Sanaka Ṛṣi Dāsa – India:  This is the third part of a series of four articles on the current child protection hazard posed by the lack of concerned and qualified individuals amongst ISKCON’s child protection authorities in general and more specifically amongst the Vrindavana Gurukula Staffs.

This third part is composed of a letter sent to me by His Grace Deena Bandhu prabhu ACBSP, and a comment written by Jaya Dayini mataji, one of the academic teachers in the Vrindavana Gurukula, on a facebook thread to one of the previous articles in this series.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Deena Bandhu (das) ACBSP (Vrindavan – IN)
<Deena.Bandhu.ACBSP@______________>
Date: Tue, Nov 29, 2011 at 1:30 PM
Subject: Radhe Shyam!
To: sanaka____@________

My dear Sanaka Prabhuji,
Please accept my humble obeisances _/\ò_. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

I’m sorry I missed getting much assocation with you when you were in
Vrindavan. I was busy with parikramas and then became quite ill with a
serious chest infection.

I was very happy to see your reports on the Vrindavan Gurukula. I
myself was quite surprised to see that such a large Gurukula was
turned over to such young and inexperienced boys to run. But since
they put up the wall, I don’t have much contact with what is going on
over there. And I was surprised that Lila
Purusottama was put in charge as I knew he had important service in Kanpur.
Sure enough, the authorities in Kanpur did not let him go to Vrindava,
so it was finally agreed he could come a couple of days a month! So
then everything fell on the shoulders of Radhakanta. Now they are both
very nice devotees and all, but it seemed like total irresponsibility
on the part of whoever decided to put 300 lives under this young boy’s
care!

Just recently while on parikrama I was discussing with a recent
graduate of the school (I can’t call it a gurukula!) and I was telling
him that one of the problems of the early Gurukulas was that young and
inexperienced people were running them. They didn’t know what to do as
the incidents of abuse came up and in their immaturity tried to cover
things up, fearing that they would lose their service and the schools
would get a bad name.

He looked at me and said that history is going to repeat itself! Again
we have very young inexperienced people running the school. And again
they are more interested in their reputation, rather than the
protection of the students. He said that the authorities made a
student council, of which he was a part, to try to monitor and
discipline the boys. The idea being that student have a better idea
what’s going on with the boys than the teachers would!

Sure enough they found out so many things. Of course, now that it is
not a gurukula but a karmi school with 99% karmi kids, they found out
boys smoking and drinking within the school! What was the  reaction of
the authorities?? They disbanded the student council realizing that
their reputation would be spoiled if this got out!

In an email yesterday, he confirmed what was in your report, and had
felt helpless to do anything about
it. He was very glad you were pursuing it. He added that while he was
at the school, he saw with the new management “externals and money
alone were becoming the primary concern.”

In recent years the Gurukula has pushed to get more and more rooms
that are currently occupied by temple devotees. Their argument has
been that they need the extra rooms to accommodate more students to be
able to break even financially. There has been too much emphasis on
money and not enough on the children.

I also have seen that most Indians have no understanding of the CPO or
its importance. It’s just not in their blood! Partly because of this,
we will never now the real extent of the horrors of the abuse that
took place in the Vrnindavana  & Mayapura Gurukulas. The western kids
talk about it, but mostly the Indians are ashamed to say anything. I
remember a God-sister from the USA was sponsoring a Nepali boy
__________ so that he could attend the Vrindavana Gurukula. This boy
was abused and later turned himself into an abuser. When she was
trying to get info from him, his refrain was ‘Mataji, we don’t talk
about these things.’ Even she tried to convince him that it was for
the future benefit of students to come that these things and persons
need to be exposed, he just hid behind his refrain.

Whoever selected the current management for the school thought that by
putting some academically qualified people in charge they were making
a smart move!
These fellows are not ill intentioned, they lack maturity, experience,
training, and an understanding of the history of Vrindavan Gurukula.
Radha Kantha prabhu, with his qualifications can easily secure a job
that will earn him a handsome wage for Indian standards (80 or 90
thousand Rupees a month). Academically he is very qualified, but he
does not have the qualifications and experience to hold such position.
It is not his fault, the people that are to be blamed are the ones
that put him in this position.

