Truth Behind Allegations Against Isha — II
Brazen Overreach of Parental License
Of all the beings, the human offspring is the most helpless at birth. Most creatures lower down in the evolutionary hierarchy manage just fine without any parental care, upon birth. Higher order mammals, however, are dependent upon their mother’s care for a period after birth. Also since human lives have evolved so much socially, the human offspring is dependent upon parental care for a much longer duration. It is for this reason that human societies all over the world allow parents a certain license over the lives of their children for a period.
During this period, parents have the final say over almost all aspects of a child’s life. As the children grow up and show increasing capability and responsibility, they are allowed more choice. How much of regulation should one do and how much of freedom one should give is always a dilemma, and there are no correct answers. One just does what is best possible, to the best of one’s capability. However, the consensus and the universally adopted norm is that once someone crosses the age of 18 years, their wishes take precedence over parents’ desires. This is also a legally adopted norm.
However, in reality, this is not a hard threshold. The transition from being mama’s boy or a daddy’s girl to an autonomous individual happens somewhere between when one starts college to when gets married. Most of the time this is strongly contested with conflicts and negotiations happening all the time. So when it comes to such family conflicts where the children (yes, 31, 34 and even 40-year-old ‘children’) are involved with an ashram, the ashram is prone to collateral damage in this conflict.
Parents choose to target the ashram rather than the children directly. They make a pretence of invoking the statutory processes to resolve the conflict, but cleverly use it as a crutch to launch a sinister smear campaign in the media to create a bogeyman of the ashram. In the current case, the parents refusing to show up for mediation, yelling and threatening the daughters in the police station are all a clear testimony to their intent to ensure that the situation does not get resolved as per the rule of the law.
This is also the reason why the parents who not only live close to the ashram but also were regular visitors for seven long years did not find any cause to complain about the ashram until three weeks ago. A look at the list of complaints they aired repeatedly will show that none of them could be sudden discoveries:
A select list reads like this:
- People are forcibly confined in the ashram.
- They are brain-washed saying that they will attain moksha only if they die there.
- They are treated as bonded labor.
- People are subjected to torture.
- Parents are not allowed to visit and speak to their children.
- 3,000 people are in a coma in the ashram.
- 5,000 people have been robbed of their kidneys.
Food and supplies
- They are made to eat only two times in a day.
- They are not given garlic, onion, or tomato.
- Drugs are being mixed in the food being served in the ashram.
- They are not allowed to use the coconut oil given by the parents, they are forced to use ashram coconut oil, which is mixed with a bacteria that drives them crazy.
- Agarbathi( incense sticks) and soap are also mixed with substances so that people lose their senses.
- If parents of Bramhacharies give them something to eat, they are not eating it. They are either throwing it away or giving it to someone else.
- Uterus of Women monks at the ashram are removed before Brahmacharya.
- Women monks at the ashram are given tablets during their menstrual cycles so that they can be made to work hard even during those three days also.
- Rogue Behavior
- Isha Foundation does not pay taxes.
- Isha is blocking Noyyal river,
- No proper permission for buildings and schools there.
- Isha Foundation has been encroaching upon forest land and also has been blocking the elephant corridor.
I will not embark upon showing how absurd some of these allegations are or putting forward the Isha point of view. Isha Foundation — Grossly misunderstood, rightly questioned, rarely experienced and other posts on the social media have already done that. Moreover, I am sure Isha is in a better position to defend itself. I would like to focus upon how a common, domestic problem can snowball into a social outrage and generate a lynch mob when sensationalist media elements collude with them.
Complicity of the Media
Our societies, especially the Indian society is very tolerant of the overreach of parental license. It suits our over-protective, patriarchal sensibilities. We romanticise the struggle parents go through for the children. Videos of badass mama rat fighting an evil snake to save her babies go viral in no time. An innumerable number of Tamil and Hindi movies have soaked tons of handkerchiefs capitalising on this sentiment. So nobody is going to question some “poor, distraught, helpless” parents trying to impose their wish upon 34-year olds. Especially, not the media.
A domestic dispute can become a national outrage when conniving media outlets not only desist from doing an honest investigation but wilfully ignore and cover up glaring instances of parental overreach.
It is not possible for a domestic dispute to become a mass outrage without the active connivance of sections of the media. While sensationalism has become the norm for some of them, selective reporting, tantalising headlines with little or no relation to the report that follows are some of the ways some other media outlets flirt with sensationalism.
I would like to list a few points and question why no media outlet sought fit to cover these angles.
- The timing of the accusations. How come for five long years or more that their daughters have been in Isha, the parents did not have the same alacrity to act on the “criminal activities” of the ashram, that they did in the last three weeks? Is this something to do with the retirement of Dr. Kamaraj from TNAU and the fact that a serving government official making unsubstantiated allegations against someone will be thrown out of his job?
- The commodification of the daughters by the parents. Nowhere — not in the police stations, not in TV studios, not in any interviews — do the parents even attempt to reassure the daughters that their wish will be taken into account. Not once did the media confront the parent with this. Ironically, they were supported by some women’s organisations.
- The marriage that failed. The parents married off their daughter Geetha to a “drunkard who beat and abused” her, by their own admission. Has it occurred to anyone, that given the track record of the parents, the daughters may want none of the services of the parents? Isn’t this whole tirade against Isha to hide this one failure of theirs?
- Abuse of what they hold sacred. The parents make abusive references to the person their daughters hold as a Guru or the highest in life. They ask for his imprisonment and death. They call for the annihilation of the entire community of Isha that supported and sustained their daughters for the last five years. Has it occurred to anyone, that just for this reason alone the daughters may never again want to see the face of the parents anymore, let alone go home with them? Obviously, the underlying assumption is that the daughters can be beaten into submission.
- Gross insensitivity. This set of parents is exceptional among all the parents who have made allegations in the past because they have taken perversity to new heights. They allege on media channels that uteruses are removed from women before giving Brahmacharya. A TV anchor says that they should be brought to the studio and be medically examined. I don’t know if he has plans to live-telecast it. The parents nod in agreement.
Media compulsion to hold on to the populist narrative of mama rat fighting off evil snake is so strong that they would not only desist from doing an honest investigation but wilfully ignore and cover up glaring instances of parental overreach even when the children are past the age of thirty years. How else do you report a world-record worthy feat of theft of 5,000 kidneys, keeping a straight face?
Part III: Why brainwashing allegations stick?