In his letters, Sraddhalu Ranade has repeatedly denied that he is in any way involved in any of the legal cases seeking to ban The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, in particular the Writ Petition to Stay Publication of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo in India. He makes this claim because initiating legal action against a fellow member of the Ashram is against the rules of the Ashram itself.

His claims of non-involvement in legal actions are untrue. The comparison between the Writ and Ranade's letter shows that much of the Petition was written by Ranade. He has been involved with the legal case from the planning stages; was in correspondence with the lawyers involved in the case; and personally drafted the material that forms the basis for the case. Though his name is not on the legal document, he has been deeply involved in every other sense of the word.

Chronological background:

May 2008. Publication of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo in New York by Columbia University Press.

  • September 11, 2008. Mass movement against the book launched by Ananda Reddy, Alok Pandey, Sraddhalu Ranade and others after copies of the US edition of the book reach India.
  • September 21-22, 2008. Anirban Tripathy, a lawyer based in Orissa, posts messages on SAICE forum in which he mentions proposed legal action against the book and says that he is in contact with Sraddhalu Ranade in this connection. See archived SCIY page.
  • September 25, 2008. Long email posted by Sraddhalu Ranade on SAICE forum in which he maligns the book; three times in this email he suggests that the book is open to prosecution under the Indian Penal Code.
  • November 26, 2008. Writ Petition filed before the High Court of Orissa in the name of Mrs. Gitanjali JB. The Writ includes long portions of Ranade's letter. The petitioner "challenges the inaction of the Government of India in allowing this book" and asks the High Court of Orissa to stay the publication of the book until the Government of India issues a no objection certificate, thus putting the onus on proving the non-offensiveness of the book on the author and publisher (rather than obliging the petitioner to prove the alleged offensiveness of the book).

On Sept. 22, 2008, Anirban Tripathy, a lawyer who has been active in all the cases brought against Heehs, wrote on the SAICE forum "i am still awaiting to hear from shradhalu" That same day he also wrote "i am in touch with shradhalu and he is sending my some materials and soon i shall be drafting a writ petition". The obvious implication is that Ranade was drafting the legal documents. The attached comparison shows that this is in fact what happened.

Ranade's posting on a public forum in which he and the lawyer Tripathy speak of being in contact and exchanging materials, and the fact that the language of the Writ is taken verbatim from Ranade's letter, show that he was directly involved in initiating a legal case against a fellow member of the Ashram. His involvement went far beyond what an average plaintiff in a lawsuit would do. He wrote a large portion of the Writ himself. The only way that a lawyer would include such lengthy material is if he had explicit permission from the person who wrote it.

Note also that Ranade has continued to insist that the "devotees of Orissa" have the right to take Heehs to court, implying that devotees there have brought the case, and not himself or those he is in contact with. The actual persons involved in creating the Writ are not devotees in Orissa, but Sraddhalu Ranade, Anirban Tripathy, Jayant Bhattacharya, and Jayant's wife Gitanjali.

Bijan Ghose, a lawyer reportedly involved with numerous cases brought against the Ashram and its members, including the Trustees, has announced that one of the persons behind the Writ is Jayant Bhattacharya. Bhattacharya has been a friend of Ranade since their school days; he is also the husband of Gitanjali, the named "petitioner" of the Writ. Bhattacharya and his wife live in Chennai. Bhattacharya's address for legal purposes related to the Writ is given as that of Anirban Tripathy.

The following comparison of Ranade's email of September 25, and the Writ filed on September 26 shows that substantial portions of the Writ were written and supplied by Ranade. The Writ took Ranade's text exactly as it was, including typographical errors from Ranade's draft (e.g., "waiting one them").

Sraddhalu Ranade's email posted on the SAICE forum Sept 25, 2008.

Writ Petition filed on November 26, 2008, before the High Court of Orissa, Cuttack, by lawyers representing "Mrs. Gitanjali JB".