But to me the biggest sin, is that with the reputation of the
Vrndavana  Gurukula, there was no CPO rep for the last 2 years. Even I
didn’t know that Nirguna Mataji had quit. What is the CPO doing??
They’re not getting any reports from such a hot spot and they don’t
make a big fuss about it??!

Anyway, good luck! I have seen how hard it is for you to get anything
done with these people. And a good part of the problem is that now
it’s just a karmi school with karmi kids, hardly any devotee kids, no
one really pays any attention to the school any more.

In service of Srimati Vrinda Devi,
Deena Bandhu dasa


On Mon, Nov 28, 2011 at 4:58 AM, Jeffrey Davies <yvendu@hotmail.com> wrote:
>
>
> How absurd that a sanyassi should be able to boast about giving so many lakhs to Vrindavan Gurukula (as if that would make a difference anyway), and how disgusting that he (Gopal Krsna) should bully a woman for doing her contentious, Krsna conscious duty. It shows that he is not genuine and has no interest in the welfare of the children.
>
>
>
>
> ________________________________
> Date: Sun, 27 Nov 2011 17:40:26 +0530
> Subject: Re: Vrindavana Gurukula, 40 years of child abuse cover-up and counting…
>
> From: sanaka108@gmail.com
> To: srs108@mac.com; tamohara@yahoo.com; ad@pamho.net; kavicandra.swami@pamho.net; maiteefallen@yahoo.com; Badrinarayan.acbsp@pamho.net; Romapada.Swami@pamho.net; gandhi1008@hotmail.com; Yadunandana.Swami@pamho.net; yvendu@hotmail.com; Tejiyas@pamho.net; sesa.acbsp@pamho.net; Sesa@pamho.net; gaurangi@supersoul.com; Laxmimoni.ACBSP@pamho.net; Ananda.Vrindavana@pamho.net; sun@harekrsna.com; chakraletters@gmail.com; prabhupadavision@gmail.com; info@prabhupadanugas.eu; Bhaktarupa.ACBSP@pamho.net
> CC: Champakalata@telkomsa.net; praghosa.sdg@pamho.net; Braja.Bihari.BJD@pamho.net; urmiladevidasi@gmail.com; Parvati.ACBSP@pamho.net; prana@harekrishna.school.nz; prana@krishnatemple.com; panorama@xtra.co.nz; Hrday.Caitanya.SDG@pamho.net; moy108@msn.com; bhakti.caru.swami@pamho.net; hgmvidya@yahoo.co.uk; gauridas108@gmail.com; deshyam@hotmail.com
>
>
>
> As promised I am now submitting part two. I took heart from the huge response that my first article had, that something needed to be done to make sure that the children of our society are being properly protected.
>
> After sending the first email I shared in part one, within 5 hours, I received a stern response from Champakalata, stating her concern, and that an investigation to ascertain these serious allegations needed to be started at once. The following day, I sent her my second email which I share below.
>
> The email was sent to: Bhakta Rupa Dāsa, Champakalata Devī Dāsī, Ananda Vṛndāvan Devī Dāsī, Pragosha Dāsa and Brajaboomi Devī Dāsī.
>
> To date this second email remains unanswered.
>
> The reason why I decided to make this issue public is that it appears that as soon as the CPO began to understand the seriousness of the incident, their immediate response was to stop any form of written communication. This, in my opinion, undermines the credibility and transparency of the CPO. It has also been my experience that when the institution puts up a wall of silence it means that it is seeking to cover up the incident to protect what it believes is its best interest, which is usually at the expense of the truth and the victims.
>
> In the interest of protecting and giving voice to the child, I found the only course of action open to me is to proceed to go public as the international devotional community deserves to know the truth of what is happening with regards to children under our care and protection in our schools and communities.
>
> As this incident occurred in our ISKCON Vṛndāvan Temple which has a bad reputation for not protecting their children and concealing their abuse, it is very important that this matter is dealt with properly and as soon as possible.
>>
>> Dear Champakalata Mataji,
>>
>> Please accept my respectful obeisance; All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
>>
>> I am very concerned by the more recent developments of the case in the Vrindavana Gurukula.
>>
>> I have been informed from reliable sources that Vrajabhumi’s report
>> has been forwarded to Lila Purusottam prabhu, the school’s principal.
>> Although she has not been called back to the school since the
>> incident, he claims that it is not true that the school has discharged
>> her.
>>
>> I have also been informed that one of the former students asserts that
>> the last incident of corporal punishment (about a year old) was not
>> adequately investigated or addressed by the school management.
>>
>> Gopal Krishna Maharaj called Vrajabhumi mataji at 5 am to tell her
