Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Santhigiri – nothing but business
All the media houses in the state were buzzing with huge pictures and news reports of the new Parnasala inaugurated at the Santhigiri Ashramam in Thiruvananthapuram the past week. Not a single of voice of dissent. No enquiries as to where they get so much money or influence.
“They tried to get American President Obama to inaugurate the thing”, a friend of mine who works there told me. A few years ago we would have laughed this off as a ridiculous comment. However, today it is evident that, this too is not impossible for them.
The name of Karunakara Guru has become as big as Mata Amritanandhamayi or Sai Baba. Rumours circulate about the divine powers he had. On the other side of the coin rumours are present too about his past, about how he was chased from his original village for immoral or illegal activities, and ended up here.
Anyway I used to visit the Ashramam when he was alive for the Annadanam – the free lunch they used to serve the general public on certain days (Well, back in those college days, we had an all-year-round list when free foodwould be given out anywhere in the district!). But, personally I think, it was ok when the guru was alive. People came to seek his blessings and we know the people have a tendency to seek blessings from godmen as a solution to all their problems.
Then he died. And Santhigiri started getting commercialized. Supposedly someone who completed his MBA and worked in US came to join the Ashramam and he spearheads the commercial activities. They have hundreds of industries going on in different locations. Whats wrong with that, some of you may ask. The thing is they are a charitable institution and they don’t have to pay tax. They have access to free money flow and they are above auditing. This virtually means they save crores on tax amount alone.
But more frightfully, they are buying up land by hundreds of acres in the surrounding areas. They are quickly developing a township with unaccounted money. In the blink of an eye, in the past few years, they had their own post office, petrol pumps, Medical College, a Panchayath ward exclusively for them – ‘them’ meaning people who may have come from any part of the state without proper identification and they are able to vote. This last issue is particularly causing concern because in a few years the entire area would be full of Santhigiri devotees who would be able to vote in all elections according to the orders issued by the Ashram authorities, thus creating a most powerful weapon – their own votebank.
I appreciate all the better initiatives taken by them – but remember they are not giving jobs to the public. And what goes inside the Ashram is a strictly guarded secret, strictly forbidden to outsider knowledge. And most worrisome is the lack of enquiring voices on the part of the media. Santhigiri Ashram needs to be audited (just like all the other godmen ashrams) and registered under the government as an industrial firm. Closing our eyes and blindly believing is easy – opening our eyes to see what is really happening is the difficult part.
P.S. - No, I don't have any proof to substantiate my claims... just like the claims about divinity and miracles.