 

that Sri Aurobindo does not hold integrity as a person,

that he was morally of loose character,

that his claims to spiritual powers are questionable and irrelevant,

that his spirituality emerges from a streak of inherited madness,

that there is nothing new in any of his contributions, spiritual or otherwise,

that his poetry is expressive of sexual frustration, and its style outdated,

that his relationship with the Mother is of a romantic nature.

p. 3

that Sri Aurobindo does not hold integrity as a person,

that he was morally of loose character,

that his claims to spiritual powers are questionable and irrelevant,

that his spirituality emerges from a streak of inherited madness,

that there is nothing new in any of his contributions, spiritual or otherwise,

that his poetry is expressive of sexual frustration, and its style outdated,

that his relationship with the Mother is of a romantic nature.

 

 

The kinds of deceptions consistently utilised throughout the book include:

a) deliberately concealing the much larger body of information contrary to his defamatory thesis;

b) presenting as quotations what are Peter's own speculations;

c) deliberate misrepresentation and distortion of context;

d) defamation of Sri Aurobindo's character by use of innuendo, speculation, exaggeration and outright falsehood;

e) bias to quote extensively from people who question Sri Aurobindo's credibility and sanity; outright rejection of any person or quotation offering appreciation or praise of Sri Aurobindo

f) preferring speculation against Sri Aurobindo's own affirmations to the contrary;

g) crude application of Freudian analysis to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

 

p. 3-4

The kinds of deceptions consistently utilised throughout the book include:

a) deliberately concealing the much larger body of information contrary to his defamatory thesis;

b) presenting as quotations what are Peter's own speculations;

c) deliberate misrepresentation and distortion of context;

d) defamation of Sri Aurobindo's character by use of innuendo, speculation, exaggeration and outright falsehood;

e) bias to quote extensively from people who question Sri Aurobindo's credibility and sanity; outright rejection of any person or quotation offering appreciation or praise of Sri Aurobindo

f) preferring speculation against Sri Aurobindo's own affirmations to the contrary;

g) academically unsound and perverse attempts at Freudian analysis of Sri Aurobindo personality; perverse speculations of sexual and marital life of Sri Aurobindo

 

 

Peter spends much time and energy in speculation on Sri Aurobindo's relationship with his wife Mrinalini Devi. On reading the entire book, his objectives become clear. He is preparing grounds for a Freudian analysis of Sri Aurobindo's poetry and plays to prove that he was looking for an ideal wife. Still later he ties this

in with his speculation of romantic relationships with the Mother. The following passages represent the kinds of speculative backgrounds on which he builds his later thesis:

 

Page 54: It is often cloudy in Nainital during summer, and the honeymooners may have been denied a glimpse of the peaks of Trishul and Nanda Devi and Snow View, but they doubtless enjoyed strolling by the lake and wandering through the down's bazaar, Aurobindo spent money freely....

 

It sounds charming and even sweet. But the entire passage is built entirely out of speculation and fantasy. Only one factual detail follows this passage in listing some items bought by Sri Aurobindo as noted in his personal financial records, but they do not indicate that he "spent money freely". Notice the detailed descriptions emerging from Peter's fertile imagination, but presented as factual and followed by a footnote utterly irrelevant to the fantasy just woven, but creating the impression of a scholarly reference. He imprints in our mind the picture of Sri Aurobindo's relationship with Mrinalini Devi as that of two modern American teenagers on a honeymoon. But he deliberately deceives the reader with this image, knowing ull well that in the conservative society of that period, couples did not go for romantic strolls in public, especially not the most senior official of the Maharaja's government! In fact, as in most conservative families even today, Sri Aurobindo's sister would likely have accompanied them only to be with Mrinalini in public functions. If anyone went strolling by the lake, it would be these two, and always accompanied by a retinue of guards and servants waiting one them.

