Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Sale order of Osho Ashram shakes up his followers

A recent order from the Mumbai Charity Commissioner has shocked followers of Osho, or Bhagwan Rajneesh, the Indian guru with piercing eyes.

As per the order, a huge chunk of land in Osho’s sprawling abode, once called the IBM of peace and love in Pune’s upscale Koregaon neighbourhood, will be up for sale.

The Commissioner, according to reports reaching the Indian Capital, has granted permission to Osho International Foundation (OIF) to seek a fresh bid to sell parts of Osho’s ashram in Pune, called Osho International Meditation Resort.

The OIF is based in Zurich, Switzerland.

The land, now marked for sale, is quite close to the Osho’s Samadhi area. It has an Olympic size swimming pool and tennis court and is called Osho Basho.

This order has been issued while the hearing on the last bid process that was started in July 2020 by OIF is still in process at the same Charity Commissioner of Mumbai office.

The swimming pool and tennis court area was developed as per Osho’s instructions.  His guidance was that for many, sports like swimming and racquet play can become doorways to meditation.  His insistence was that modern man will require modern methods to bring him to meditation.  Over the last decades, thousands have participated in meditation in this part of the Osho Ashram and there is a special energy field created here, noticeable even to the first-time visitor.

So, plots 15 and 16 are indivisible units of a living energy field that Osho created for humanity.

“Selling and re-purposing any inch of the land will be an irreplaceable loss for those interested in spirituality and inner search,” Swami Chaitanya Keerti, a veteran follower of Osho, said in a statement.

Keerti said despite knowing the importance of this energy field well, in July 2020, “a hasty and incomplete bid process was executed by OIF under the cover of COVID closures to sell Osho Basho and an MOU was signed with the highest bidder, Mr. Rajiv Bajaj, for this sale”.

“An advance amount of Rs. 50 crore was taken from Mr. Bajaj by OIF.  This was before the permission to sell was secured from the Office of the Charity Commissioner Mumbai which is the due process of law.  The reasons cited for this sale were losses of Rs. 3 crores incurred due to property closure during COVID and to build a corpus fund for such future calamities.  The four trustees who signed this MOU on behalf of OIF are Mukesh Sarda, Pratap Singh, Devendra Dewal and Sadhana Belapurkar,” he said in the statement. a copy of which is with this reporter.

But the sale process triggered massive protests across India, and in parts of the world.

In January 2021, many sannyasins protested.

For more than a decade, two followers, Swami Prem Geet (Yogesh Thakkar) and Swami Anadi (Kishore Rawal) have been in the forefront of opposing various OIF actions to diminish Osho’s Koregaon Park Ashram.

Starting March 2021, other sannyasins and Osho’s friends began to join the two of them in this protest.  The protest was made public via social media, meeting political and bureaucratic stakeholders and running a massive email campaign.  And 28 sannyasins also legally intervened to object to the sale of Basho by making applications with the Charity Commissioner.

n July 2022, one Swami Yog Sunil (Sunil Mirpuri) made an application to the Charity Commissioner asking for the hearing on Osho Basho to be stayed pending investigation of the operations of the Trust and the OIF Trustees themselves.

This application was partially accepted allowing Swami Sunil to approach the High Court.  In the meantime, in August 2022, the High Court (where Yogesh Thakkar/Kishore Rawal have been seeking relief and justice on related matters of misappropriation of funds, negligence, discrimination towards other Osho lovers, etc.) issued an order that asked for investigation of the Trust’s operations before any alienation of property was allowed.  It did say that any alienation that is underway can continue to proceed as per the due process of law.

Then in October 2022, the Charity Commissioner Mumbai issued this order seeking fresh bids for the sale of Basho. Now, bids will be opened on the 15th of November in her presence.  “Suddenly, there seems to be an override of process, an unseen urgency and speed and bias,” says Keerti, adding: “We, in India and everywhere else, need to come together urgently to ensure that Osho’s invaluable and precious gift to us and future generations of seekers remains undivided and whole.”

Osho sannyasins have filed petitions in the High Court asking for cancellation of the sale completely.

OIF manages the six-acre commune, styled like the proverbial Xanadu of magician Mandrake. Osho left his body of heart ailments on January 19, 1990. His ashes are preserved in a beautiful space within the campus.  The spiritual master rests there and thousands of seekers come there to sit in silence and meditate every day.

What is interesting is that controversy continues to dodge the commune more than three decades after the death of its master.

(Shantanu Guha Ray is a Wharton-trained journalist and award-winning author. He lives in Delhi with his wife and two pets.  He won the 2018 Crossword award for his book, Target, which probed the NSEL payment crisis.)

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