Continued abuse and cover-up in Vrindavan Gurukula alleged:
Bhima-Karma demands records seizure and GBC investigation
Posted September 21, 2004
Chakra editorial note: The concerns of Bhima Karma Prabhu were investigated by the Child Protection Office. The findings are posted Click Here. While improvements were recommended, the Vrindavana Gurukula's child protection practices were consider up to standard.
The Vrindavan Gurukul requires your immediate attention. In a time when there is a multi-million dollar lawsuit regarding rampant child-abuse in ISKCON's Gurukulas, we might assume that a lesson has been learned.
After reading the following correspondence, however, it appears that the same cover-up tactics are being employed. The only thing that seems to have changed is the expertise and entrenchment of the cover-up. Have the GBC learned a single lesson from all of this?
What follows is correspondence with Praghosa das prabhu (current GBC Chairperson). As you will see, at every turn he failed to respect our pleas even by replying to us within the agreed times. It seems that he does not take this issue seriously and it is thus being presented to you, the general devotees, to speak up.
In reading these letters, the key issue is that the Vrindavan Gurukula's child protection team is an internal one, composed largely of its own management and affiliates. As far as I know, the Child Protection Team is headed by the Principal of the Gurukula and also includes a part-time teacher working for the Gurukul and a devotee in the Vrindavan community.
How can such a naturally biased system afford any true protection for the children or for our society? This a slap in the face of all of us Gurukula Alumni who endured so many inhuman atrocities under the management of this GBC, while so many continue to watch as it is still covered up by them. Moreover, this is a breach of professional and moral ethics, inasmuch as it does not afford external scrutiny and transparency to the larger devotional community. Historically, abuses occurred in our schools due to these same closed-door policies, which do not allow for external scrutiny and accountability.
I have appended a petition letter to the end of this text. I urge each one of you to cut/paste it (or compose your own) to an e-mail and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org immediately. I will collate and send them to the GBC. This matter deserves immediate investigation. If we consider ourselves as moral or ethical people devoted to Srila Prabhupad, we will not let this behavior continue while we look on. We are all now responsible, having been clearly informed of the situation.
The following letter was sent to Praghosa das (current GBC chairperson), among others, on Sept. 8, 2004:
Setting The Scene:
This is a very important time in the history of ISKCON, particularly concerning the protection of children entrusted to our Gurukulas. There is now a multi-million dollar lawsuit being faced by the ISKCON management for its negligence abuse and cover-up in this connection.
Surely, most devotees, especially those having to collect the money to pay for these mistakes, assume that here, in Sri Krsna-Balaram Mandir (one of the most important temples in our movement), the Gurukula (the most prominent in our movement) is now free from the neglect, abuse and cover-up of the dark past. After all, the most prominent members of ISKCON's child protection division are directly and indirectly involved in its management and day-to-day operation. Apparently though, this is not so.
1. a. One Devotee (hereafter referred to as Devotee 1) who has been watching after some boys on Sundays, at the request of their parents, spoke to Sri Balaram das (graduate of Vrindavan Gurukula) about these incidents (referred to in sections 1.a and b.). But, because he was warned to keep the incident quiet, not to take it any further and threatened by the Vice-Principal and Ashram Teacher in Vrindavan Gurukula that he would be blamed as a child-abuser if he did so, Devotee 1 has refused to give a written statement of this account out of fear. Therefore, we are writing this letter as testimony of what he told Sri Balaram das.
Devotee 1 informed Sri Balaram Das that Upendra das Brahamacari, who was acting as an Ashram Teacher in the Vrindavan Gurukul, has molested two boys. According to two boys (other than those who were allegedly molested) attending the Gurukula, who spoke to Sri Balaram das, he (Upendra das) had been maintaining sexual relations with one of the boys for approximately one year and had just begun with a second who had recently complained. Upendra has been removed from his position and left town; we have heard that it is being stated by the Gurukula Management that he has been discharged for beating some boy(s) with a cane.
1. b. Furthermore Devotee 1 told Sri Balaram that, approximately one year prior, he had witnessed an incident involving Upendra das as follows. One boy was seated in a chair playing with Upendra das's cell phone and he Upendra das) was tickling and touching this boy's crotch. Devotee 1, upon reporting this incident to the vice-principal was given the threat mentioned above. Devotee 1 also told Sri Balaram das that one of the boys who spoke with him was seen being made to eat alone, quite possibly as punishment and warning against his speaking about this incident.
2. Just a few months prior, there was an incident of one Brahmacari Ashram teacher (Gopal Krishna das). After it was known for some time that he was either homosexual or was unsure of his sexuality, he was asked to meet in confidence with Bhima-Karma das (New Vrindavan Gurukula Graduate). This shows there must have been some concern about his conduct as an ashram teacher already. He confirmed the above about his sexuality to Bhima-Karma das who questioned him about this matter.
Bhima-Karma das assessed it to be highly inappropriate for him to be acting as an Ashram Teacher and considered it likely for him to molest children in such an environment. Several weeks after this opinion was directly expressed to both the gurukula principal and her husband on numerous occasions, was he removed from his position as Ashram Teacher. Actually, to protect the children, he should have been removed pending the results of the investigation.
3. Before this, Panca-Pandava das was reluctantly removed from his managemement position in the Gurukula, based on repeated complaints and pressuring from many members of this community along with visiting devotees over approximately two years time. It appeared obvious to many that he was homosexual (many instances of inappropriate rubbing and touching of devotees in public). There were even claims from one Gurukula boy of pornography being found on his computer. There is one devotee here willing to testify about this devotee's homosexual activities. Now, the principal's husband has employed this person as his private secretary.