But Peter invents the fiction of the modern American romantic couple deliberately. His cunning intention is to dash our hopes in the very next paragraph so as to prove their relationship as unhappy and their marriage as unsuccessful. Read on:

 

Page 55: Sometime during their stay in Nainital, Aurobindo and Mrinalini stepped into a photographic studio to have their picturetaken. The result shows the young woman...seated ratheruncomfortably on a bench. Her husband, natty in tweeds, perches beside her. Despite his protective arm, the two do not seem ill at ease with one another. Mrinalini looks somewhat coolly to the left,Aurobindo to the right. It must have taken them a good amount of time to get to know each other. She spoke little English, his Bengali was far from perfect, and it is hard to imagine what the Cambridge educated scholar and the girl... found to talk about. Aurobindo clearly was not looking for intellectual companionship when he chose her. What then was he looking for?

 

Peter's attempt to analyse their relationship on the basis of the false expectations he created earlier. But now the two modern honeymooners casually step into a photo studio. He prepares us for a brash modern American couple hugging and grinning at the camera in casual dress having dropped into the studio on impulse. Again he deceives us knowing well the reality of that period. One need only look at any formal photographs of any couple of that period to disprove Peter's thesis. Photos then were an elaborate and expensive affair (not the instant click of today). They were planned for in advance and the visit to the studio was a major social event, with the time slot at the studio booked in advance by Sri Aurobindo's secretary, if at all they went to studio. It is more likely that, given Sri Aurobindo's stature, the photographer would have been called home. They would necessarily be formally dressed for the occasion with Sarojini and accompanying staff. The photographers of the time demanded that couples sit stiffly and pose formally. It was common fashion until recently to have the wife sit and the husband stand behind. It was considered cheap to pose before the Studio's camera with a casual smile (as it still is in many parts of India), or to show any kind of intimacy in public. They had to look formal, the direction of their gaze chosen and frozen by the photographer. The idea was not to look "at ease" "despite his protective".

After misdirecting our expectations, after falsifying the mood of the age, and after his wrong interpretation, Peter prepares for the kill. He presumes as obvious the conclusion of an unhappy marriage (avoiding explicit accusation to protect himself), and then presents his speculation of the cause of the alleged failure as fact:

 

Page 55: "It must have taken them a good amount of time to get to know each other."

 

In most marriages in India, especially in that period, the bond of marriage was and still is established before and during the marriage across months through numerous ceremonies, not only between the couple, but between the families as well. Peter has no experience of family bonds and cannot understand the depth of intimacy, comfort and love that are possible in a healthy joint family.

But Peter has an agenda, and must continue with more defaming speculations:

 

Page 55: She spoke little English, his Bengali was far from perfect, and it is hard to imagine what the Cambridge-educated scholar and the girl, who, as her father put it, "evinced no exceptional abilities or tendencies," found to talk about.

 

There are several deceptions in Peter's writing above.

He presumes that their relationship was based on "intellectual" discussion. He ignores the tenderness and sweetness possible in relations of the heart which are more meaningful, more profound and more lasting than intellectual chatter, and which are eminently seen in Sri Aurobindo's letters to Mrinalini Devi. But Peter will not quote those passages because they would disprove his thesis.

He suggests communication problems because Sri Aurobindo's Bengali was "far from perfect". Does one need "perfect" mastery of a language in order to communicate? The vague phrase "far from perfect" is deliberately used to hide the truth which would demolish Peter's thesis. Consider that during the same year Sri Aurobindo was reading the Mahabharata in the original and translating Kalidasa's Meghadutam. If such was his mastery of Sanskrit then, was his Bengali so far behind that he could not even communicate with his wife as Peter would have us believe?

Finally, does Peter really think that stable relationships and marriages are built on "exceptional abilities or tendencies"? The purpose of the reference at this point to Mrinalini Devi as exceptional is meant to demean her, defame Sri Aurobindo and misdirect us. Relationships are not built on skills of entertainment, but on clarity and openness of the heart. It is these that Sri Aurobindo sought in choosing his wife, as documented elsewhere by Peter.

