By Abhay Vaidya
Pune: Even 22 years after his death, spiritual mystic Osho, or Bhagwan Rajneesh, continues to spark controversy. This time, the issue is not sex, which always shadowed his name, but something even sexier: the fate of prime real estate belonging to the Osho International Foundation (OIF) at Koregaon Park, Pune, estimated at a value of around Rs 1,000 crore.
In recent weeks, what has grabbed the attention of the public – especially the community of his followers – is the incredulous gifting of prime properties by the OIF to an unknown trust in New Delhi, called the Darshan Trust.
The Osho Commune, renamed Osho International Meditation Resort after his death, is located at Koregaon Park along with other Osho properties spread on 25-30 acres of land and controlled by the OIF.
At a time when politicians, builders, generals and brigadiers are found involved in one land-grab scam after another, here is this extraordinarily generous OIF which seems to be on a property-gifting spree, claiming that maintaining and managing these properties has become a burden.
Opposing them are another set of Osho followers who have accused the OIF trustees of maladministration and complained to the Charity Commissioner, Mumbai.
The matter was exposed in recent months by two, long-time followers of Osho, Yogesh Thakkar (Swami Prem Geet) and Kishor Raval (Swami Prem Anadi), who discovered OIF’s application dated 19 September 2011, to the Charity Commissioner, Mumbai, under section 36(1)(a) of the Bombay Public Trusts Act, 1950.
The battle between factions of his followers is not new. Oshoworld.com
This application, signed by OIF trustee Mukesh Sarda, proposed to gift six units in Little Woods Coop Housing Society, plot number 22, Koregaon Park, to New Delhi-based Darshan Trust with its registered office at A-34, Defence Colony.
Sarda’s application on behalf of OIF said that the Darshan Trust had approached OIF “with a request for some space to accommodate the teachers and participants of its activities in Pune” and that the matter was discussed in detail at a meeting of the trustees on 14 August 2011.
As per documents submitted by the OIF to the Charity Commissioner, Sarda stated at this meeting that the the 6,611-square-foot property was “excess space”, not needed by the OIF. He also said that the OIF was finding it unaffordable to maintain and repair this property as it was not deriving any income from it.
The OIF trustees then decided unanimously at the 14 August meeting to donate the property to Darshan Trust subject to the approval and sanction of the Charity Commissioner. The condition stipulated was that the stamp duty, registration and other expenses towards “the alienation of the property” be borne by Darshan Trust.
Armed with documents obtained under the Right to Information Act, 2005, Thakkar and Raval questioned the gift proposal and filed a petition with the Charity Commissioner, challenging the OIF application. They were soon joined by another senior Osho follower, Nitin Phulphagar (Swami Nitin Bharati), in challenging various activities of the OIF, even as Osho followers within and outside the country began extending support.
While in the midst of this battle, Thakkar and Raval were shocked when they stumbled upon a 17 March 2011 decision of Charity Commissioner MK Chaure approving another OIF proposal to gift plot CTS No 3, Koregaon Park, Pune to the same Darshan Trust.
Measuring 5,387 sq m, this plot is located in Lane No 1 Koregaon Park, and was being used as a parking lot for the Osho Meditation Resort. According to the Osho disciples, the market value of this plot is estimated at more than Rs35 crore.
The reasons given by the OIF for gifting this property (excess space not required) and the conditions laid down for the transaction (Darshan Trust to bear cost of stamp duty, etc.) were similar to the previous application.
The OIF has never felt it necessary to explain these controversial gift deeds or reply to criticism. Whenever asked for an explanation by this journalist, OIF’s trustee and member (management team) Sadhana Belapurkar has restricted herself to saying that “the matter is subjudice.”
Another issue that worries Osho’s followers and admirers concerns his samadhi inside the meditation resort. After he was cremated in Pune on the night of 19 January 1990, Osho’s ashes were collected and put in an urn which was buried in his bedroom. This became his Samadhi, beautified with wall-sized glass windows, marble walls and flooring and an impressive circular chandelier.
The samadhi has a special significance in eastern cultures and naturally Osho’s followers and others want the sanctity of this place respected for all times.
However, the OIF, controlled by a group of his foreign followers, has a different view. Represented by Sadhana Belapurkar (also known as Amrit Sadhana), the OIF management went so far as to say in an interview to this journalist that it was “a mistake” on their part to use the word “samadhi”. As she explained, “We do not call it a samadhi. It is called Chuang Tzu (hall) where Osho gave his first lectures after arriving in Pune in 1974. As per Osho’s wishes, his ashes were put in an urn and buried there.”
Like all samadhis in India, Osho’s admirers who respect him for his many incisive commentaries on spiritualism, his emphasis on meditation and acceptance of sexuality, want the samadhi to be made accessible to the public. That has not happened so far.
These and many other issues were raised by Thakkar and Raval with the Charity Commissioner.
On 7 December 2011, Thakkar, Raval and Phulphagar applied for interim relief to the charity commissioner through an application alleging irregularities by the OIF management. The application alleged that some OIF trustees had formed a new company “Osho Multimedia & Resorts Pvt Ltd” in which they had vested interests. Those named as opponents in the application included Mukesh Kantilal Sarda (Swami Mukesh Bharti), Devendra Singh Devol, Sadhana Belapurkar, Lal Pratap Singh; Inner Circle Chairman Michael Byrne (Swami Jayesh); Inner Circle Vice-Chairman George Meredith alias John Andrews (Swami Amrito); and Inner Circle member Darcy Byrne (Swami Yogendra). (The Inner Circle is an informal group of Osho community individuals who run the show at OIF).
On another front, Thakkar and Raval have created a website www.oshowork.org to gather support for their crusade for transparency in the affairs of the OIF.
This is by far, the biggest battle between the opposing factions of Osho’s followers in recent years. The last big clash was the “copyright battle” which was lost by the OIF some years ago in its attempt to claim intellectual property rights over the word “Osho” and everything attributed to the spiritual master.