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I.A. no. 474 of 2010 in O.S. no ... of 2010

Filed under section 92 and section 151 of C.P.C. on 23 August 2010

Petitioners/Plaintiffs

1. Mr. S. Ramanathan

2. Mr. Niranjan Naik

3. Ms. Sudha Singha

4. Mr. Raman Reddy

5. Mr. Sraddhalu Ranade

All give their address as "Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry 605002"

 

Respondents/Defendents

1. Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust

2. Mr. Manoj Das Gupta, Managing Trustee

3. Mr. [should be Dr.] Dilip Kumar Dutta, Trustee

4. Mr. Dilip Mehtani, Trustee

5. Mr. R. Prabhakar, Trustee

6. Mr. Albert Patel, Trustee

Remarks: 2-6 are the five trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust. With their petition the plaintiffs, who are members of the Ashram, seek the leave of the court to institute a suit against the Ashram Trust and its Trustees.

Paragraphs 1-3: Reddy introduces himself as petitioner 4 and as an inmate of the Ashram since 1978. He notes that the other four petitioners have been inmates since 2003, 1968, 1996, and 1968.

Remark: the average year of admission to the ashram of the five petitioners is 1982. Four of the five Trustees have been inmates of the ashram since the 1940s or 1950s.

Paragraph 4: Reddy claims that the Trustees, "instead of promoting Sri Aurobindo's tenets and philosophy ... have and continue to harbour, defend and openly extend support to one Mr. Peter Heehs, who authored 'The Lives of Sri Aurobindo', a sacrilegious book..." etc. He then gives a dramatized account of a movement against Heehs and his book. He claims that the Trustees refusal to expel Heehs from the Ashram on the advice of himself and various co-conspirators constitutes breach of trust.

Remark: Reddy's opinion of the book in question is biased and without support. The movement against Heehs was organized by Reddy, Sraddhalu Ranade, and a few others for reasons that are personal and malicious. The book in question has in fact been favourably received by critics and readers, many of whom credit it with having increased their knowledge of and devotion for Sri Aurobindo.

Sacrilege is a Christian concept, and has no equivalent in Indian religion, nor any place in Indian law.

Paragraph 5: Reddy gives a brief instructional history of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

Paragraph 6: Reddy gives an account of the formation of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, and provides excerpts of the Trust deed.

Paragraph 7-8: Reddy cites passages from the Deed of Trust, noting the "absolute powers" of the Trustees in regard to the internal management of the Ashram, and concludes that the Trustees have the power to permit individuals to reside in the Ashram and obligation to ensure that any use of Trust property is conducive to the purpose and interests of the Ashram.

Paragraph 9: Reddy submits that a basic duty of the Trustees is "to preserve and protect the welfare of the Ashram".

Paragraph 10: Reddy gives a fictitious account of Heehs's early years in the Archives.

Remark: This paragraph consists almost entirely of untrue statements. Reddy by his own admission came to the Archives in 1978, seven years after Heehs began working there. Not being in a position to provide an accurate account of this period, Reddy substitutes inventions of his own.

Paragraph 11: Reddy provides some factual information about the publication of Heehs's most recent book, then, in bold type, makes certain statements about the content of the book.

Remarks: All of Reddy's claims about the book are false. He asserts that Heehs wrote: (1) "That Sri Aurobindo had romantic affairs with the Mother involving veiled tantric sexual practices." In fact Heehs's book contains absolutely nothing of the sort. (2) "That Sri Aurobindo was a frequent liar and lied about his spiritual practices." In fact Heehs refers once to Sri Aurobindo's own statement (known from a passage already cited by A.B. Purani) that as a child he told lies. (3) "That Sri Aurobindo's spiritual experiences were based on sexual and schizophrenic stimuli." In fact Heehs simply examines, and resolutely dismisses, reports that Sri Aurobindo may have been unbalanced. (4) "That Sri Aurobindo was the initiator of the Hindu-Muslim divide." In fact, Heehs shows that this charge, made by others, is untrue. It is unclear whether the absurd charges Reddy makes in this paragraph are due to his ignorance of the English language or simple bad faith. If this latter, it shows, again, that Reddy's charges are malicious.

Paragraph 12: Reddy claims that Heehs makes certain statements about his qualifications in the "blurb" [he apparently means the author bio] of the book. Reddy goes on to give his own version of Heehs's qualifications.

Remarks: Here too Reddy's claims are all imaginary. The copy on the jacket of the book was, as is generally the case, produced by a staff writer of the publisher. In the acknowledgements page of the book, Heehs clearly states that the Ashram is in no way responsible for the contents of the book. Reddy knows nothing whatsoever about Heehs's life before his arrival in Pondicherry.

Paragraph 13: Reddy makes certain charges against Heehs, then adds that "the Ashram inmates and devotees, disciples of Sri Aurobindo in India and world-over were most shocked, outraged and offended" that Heehs had written the book.

Remarks: It is true that a certain number of people in the Ashram and outside the Ashram were offended, not by the book, but by an unbalanced and duplicitous selection of passages from the book which were typed in September 2008 by Raman Reddy and circulated on paper, by email, and thorough internet websites by Reddy, Reddy's cousin Ananda, Sraddhalu Ranade (petitioner 5), and a few others.

Paragraph 14: Reddy makes seven claims about the book.

Remarks: All seven of Reddy's claims are untrue. They are the same lies that have been made over and over.

Paragraph 15: Reddy states that a letter was submitted by a certain members of the Ashram Archives to the Ashram Trust.

