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On August 23, 2010, five Ashram inmates (Sraddhalu Ranade, Raman Reddy, Niranjan Naik, Sudha Sinha, S. Ramanathan) filed an affidavit at the Puducherry District Court against the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust and its five Trustees (Manoj Das Gupta, Dilip Kumar Dutta, Dilip Mehtani, R. Prabhakar, Albert Patel).

Sraddhalu Ranade, Raman Reddy and their fellow petitioners claim in their affidavit that the Trustees committed a gross breach of trust by allowing a non-believer [Peter Heehs] to reside in Sri Aurobindo's Ashram...." Based on this premise, the petitioners conclude: "Due to the misconduct and breach of trust committed by the Trustees, the beneficiaries of the Trust have lost total confidence in the Trustees' ability and willingness to execute the trust and its properties as per the Trust's objects.... In the circumstances, the present Trustees have to be removed and new trustees who will protect the interest of the trust have to be appointed...." In other words, the petitioners are seeking the court's intervention in the management of the Ashram because the Trustees have not expelled Peter Heehs (author of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo) from the Ashram. This action not only publicly challenges the integrity and authority of the Trustees, but opens the Ashram to further division and negative publicity in India and the world.

Most of the affidavit is devoted to a repetition of the unfounded charges made over the last two years by Ranade, Reddy and others against The Lives of Sri Aurobindo. The book is described in the wildest and most irresponsible terms which do not correspond to anything Heehs has written. The effect of this rhetoric is to draw attention away from the real motive of the petition. The legal action brought against the current trustees attempts to replace the balanced and judicious men who are longtime direct disciples of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother with ambitious figures who have made use of the Heehs affair for their dubious purposes .

A year ago, on September 11, 2009, remembering the body blow inaugurating global fundamentalism in our times, we organized a conference on Fundamentalism and the Future. The overlapping of politics and fundamentalism, so characteristic of these times, has now declared itself unmistakably at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram exactly two years after its emergence in that community.

The die was cast on September 11, 2008 through the incitement of mass hysteria by the distribution of a letter that contained out-of-context and distorted quotes from Peter Heehs' biography The Lives of Sri Aurobindo. This letter was followed by a signature campaign in which a petition was circulated calling for the author's removal from the Ashram Archives. The author was further threatened and legally harassed. In the latest twist, those fomenting discord have now revealed their true intentions by targeting the Ashram Trustees.

In keeping with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's directives that allow ashramites the freedom to follow a path that is unique to each individual, the Trustees of the ashram have taken no action against the author of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo; nor have they taken to task those using the trumped-up Heehs "controversy" as a way to undermine and usurp their authority.

Among the few strictures laid down by the Mother for all ashramites is an injunction against politics, yet the motivation of those who initiated the Heehs controversy seems to have been political from the start. These hidden motives have now publicly surfaced in the lawsuit demanding the dismissal of the Trustees. This lawsuit is a direct attack upon the rules, structure and functioning of the Ashram itself. It is an open attempt to take over the Ashram.

Sraddhalu Ranade and others have claimed all along that they were not involved in lawsuits, despite their documented correspondence with lawyers involved in various cases against Heehs. During that time they have hidden behind other plaintiffs, notably Geetanjali Bhattacharya, who is the wife of a close friend of Ranade. This latest lawsuit makes it clear that their intention from the beginning has been to seize power in the Ashram.

These efforts of the last two years to destabilize the Ashram have been openly assisted by others, including Alok Pandey, Ranganath Raghavan, Ananda Reddy, Kittu Reddy, and Kumud Patel. The Pondicherry Ashram has been under siege for two years now, by a small coterie of individuals who have manufactured a crisis in an attempt to seize control of the institution. The results of their actions have brought instability, fear, and religious persecution to the Ashram for the first time in its history.

Asking the courts to interfere in the administration and structure of the Ashram itself is a serious matter, and could lead to a number of grave consequences. The current lawsuit and the issues that have sparked this controversy are of the utmost urgency. We hope that you will agree that the recent legal actions undermine Sri Aurobindo's ideals and the principles enshrined in the Ashram, and allow your voice to be heard.

Debashish Banerji

Rich Carlson

David Hutchinson