Considering all of this, there may be much more we don't know about. And how could we? The Child-Protection Team here is comprised of the senior management of the Gurukul itself. How can an internal Child-Protection team be considered objective and trustworthy? An internal Child-protection team is an oxymoron in itself.
They are in the perfect position to cover up incidents of neglect and abuse (as we are now seeing) in order to protect the reputation of the school and it's management.
Now, we are hearing of their plans to construct a new Gurukula building and move the Gurukula to the ISKCON Goshalla land. If this is allowed, they will be even further isolated from public scrutiny. Already they are enacting a closed-door policy and have an internal Child-Protection Team, making it impossible for us to know the children are safe from neglect and abuse and impossible to protect others, who would otherwise report such things, from intimidation and blackmail.
In light of all these highly sensitive and urgent issues and given the already infamous reputation of ISKCON education and Vrindavan Gurukula in particular, we demand that an independent investigation be conducted as soon as possible and before Kartika (October 27).
The investigation team should consist of at least eight people who are not affiliated with or working for the Vrindavan Gurukula or its Management. Furthermore, we demand that at least half of this team be selected by us, who are all Gurukul alumni. The other half should comprise senior devotees of Vrindavan ISKCON and full-fledged GBC who have no history of child abuse or its cover-up under their management. We must also approve this other half.
The investigation itself should assess the current situation in the Vrindavan Gurukula in regards to current and previous cases of abuse, neglect, etc., the procedures used to respond to these incidents in the past and present (including record keeping) and, finally, the team is to form a conclusion detailing what must be done to properly respond with regard to Srila Prabhupada's instructions as well as the law.
In order for this information to be accurate, we must seize the records pertaining to these issues immediately (upon your receipt of this letter), in order to ensure the records cannot be tampered with. At least one of us and some person(s) of your choice can carry this out or at least be present when this is done. This must happen immediately.
We expect a decisive response from you within 48 hours of the sending of this letter. If we do not, we will immediately take all of this to all public devotee and Gurukul Alumni forums.
Do not give any of this information to any of the Gurukula Management and its affiliates until the time of the investigation as they will likely immediately act to cover-up and suppress all information in this regard and thus your mishandling of this sensitive information will certainly compromise the integrity of the investigation.
Sincerely, Gurukul Alumni,
Sri Balaram das,
Gopal das (Ghana-Shyam),
After receiving no response for two days, even to acknowledge the letter had been received, I acquired the cell phone number of Praghosa prabhu, the GBC chairperson, and called him. Without mentioning why he had failed to write me back, he acknowledged that he had received the letter, but asked that I wait until the following Tuesday as he was traveling to attend some meetings. I waited and Tuesday passed without any correspondence. On Wednesday, Sept. 15, he sent this letter:
Dear Bhima-karma prabhu and others,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Sorry for my late reply although I am sure you can appreciate that I cannot act in a knee-jerk way.
I have done some preliminary enquires and while I have concluded that I should continue with those enquiries, as the concerns you've raised are also shared by some others, I cannot at this point authorise the confiscation of gurukula files.
I know that you all want immediate action etc. However for me to do what you ask, without first ensuring that it is the right and just thing to do, would really be a dereliction of my duties, as I have a responsibility to be fair and impartial to all ISKCON devotees.
You can rest assured that the gurukula authorities know nothing of my enquiries, so there is no reason why they would tamper with their records and files, etc. Therefore please bear with me a little longer before taking any independent action.
Yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada,
I responded to his letter upon receipt (on September 15th) as follows:
Dear Praghosa prabhu,
Thank you for your response.
I do appreciate that I am not privy to the concerns and information of your position. Even still, I cannot think what more information one might need to warrant an immediate investigation. It is possible that there are children still being molested, or kids who have been molested or etc.in need of immediate attention.
You should also know that since the first letter I sent to you, I have acquired recorded testimony regarding these alleged disgraces. In this recording are given names of boys involved directly in the alleged sexual incident(s) and names of teachers who were directly informed by the speaker. Also there are many other incidents which he would like to speak about which are only alluded to on the recording, such as kids having their mouths duct-taped by Gopal-Krsna, and much more.
While I can only imagine the pressure and considerations of your position, on a simply human level, what more do you need to know? Do you think those children and their parents will care for your official concerns and understand your inaction? What would Srila Prabhupad have ordered?
Please understand that I mean no disrespect in my words; I am merely trying to speak honestly for our mutual benefit.
At your service,
As of September 17th, I have yet to hear back from him. To my knowledge no action has yet been taken to rectify this situation. At every turn, our plea has been denied the respect and urgent attention it deserves. Now it is for us to speak up and demand that the proper thing be done.
What follows is a petition letter demanding an immediate independent investigation to secure the situation and protect the children and ISKCON from further negligence.
To the ISKCON GBC and relevant management:
In light of alleged child-abuse and cover-up in the Vrindavan Gurukula, and given the already infamous reputation of ISKCON education and the Vrindavan Gurukula in particular, we demand an independent investigation be conducted as soon as possible and before Karttik (October 28, 2004).
The investigation team must consist of at least 50 percent Gurukula alumni and the remainder of GBC members. None of these individuals may be employed or affiliated with the Vrindavan Gurukula.
The investigation itself is to assess the situation in the Vrindavan Gurukula with regards to current and previous cases of abuse neglect etc., the procedures used to respond to these incidents in the past and present (including record keeping), and finally, the team is to form a conclusion detailing what must be done to properly respond with regard to Srila Prabhupad's instructions as well as the law.
In order for this information to be accurate, we must seize the records pertaining to these issues immediately (upon your receipt of this letter), in order to ensure the records cannot be tampered with. This must be carried out in the presence of and documented by independent persons. This must happen immediately.
Lastly, the Child Protection Team employed here must immediately be
removed from their posts, until the investigation is concluded and a
new external Child Protection Team is formed.