Remarks: The letter in question was signed by about one third of the members of the Archives staff, many of them new recruits who were under the influence of Reddy and all of whom had no detailed knowledge of Heehs's work in the Archives. None of the senior members of the Archives who actually work with Heehs and knew his position and responsibilities were even shown this letter, which is falsely put forward by Reddy as representative of the general opinion of the Archives. It is of interest that while around half of the workers at the Archives are Western, no Westerner was even shown this letter. This underscores the xenophobia that underlies Reddy's "complaint". The Mother and Sri Aurobindo always spoke out clearly against xenophobia.

Paragraph 16-18: Reddy sketches the movement against the book that was launched in September 2008.

Remarks: It is important to understand that the "large number of devotees" who, Reddy claims, went to the members of the Ashram Trust to speak about the book were all, without exception, motivated not by a reading of the book but by the duplicitous set of extracts from the book written and circulated by Raman Reddy (the petitioner) that are referred to in the remarks to Paragraph 13. The mass petition submitted by Raman Reddy and others on 2 October 2008 referred to by Reddy was signed by persons who had not read the book but whose emotion was aroused by the leaders of the movement, i.e. Raman Reddy, Sraddhalu Ranade, Ananda Reddy, Kittu Reddy, and others, most of whom had not read the book and had no knowledge of its contents.

Paragraphs 19-20: Reddy refers to and quotes from messages signed by the late Mr. Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya.

Remarks: It is well known that the message of 10.10.2008 referred to was written by Kittu Reddy, referred to above, and signed by the then very ill Mr. Bhattacharya on Kittu Reddy's advice, and subsequently circulated by Kittu Reddy on the internet. Mr. Bhattacharya spoke to Mr. Manoj Das Gupta, the Managing Trustee, a few days after the letter was circulated, and told him that he withdrew his suggestion that Heehs be expelled and accordingly the Trust did not follow the suggestions in Kittu Reddy's message.

Paragraphs 21-22. Reddy refers to actions taken by the Ashram Trust in November 2008, calling it "suspicious."

Remarks: Here and throughout Reddy presumes to know the consultations and decisions of the Trust better than the members of the Trust themselves. The members of the Trust were all selected according to the terms of the Trust Deed written by the Mother.

Paragraphs 22-25. Reddy notes that the members of the Trust "refused to fall in line with the interest of the Ashram" in various ways. He also refers to various documents filed in a case against Heehs in Orissa.

Remarks: Reddy seems to imply that "the interest of the Ashram" is identical to the interests of the petitioners in the present case. The case in Orissa is still under consideration by the court. It was filed by Geetanjali Bhattacharya, a close friend of Sraddhalu Ranade (Plaintiff 5).

Paragraph 26-28: Reddy notes that despite the mass movement orchestrated by himself and others, the Trustees continued to provide Heehs with the letters he needed to obtain his visa needed to stay in India. Reddy claims that this constituted breach of trust.

Remarks: The Trust has provided Heehs with the letters he needed to remain in India since 1971. The Trust does this routinely for the many Westerners resident in the Ashram. It is a matter of concern to the Trust and the Government of India, and not for members of mass movements incited by Raman Reddy and others who are acting throughout for personal and mala fide reasons.

Paragraph 29: Reddy lists various online merchants who, "in sharp contrast to the Trust," responded to letters written by Geetanjali Jain (see remarks to Paragraphs 26-28).

Remarks: It is false and misleading to compare the actions of the Trust to those of a few online merchants who knew nothing whatever about the matter in question except the lies promulgated by Geetanjali Jain. Most online merchants did not even respond to her and the book continues to be listed by India's leading online merchants.

Paragraphs 30-32: Reddy refers to a letters written by "a representative group of Ashram inmates" and "three very prominent inmates" of the Ashram.

Remarks: As is the case with all documents submitted by Reddy, the writers were drawn from a small group of persons allied with Reddy who had no knowledge of the contents of the book. Reddy does not refer to the opinion of the many people in the Ashram who have read and appreciated the book. Such people are unlikely to associate themselves with the methods of mass agitation and mass hysteria cultivated by Reddy and his associates.

Paragraph 33-34: Reddy claims that the actions of the Trustees constitute gross breach of trust, and claims that "by allowing such an unbeliever [Heehs] to reside in Sri Aurobindo's Ashram, the Respondents/Defendents as Trustees have allowed the propagation of such false and malicious ideas about Sri Aurobindo amongst the rest of inmates and believers. The continued presence of such an individual within the Ashram has been extremely deleterious to the interest of the other inmates in their pursuit of Sri Aurobindo's spirituality". Reddy concludes by praying the court to "grant leave to institute a suit" against the legitimately selected Trustees of the Ashram.

Remarks: The "false and malicious ideas" in circulation are those of Raman Reddy and his cohorts, through his duplicitous "extracts" and the virulent and uninformed gossip that he and his cohorts have fostered. Reddy's use of "unbeliever," a term from Christian apologetics, shows clearly that Reddy is the leader of a religious movement with clear fundamentalist overtones. This movement has shattered the calm and productivity of the Ashram for more than two years. His attempt to blame this phenomenon on Heehs is yet another sign of his bad faith.

The Hon'ble District Court of Puducherry, instead of entertaining Reddy's suit, should immediately dismiss it, and Petitioners 1-5 should face the discipline of the Trust Board against whom they have risen, in direct contravention of the Rules of the Ashram, which forbids any ashramite from bringing suit against another Ashramite.