 

(Peter's comments above not only expose his perverse intentions, but also his shallow understanding of human psychology and relationships. Yet he tries, later in the book, to sit in judgment over Sri Aurobindo's poetry and literary style!)

 

In case we thought that Peter's conclusions emerge from his own immaturity, our doubts are finally put to rest as Peter goes in for the kill:

 

Page 55: Aurobindo clearly was not looking for intellectual companionship when he chose her. What then was he looking for?

 

Yes, of course Sri Aurobindo did not choose her for "intellectual companionship". Even if he had looked for someone of his own intellectual caliber, how many would he have found in the world then, or even now? He obviously chose her for the very things that we have mentioned earlier, which make for a meaningful and lasting relationship, things that Peter cannot understand but which he has quoted earlier in the same section:

 

Page 54: But it was her "sweet innocence and childlike simplicity" that Sri Aurobindo liked most about her. Like her husband-to-be, she was quiet and shy.

 

Peter's rhetorical question "What then was he looking for?" is only the crude expression of a perverse mind working hard to project his own perversions into his understanding of Sri Aurobindo's life.

pp. 8-15

Peter spends much time and energy in speculation on Sri Aurobindo's relationship with his wife Mrinalini Devi. On reading the entire book, his objectives become clear. He is preparing grounds for a Freudian analysis of Sri Aurobindo's poetry and plays to prove that he was looking for an ideal wife. Still later he ties this

in with his speculation of romantic relationships with the Mother. The following passages represent the kinds of speculative backgrounds on which he builds his later thesis:

 

Page 54: It is often cloudy in Nainital during summer, and the honeymooners may have been denied a glimpse of the peaks of Trishul and Nanda Devi and Snow View, but they doubtless enjoyed strolling by the lake and wandering through the down's bazaar, Aurobindo spent money freely....

 

It sounds charming and even sweet. But the entire passage is built entirely out of speculation and fantasy. Only one factual detail follows this passage in listing some items bought by Sri Aurobindo as noted in his personal financial records, but they do not indicate that he "spent money freely". Notice the detailed descriptions emerging from Peter's fertile imagination, but presented as factual and followed by a footnote utterly irrelevant to the fantasy just woven, but creating the impression of a scholarly reference. He imprints in our mind the picture of Sri Aurobindo's relationship with Mrinalini Devi as that of two modern American teenagers on a honeymoon. But he deliberately deceives the reader with this image, knowing ull well that in the conservative society of that period, couples did not go for romantic strolls in public, especially not the most senior official of the Maharaja's government! In fact, as in most conservative families even today, Sri Aurobindo's sister would likely have accompanied them only to be with Mrinalini in public functions. If anyone went strolling by the lake, it would be these two, and always accompanied by a retinue of guards and servants waiting one them.

But Peter invents the fiction of the modern American romantic couple deliberately. His cunning intention is to dash our hopes in the very next paragraph so as to prove their relationship as unhappy and their marriage as unsuccessful. Read on:

 

Page 55: Sometime during their stay in Nainital, Aurobindo and Mrinalini stepped into a photographic studio to have their picturetaken. The result shows the young woman...seated ratheruncomfortably on a bench. Her husband, natty in tweeds, perches beside her. Despite his protective arm, the two do not seem ill at ease with one another. Mrinalini looks somewhat coolly to the left,Aurobindo to the right. It must have taken them a good amount of time to get to know each other. She spoke little English, his Bengali was far from perfect, and it is hard to imagine what the Cambridge educated scholar and the girl... found to talk about. Aurobindo clearly was not looking for intellectual companionship when he chose her. What then was he looking for?

