Support for “Art of Living Illegally” article and a challenge to AoL devotees
The following comment was made by an anonymous contributor on this blog in response to another comment left on this blog questioning the reliability of the article The Art of Living Illegally by Imran Khan of Tehelka.
I agree partly with the way you have looked at the article. You do not want to see it with a biased anti AOL pair of eyes. That is applaudable. However, by the same weight-age you also what if Imran Khan was right. We cannot be sure that he is Zakir Naik’s buddy…and even if he is….he may have his own views about things.
Given that all that is said about Imran Khan may be potentially true. Maybe he is even prejudiced against Sri Sri. However, what has any of that got anything to do with the correctness of content ?.
1. Tehelka was amongst India’s first newspapers that has some track record of doing sting ops.
2. His title at the bottom of the article says Sr Correspondent (So at the very minimum the man has some experience and the risk of irresponsible reporting are lower as he would have done some background work).
3. A whistleblowers name. picture, title is on display. If the information is wrong, Tehelka can be sued. Unless there isn’t any ACICM convenor M Lakshmana. Google his position and name and I found a few instances where is creating awareness and campaigning for the public on issues that are important for them. On the face of it seems to be a people’s fellow. We could equally argue that he is a publicity hungry animal.
4. There is a clear table, with name of places (locations) and current assessment of land value. No newspaper editor would allow publishing such data unless it is backed by serious documentation.
5. They have mentioned dates. 2002 acquisition. Names (Raghu). Dec 20th letter. Fines…..a lot of specifics. And this is not a simple we need more space… ashram expansion, this is 5 Acres in Mysore. Any preliminary research on the land would tell you this was once earmarked by the govt for housing for the poor. These are the basics. Before you buy such land one always seeks legal opinion. AOL should have had one. Did AOL’s land acquisition team not forewarn SriSri ? OR did not matter …because there were other relationships that would negate all other regulatory or legal requirements. I have heard of an NRI lady who was closely related to SM Krishna (Congress party and earlier CM of Karnataka till 2004) who had land near the Ashram which she lost to land grabbing by AOL around 2008/9. Being connected, she attempted to exercise political pressure and get it back. After fruitless wandering around for a year plus she was finally told by Yeddy to go direct to Sri Sri and that he would compensate her for something like 15% of market value for the land. This information came to me from a friend and well wisher who I have known for many decades now. He had some business dealings with the lady and was aware of this particular case as this was turning out to be a drag on their deal. In my eyes, this information makes me lean more towards the authenticity of the article. BTW I have personally met some business people who claimed that they used the same Goondas as SriSri to acquire land. I have taken the trouble to meet poor villagers around the AOL Ashram and have been told what they feel about the Swami who owns the Ashram. At the time I did this I had a lot to lose. For more than a decade I had gone out on a limb professing and claiming that AOL was a clean organisation. I had recruited participants, raised funds, contributed to many seva schemes, had strongly and forcefully converted a large part of my family and friends into AOL, become a teacher, helped many others become teachers. The reason I say this, is because, at the time this information started to come my way, I so desperately wanted it to be wrong. My world was crumbling under my very nose. However, the fact is, since that time that this happened to me, I have not seen a shred of evidence (even remote) that points to anything other than what is insinuated in the Tehelka article.
AOL in many instances represents India and what comes from India. As a regular strategy they cultivate the High Commissioners of all the Indian Posts abroad and use these offices to contact and present to in country dignitaries. I have personally made use of this myself when I was on the inside. Due to their spread, presence and a very strong cultural message (just as they attempted in the recent Berlin Festival) they need to be very cautious about what they say and do. They impact brand India and the perception of an average Indian way more than others.
Hence as far as I am concerned….I need to see clear facts and documents emerge from AOL that prove the situation otherwise. Also, AOL is a leading spiritual organisation that carries a far bigger responsibility to the people when compared to a regular realtor. They also have to manage perceptions of the people they set out to serve. In AOL’s case the whole world. They are an acclaimed NGO…. NO ? what is the need to even go close to such wild real estate schemes ? Anyone with common sense will know that for an NGO reputation is everything. So, why play with it. Unless, you are an NGO under disguise ? In which case its time they declared their REAL(Estate) agenda.
To start with I challenge all AOL devotees to do the following. Get a consolidated statement from the Ashram as to how much land is actually there under the name of all the trusts that operate under the AOL framework ? (Ayurveda (factory), Ayurveda College, SriSri University, SriSri Inst for Media studies, Sumeru (Travel, software, real estate), SSRVM, Inwinex Pharma……there are many).
One thing I am sure off….the minute you ask for this above…..you will be looked at as if you are vermin and the lowest scum on the planet. They talk about belongingness……well if you are a close contributing member/volunteer that is asking for some basic information, you are entitled to it. Isn’t it SriSri that asks all of you to develop a sense of belongingness. Well it starts in your own home and Ashram. Do pay heed to your own truth and experience when you do this. Forget about everything else said on this blog. This experience alone will show you where you stand with respect to the truth. If you are an AOL devotee and are reading this….Its worth some leg/brain work now, compared to your serious pain later when AOL self destructs the same way it has happened to Nithi, Ramdev, Kalki, The Sathya Sai group…and others that were not who they claimed they were.
This is not as much as to whether AOL will survive as much as it is about defining what your relationship should be with AOL. An organisation that has packaged some useful spiritual truths around a breathing exercise, showcases to the unsuspecting public a lot of entertainment and pseudo seva and continue to OPENLY coverup some serious hanky panky business from the back office.