In God's name

In God's name

Committee members of the Bangalore and Mumbai units of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) have made a spectacle of themselves with their unseemly behaviour at the temple premises in Bangalore. Iskcon Bangalore’s president and followers not only prevented the supervisory committee sent from Mumbai from entering the temple at Bangalore but worse, they hurled abuse and punched each other in full public view.

Thousands of devotees come to this temple daily in search of spiritual solace and quiet. What they got last Friday was quite the opposite. A place of worship was reduced to a battle zone. Surely devotees deserve better. Underlying the brawl is the decade-old dispute over the ownership of the property on which the temple stands. Recently, the Karnataka high court ruled that Iskcon Mumbai was the rightful owner of Iskcon Bangalore. The court’s observations raise serious questions over the running of Iskcon Bangalore by its president Madhu Pandit Das. It has pointed to his ‘falsifying accounts’ among other things.

Iskcon is not new to controversy. Charges of cheating, exploitation and sexual abuse have clouded its credibility for decades. It has suffered innumerable power struggles especially after the passing of its founder. While some of the disputes were over doctrinal issues, many of the tussles were over material matters — control over its immense wealth.

Iskcon Bangalore was accused of misappropriation of funds meant for Akhsaya Patra and of building housing complexes on land given by the government. Although a committee of the State legislative assembly gave it a clean chit after a probe, doubts remained over the integrity of those running the show.

Among the most commendable achievements of Iskcon Bangalore is the Akshaya Patra programme under which it is providing a mid-day meal to over a million children in government schools in seven states. The high court has ordered Iskcon Mumbai to not disturb the Akshaya Patra programme. Yet there is reason for concern. Donations for the initiative are said to have reduced.

This could not only curtail expansion plans but also it could result in a cut back on the number of beneficiaries and the quality of food. It would be tragic if this were to happen. As advised by the Supreme Court, both the factions should sit together and find an amicable solution in the interests of everyone concerned.

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