 

Peter's attempt to analyse their relationship on the basis of the false expectations he created earlier. But now the two modern honeymooners casually step into a photo studio. He prepares us for a brash modern American couple hugging and grinning at the camera in casual dress having dropped into the studio on impulse. Again he deceives us knowing well the reality of that period. One need only look at any formal photographs of any couple of that period to disprove Peter's thesis. Photos then were an elaborate and expensive affair (not the instant click of today). They were planned for in advance and the visit to the studio was a major social event, with the time slot at the studio booked in advance by Sri Aurobindo's secretary, if at all they went to studio. It is more likely that, given Sri Aurobindo's stature, the photographer would have been called home. They would necessarily be formally dressed for the occasion with Sarojini and accompanying staff. The photographers of the time demanded that couples sit stiffly and pose formally. It was common fashion until recently to have the wife sit and the husband stand behind. It was considered cheap to pose before the Studio's camera with a casual smile (as it still is in many parts of India), or to show any kind of intimacy in public. They had to look formal, the direction of their gaze chosen and frozen by the photographer. The idea was not to look "at ease" "despite his protective".

After misdirecting our expectations, after falsifying the mood of the age, and after his wrong interpretation, Peter prepares for the kill. He presumes as obvious the conclusion of an unhappy marriage (avoiding explicit accusation to protect himself), and then presents his speculation of the cause of the alleged failure as fact:

 

Page 55: "It must have taken them a good amount of time to get to know each other."

 

In most marriages in India, especially in that period, the bond of marriage was and still is established before and during the marriage across months through numerous ceremonies, not only between the couple, but between the families as well. Peter has no experience of family bonds and cannot understand the depth of intimacy, comfort and love that are possible in a healthy joint family.

But Peter has an agenda, and must continue with more defaming speculations:

 

Page 55: She spoke little English, his Bengali was far from perfect, and it is hard to imagine what the Cambridge-educated scholar and the girl, who, as her father put it, "evinced no exceptional abilities or tendencies," found to talk about.

 

There are several deceptions in Peter's writing above.

He presumes that their relationship was based on "intellectual" discussion. He ignores the tenderness and sweetness possible in relations of the heart which are more meaningful, more profound and more lasting than intellectual chatter, and which are eminently seen in Sri Aurobindo's letters to Mrinalini Devi. But Peter will not quote those passages because they would disprove his thesis.

He suggests communication problems because Sri Aurobindo's Bengali was "far from perfect". Does one need "perfect" mastery of a language in order to communicate? The vague phrase "far from perfect" is deliberately used to hide the truth which would demolish Peter's thesis. Consider that during the same year Sri Aurobindo was reading the Mahabharata in the original and translating Kalidasa's Meghadutam. If such was his mastery of Sanskrit then, was his Bengali so far behind that he could not even communicate with his wife as Peter would have us believe?

Finally, does Peter really think that stable relationships and marriages are built on "exceptional abilities or tendencies"? The purpose of the reference at this point to Mrinalini Devi as exceptional is meant to demean her, defame Sri Aurobindo and misdirect us. Relationships are not built on skills of entertainment, but on clarity and openness of the heart. It is these that Sri Aurobindo sought in choosing his wife, as documented elsewhere by Peter.

 

(Peter's comments above not only expose his perverse intentions, but also his shallow understanding of human psychology and relationships. Yet he tries, later in the book, to sit in judgment over Sri Aurobindo's poetry and literary style!)

 

In case we thought that Peter's conclusions emerge from his own immaturity, our doubts are finally put to rest as Peter goes in for the kill:

 

Page 55: Aurobindo clearly was not looking for intellectual companionship when he chose her. What then was he looking for?

 

Yes, of course Sri Aurobindo did not choose her for "intellectual companionship". Even if he had looked for someone of his own intellectual caliber, how many would he have found in the world then, or even now? He obviously chose her for the very things that we have mentioned earlier, which make for a meaningful and lasting relationship, things that Peter cannot understand but which he has quoted earlier in the same section:

 

Page 54: But it was her "sweet innocence and childlike simplicity" that Sri Aurobindo liked most about her. Like her husband-to-be, she was quiet and shy.

 

Peter's rhetorical question "What then was he looking for?" is only the crude expression of a perverse mind working hard to project his own perversions into his understanding of Sri Aurobindo's life.