Open Letter Re: ISKCON Youth Forum Ashram
Posted June 18, 2007
Please accept our humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
We are writing to inform you about an incident of a very serious nature that took place in ISKCON Vrindavan on 31st May at Prabhupada Vani Ashram (formerly Prthu Prabhu's ashram). The place is now called the "ISKCON Youth Forum Ashram" and is only a two to three minute walk from Krishna Balarama Mandir.
The ashram currently houses our new bhaktas and some other brahmacaris. In total about 50 devotees live on the property.
At about 4.15 pm, in broad daylight, on 31st May, about 40 to 50 armed men stormed into the ashram with obvious aggressive intent. They were led in and supervised by LAKSHMAN DAS (Malaysian national), a former pujari at Krishna Balarama Mandir, Vrindavan.
This is the same Lakshman who designs and sells Deities' outfits to various ISKCON Temples, and who has also in recent years sold apartments to ISKCON devotees on land very near our ISKCON temple.
Lakshman's intention was to forcibly and illegally evict ISKCON from the premises and take possession of the property himself.
At that time about five devotees were not on the property. Another ten devotees were in the basement-some of them were taking bath, some were resting, and many were attending a class by Gaurasundar Prabhu, who oversees the new bhakta ashram.
Led by Lakshman, the intruders wielded their weapons and threatened the devotees, giving them five minutes to move off the property. Several of our devotees were physically beaten. A couple of devotees who were resting in the basement were beaten even as they lay asleep. Any devotee who attempted to make a phone call was immediately beaten.
There was no question of offering any resistance. The shell-shocked devotees hurriedly packed whatever few personal belongings they could in the two or three minutes they had, with the weapon-wielders breathing down their necks and threatening them. Next the devotees were all forced off the property, some without being even properly clothed.
Then Lakshman brought in another large group of people, which included, among others, his wife and a few other ladies. Having removed all signboards that said "ISKCON" or "ISKCON YOUTH FORUM", they began to hurriedly set up a kitchen (with Lakshman's wife 'cooking' there) and a Deity Dress making unit inside with laborers, in an attempt to make it appear that Lakshman had been in possession of the property all along.
Only when the devotees were out of the ashram could they phone us to inform us of the situation.
We immediately made phone calls to the District Magistrate, to the top police officer of the District & to other local police officials. We then personally rushed to Mathura to meet them. We also had to immediately mobilise all the devotees.
The top District officials mentioned above were very helpful and they promptly instructed the local Police officials in Vrindavan to do the needful. The attackers were removed from our property by the police very shortly.
Lakshman was arrested by the police, but he was released on bail next morning in the Court, as the sections of the law under which the police had booked him were not so strong.
Meanwhile, we gave a detailed account of what had transpired to the Senior Superintendent of Police of Mathura District. Based on this he is now trying to reframe the charges against Lakshman, to make them suitably stiffer. We hope that Lakshman will be re-arrested soon on severe charges, which are non-bailable.
We are in touch with various Government officials at various levels and in various places, are closely & actively following up on developments to ensure that justice is done, that our devotees & property are protected,& that Lakshman gets the proper punishment he deserves according to the Law of the land for his grave offences.
It may be worth mentioning that when Lakshman first came to Krishna Balarama Mandir about 14 years ago, he was a simple, poor brahmacari. He served as a pujari. The departmental heads even today recall him as being very political. At a certain point, even as a brahmacari, he started his own private Deity dress business in the basement of the Deity department and kept the profits for himself. The Temple management naturally objected. There was a series of incidents, culminating in one particularly unpleasant episode, in the year 2000 or 2001, which made the management relieve him of his service as pujari. In all these incidents, there was some financial irregularity, and the finger of suspicion usually pointed strongly to Lakshman. Thereafter, he plunged into business activities in Vrindavan, and has come a long way since then. He learnt the trade in ISKCON. His customers are all from ISKCON. And yet, he seems to have completely forgotten that his success in business has been because of ISKCON, and rather he has no hesitation in biting the hand that has fed him all these years. In fact, that hand continues to feed him and make him richer even today in the form of devotees ordering Deity outfits from him, and purchasing flats from him.
The matter between Lakshman and the Temple with regard to the Ashram had been settled by Prthu Prabhu (ACBSP) and handed over to ISKCON almost two and a half years ago. It has already been in the Courts for quite a while now,and ISKCON has a status-quo order in its favor. Lakshman has, among other things, violated the Court order and thus is liable for further prosecution for contempt of court.
He has been waging a relentless battle against ISKCON Vrindavan for the last two years or so, to achieve his objective of acquiring this property. He has left no stone unturned in his efforts to pressure ISKCON to yield to his demands. Filing court cases, delivering threats through local land mafia, attempting to bribe local officials (and even devotees) to enlist their support, creating false documents, spreading vicious propaganda against ISKCON our devotees all over Vrindavan...Lakshman has tried it all. And now this horrifying attack has been the last straw for us.
While Lakshman rants and raves, publicly and privately, without discrimination, about what he feels are the follies of ISKCON, while he blasphemes ISKCON leaders everywhere, while he wages a hostile campaign against the Krishna Balarama Mandir on so many fronts & in so many ways, now culminating in this attack, while he hobnobs intimately with land mafia and other questionable elements, and while Krishna Consciousness seems to be the last priority in his life, he continues to earn his livelihood exclusively off ISKCON and enjoy the sympathy of many (devotees as well as others) who have been taken in by his impassioned and tearful presentation of his case.
We humbly request devotees all around the world to kindly desist from any dealings with Lakshman das. Please know for certain that the money he thus earns is used to harm Srila Prabhupada's 'home', Sri Krishna Balarama Mandir and the sincere devotees staying here.
In these two years,we have made genuinely earnest and sincere attempts to resolve this conflict in a peaceful & amicable manner but Lakshman has remained steadfast in his confrontationist and hostile attitude. We have also held ourselves back for so long from making such a public declaration. But now, after this terrible attack, we are left with no choice.
We pray for your cooperation and blessings to help us create here in Krishna Balarama Mandir an atmosphere and standard that will please Srila Prabhupada.
Vrindavan Executive Board
Gopal Krishna Goswami
Ravindra Svarupa dasa
Radha Krishna dasa
Kadamba Kanana Swami