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'They want to sell Osho ashram'

By SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF
March 29, 2023 11:35 IST
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'They want to wind up Osho's Pune operation, take the money and move out of India.'

IMAGE: Osho followers stage a protest against the proposed sale of the ashram's properties in Pune, outside the charities commissioner's office in Mumbai. Photograph: ANI Photo

When Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, better known as Osho, died in January 1990, his spokesman Swami Chaitanya Keerti announced it to the world.

Thirty-three years later, the situation has changed so much that the same Chaitanya Keerti is not even permitted to enter the Osho Ashram in Pune to which he dedicated his whole life.

Osho had settled down in Pune after he was deported from the United States in 1985. And 33 years after his death, some of Osho's disciples today are fighting for control of the ashram which he set up in 1985.

The situation turned for the worse when there was violence in the ashram on March 22 and the Pune police had to intervene to stop the sanyasis fighting each other.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com spoke to Chaitanya Keerti about the incident and what happened at the ashram that led to violence.

 

Why was there a fight at the Osho Ashram in Pune?

The key people running the ashram in Pune are based in Zurich and they run the ashram with an inner circle of 21 persons.

These people formed an organisation called Osho International Foundation, about 25 years ago in Zurich. And it exists in Pune too by the same name.

Now, the Pune centre has always been the headquarters of Osho followers, but now these foreigners want to shift the headquarters to Zurich.

These people themselves have declared that Zurich is the headquarters, whereas, in fact, that place only has a forwarding address.

Moreover, these OIF Zurich office-bearers have moved on from this place to operate from London, Hong Kong, and Ireland.

They sign Osho's publication deeds from there and whatever royalty comes, they keep it. It does not come to Pune. This is happening for the last 25 years.

Why are you all raising this issue now?

I became aware of it in 2000 and I questioned this move. They were asking royalties from French and other language publishers of Osho's work to be passed on to the Zurich office.

They said everyone will have to take permission from Zurich to publish Osho's works. When they told me about it, I told them that Osho never said that a royalty should be paid to Zurich.

I have been questioning them since 2000. At the same time, when I was showing Osho's video discourses on television, they told me I could not do so without taking permission from Zurich.

I told them Osho told me to spread his message across the world, so who are they to question me?

They said since Indian channels were being broadcast abroad too, I need to take their permission.

Even for a press release on Osho, they told me to take permission.

If all this went on for 25 years, why has a fight erupted now?

It has always been erupting, but now more people are aware of their (designs).

Court cases were filed against us when we started www.oshoworld.com in which we gave free discourses of Osho that could be downloaded.

On the other hand, they started www.osho.com for which they started charging money.

They challenged us that Osho is their trademark. We won the case in 2001 in New York. Since then, we are providing Osho's works for free on www.oshoworld.com

Why did a sanyasi attack foreigners in the ashram?

Since 2000, these foreigners who are controlling the ashram say that the Pune ashram is not an ashram but a resort.

They claim they own the ashram and they do not recognise Osho's sanyasis anymore. It is Osho's ashram and people donated their money to Osho from which he made that ashram.

Now, they do not run it as an ashram, but as a resort, a five-star hotel.

They have bouncers at the main gate to push away sanyasis. They don't want too many Indians coming to the ashram.

I will give you my own example. I was publishing Osho Times from inside the ashram. I was the editor.

They told me that after reading my Hindi magazine on Osho, too many Biharis are turning up in Pune.

They told me to close down the magazine and I argued with them that due to the popularity of the magazine people were coming to the ashram.

Why is getting an entry into Osho ashram so bureaucratic? Why does one have to register before entering the ashram?

Earlier, all sanyasis were welcome and the fee was nominal. But now, they charge Rs 975 (a day) from Indians and Rs 2,000 from foreigners.

The idea is to allow less and less people, so that they can sell off the land.

Do you have any proof or are these just allegations you are levelling against them?

Ten years ago, they donated a property of Osho to a trust in Delhi. We came to know about it from a newspaper advertisement.

When we called the trust, we found out that they were the same people.

We got a stay on that in 2012 and the land parcel was not sold. During the pandemic, they got an excuse to sell this three acre plot to a prominent industrialist.

This too, they were doing secretly, but we found out again from newspaper advertisements they had published in local Marathi newspapers.

Their excuse was that the ashram had fallen into tough times due to COVID-19 and they wanted to sell the land to recover the losses.

They said they were falling short of Rs 3 crore (Rs 30 million) and we felt that it was too little considering the fact that Osho was gifted 93 Royals Royces.

Osho lovers would have surely given them Rs 3 crore if they wanted.

There was a 64 acre land in Rajneeshpuram (Oregon, USA) and also private planes that they could have sold to fill the gap of Rs 3 crores, but they did not do so.

I think the idea is that they want to wind up Osho's Pune operation, take the money and move out of India.

Why did your people fight with them? And also with the Pune police?

On March 21, Osho's enlightenment day, 2,000 people landed at Osho Ashram. Seeing so many people, they got scared and allowed us with our maalas inside the ashram.

Next day, on March 22, they did not allow maalas.

We asked them how can maalas be okay on March 21 and not on March 22? It was ridiculous on their part.

Didn't Osho stop using maalas in his lifetime?

He said you might have trouble at airports while traveling with maalss (due to security checks) but that does not mean you cannot wear a maala and enter his ashram.

Till 2000, they used to sell maalas at Osho's ashrams.

Osho said about maalas that it is your personal choice whether you wear it or not. Nobody can dictate you.

Did your group attack the police?

There was one person who was not a sanyasi. He was an engineer from the United States and he had come to the ashram to check out what was going on.

Not all of us met him. He started arguing about why he was not being allowed to go inside the ashram without a maroon-coloured robe when he saw others were going inside without wearing those robes.

This led to an altercation. He was pushed away and when he went again the next day, the bouncers started beating him up.

What is the situation now at the ashram in Pune?

Our names have been noted down by the police and they have told the police to file an FIR (first information report) against us.

They are saying we instigated the violence at the ashram, which is not true. I will send you some videos (below), you can see the truth.

 

VIDEOS of violence: Kind courtesy Swami Chaitanya Keerti.

At this moment, we are not allowed inside the Osho Centre in Pune. They are very powerful people with high connections.

Can other people enter the Pune ashram now?

They will welcome you, but you have to follow strict rules. Now, you will feel as if you have entered some corporate building where bouncers are welcoming you.

You will not get an ashram feel.

Was the German Bakery blast in 2010 not the reason behind enforcing these strict entry regulations?

They just used the blast as an excuse to stop the flow of people into the ashram.

They put the fear in people's minds and then exploited it by saying that they are protecting the sanyasis.

The sanyasis do not need protection as they are more into meditation.

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SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF / Rediff.com
 
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