex Andre Guigan, Mrs.Suhasini Ayer Guigan
23. CSR Trust: Mr.Gilles Alxe Andre Guigan, Mr.Theo Helena Beatens, Mr.Hemant Lamba, Mrs.Suhasini Ayer Guigan
24. Aurosarjan Trust: Mr.Wolf Pfeifer, Mr.Stephen Himmer
25. Auromode Trust: Ms.Adelena Intannio, Mr. André Hababou
26. New Engineering Trust: Mr.Pierre Elouard. Ms.Joy Choudry
27. For all Pour Tous Trust: Ms.Francoise Gabelle, Mr. Oliver Hetzel
28. Swagatham Trust: Ms.Judith Robinson, Mr.Jean Francoise Bertaux
29. Sangamam Trust: Ms.R.Meenakshi, Mr.Joseba Martinez Burdaspar, Mr.Sanjeev Agarwal, Mr.M.Ponnusamy
30. Animal Care Trust: Ms.Shivaya Ruth, Mr.Kalyan Nag, Ms.Bhavana Dee Decew
31. Palayam School Trust: Mr.V.Gunaseelan, Mr.Jurgen Putz, Mr.Anto Keulaars.
APPEAL TO UNESCO and INDIA’s HRD MINISTRY TO INTROSPECT:
These are the sub trusts under Auroville Foundation and its Trustees. We have nothing personal against any one of them with clean records and service record to people. While I was discussing this with a BJP leader, he wondered, how come all Trusts have Christians as Trustees, and to him I told it surprises me why your Murli Manohar Joshi backed up these Christians and gave approval for the Master Plan , which will make Tamils or Indians second class citizens in Auro-village of 1619 citizens. If for 1619 people there are 31 Trusts, what for, what purpose it serves for, why a Government of India organization under Human Resources Ministry should keep under its umbrella so many trusts, and do they have any relevance to the Integral Yoga of Aurobindo or any of his teachings ?. It is crystal clear, that as in Aurobindo Ashram Trust where in 1967 a Goan Christian, if that will be a word nice to the ears of next ruling aspirant party in Union Government, here also creation of sub trusts are for tax exemption and nothing else. These are commercial enterprises, said bold officials of Income Tax department and waged legal battles against Ashram sub trusts in various courts, before decades Courts gave favorable verdicts in favor of the Income Tax department.
Dravida Peravai demands abolition of so many trusts under Auroville Foundation. There is no need to have so many sub trusts; they can be managed by Auroville Foundation as ONE DEPARTMENT under Human Resources Development Ministry. UNESCO and other donors, who get carried away by the beautiful language of Aurobindo and his teachings, should not encourage the set up of an international city in Indian soil. If an international city is to be set up, for just 1619 people it is criminal waste of public money which no way benefits local people. Let UNESCO spend money on the poorest of poor in Zimbabwe or African nations. Let donors around the world fund projects that will convert all coastal fishermen villages as modern mini towns with all infrastructures. Let world bodies fund Government of India to make all colonies of dalits better places to live with hygiene. If this mushroom growth of Trusts under the umbrella of Auroville Foundation is encouraged further, someone will come forward to create more and more sub trusts with high sounding words and phrases, which has no relevance to the teachings of Aurobindo or for betterment of the Tamil villagers under the clutches of poverty.
It is high time Human Resources Development Minister Arjun Singh takes note of this Social Injustice, and order for a high level probe into the working of these sub trusts, in order to abolish them and merge them under Auroville Foundation, which will have government control and accountability to Indian public, and I am exercising my birthright as Indian to appeal to Indian Government, and no foreigner can snatch that right from indigenous people in any country of our civilized world
N.Nandhivarman General Secretary Dravida Peravai