PUDUCHERRY: A series of incidents that culminated in a High Court order asking five women inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram to vacate its boarding premises has fell on deaf ears, if the recent incidents are considered. In the latest event on Thursday afternoon, they were prevented from entering the dining hall of the ashram for collecting food.
The siblings — Jayashree Prasad, Arunashri Prased, Rajyashree Prasad, Nivedita Prasad and Hemalatha Prasad — from Bihar continue to stay in Amba Biksu Home, despite an order from the Madras High Court asking them to relocate to Jenny Working Women’s Hostel at Sarathy Nagar and its annexe at Brindavan from July 15. As per the order, the cost of accommodation would be borne by the ashram. A sum of Rs 2,800 was also to be paid to each of them towards other expenses.
The order comes as a sequel to the disciplinary action taken by the ashram when one of the sisters was found guilty of gross misconduct in 2002. A retired District Judge, appointed by High Court of Madras, conducted an inquiry and found the delinquent individual guilty and recommended disciplinary action. She was asked to vacate the ashram boarding, but she did not.
Thereafter in September 2004, one of the sisters accused ashram inmates of sexual abuse and harassment. Another sibling backed the charges. In this connection, four ashram inmates were arrested and later released on bail. An inquiry by retired deputy secretary to government A V Nagarajan found their accusations false. Police complaint on the matter was dismissed.
However, the sisters moved the Principal District Munsif challenging the inquiry report and prayed for a direction to declare it as illegal and violative of the principles of natural justice. Though the court gave them an interim relief , it is still pending. The case will come up this month end.
Meanwhile, the sisters made representations to various forums, including the National Commission for Women (NCW) and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). They alleged that some of the male inmates whistled, urinated and displayed offensive materials.
N T Sivadasan, the then commandant of Pondicherry Armed Police who conducted the inquiry on behalf of NHRC, found the complaint baseless and maintained that there was no violation of human rights. “The inmates were living in the ashram their will and anyone is free to leave the premises any time,” he observed in the report.
Similarly, the NCW also described the allegations of sexual harassment as false. “There appears to be malicious planning behind the complaints since the allegations could not be substantiated,” the then NCW chairperson Poornima Advani told in 2005.
The inquiry for NCW was conducted by S Kamalini, chairperson of Puducherry Women’s Commission. She said 250 inmates were summoned, but none of them supported the sisters. In its report, the commission also recommended that the complainants be kept away from the people against whom they had levelled allegations.
All said, the five women were reluctant to vacate and continues to stay put in the ashram. This, when their parents are residing in Puducherry itself.