>> that Tejasvini mataji is a very nice devotee. He also told Vrajabhumi
>> that he contributed 20 lack rupees (about 40.000 us$) to save the
>> school from bankruptcy. She asked maharaj why she had been dismissed
>> for reporting incidents of abuse and he replied that her discharge was
>> not a primary concern.
>>
>> I have been told from reliable sources that Pancagauda prabhu has
>> appointed Braja Bihari prabhu (an Indian devotee) to conduct an
>> “internal” investigation of the incident. I wish to know if this has
>> been cleared by the CPO, or if it was a local initiative as an attempt
>> at “damage control”.
>>
>> Braja Bihari das, is the temple accountant, very competent in his
>> service I`m told, however, he lacks the experience and training in
>> child protection necessary to adequately conduct the investigation.
>> The other problem is that being employed by the temple, the
>> reliability of his findings will be open to doubt.
>>
>> Braja Bihari prabhu is in possession of Vrajabhumi’s report. I am
>> concerned that whoever gave him a copy may not have removed the names
>> of the children from the same. This would be a very serious blunder.
>>
>> To avoid conflicts of interests, the investigator needs to be a senior
>> devotee of outstanding integrity, with experience in child protection
>> protocols, who enjoys the trust and support of the community and who
>> is visibly independent from the Gurukula, the temple and Gopal Krishna
>> Maharaj.
>>
>> I spoke with Nirguna Mataji (the former Vrindavana CPT), she has
>> expressed that besides her health issues another reason that
>> discouraged her from continuing CPO service is that the school’s
>> current management is not interested to hear what she has to say.
>>
>> She feels that they are under the impression they know how the school
>> is best run and are not particularly open to hearing her or anybody
>> else’s views. (Even though they received hardly any training, and seem
>> to be mostly unaware of the history of the Vrindavana Gurukula)
>>
>> The present management of the school has been operating without
>> consulting the CPO for two years, seemingly unaware that in Vrindavana
>> there had been no CPO representatives since Nirguna resigned at the
>> beginning of their tenure. It also appears that they did not know that
>> they are required to report regularly to the CPO.
>>
>> The above substantiates Nirguna’s impression that they are not
>> particularly interested in receiving feedback and suggestions. It also
>> shows that they were handed the management of the Gurukula without the
>> necessary training.
>>
>> Nirguna Mataji confirmed that the teachers and managers of the school
>> are quite new as devotees; they are running the Gurukula like an old
>> school bhakta program. In her words, the only experience they have to
>> draw from is their own, and how they were introduced to Krsna
>> consciousness. They figure, it worked for us; it will work for the
>> kids as well. Their approach to giving Krsna Consciousness to the
>> children is forceful.
>>
>> Although she has not expressed this, I suspect that one of the factors
>> that contributed to her decision to withdraw from her CPT services has
>> been the total lack of support and concern she has experienced on the
>> part of the CPO.
>>
>> I am not sure who decided it was a good idea to share the report with
>> the school. I wish to express my disappointment in this regard. I am
>> disturbed that anyone thought this to be advisable; it is an
>> irresponsible breach of confidentiality. This was a bad idea on many
>> levels.
>>
>> Because Vrajabhumi was dismissed over the phone, and there is nothing
>> in writing, it is easy for the school to now back track and claim that
>> it is not true.
>>
>> This brings several potential advantages for the school. They can
>> attempt to save face by claiming that they have not done something as
>> unacceptable as firing a teacher for reporting irregularities in the
>> school. At the same time this brings into question the credibility of
>> mother Vrajabhumi’s word thus it undermines her whole report.
>>
>> The first problem created by this breach of confidentiality is that
>> now we are faced with an awkward situation where we have her word
>> against Radhakanta’s.
>>
>> I have inquired from devotees who have known mother Vrajabhumi for
>> most of her devotional life; she is known to be a dedicated and
>> truthful vaisnavi.
>>
>> But this is the least of my concerns, by far, the greater concern, is
>> the potential harm that may come to the children in the school. For
>> starters the school authorities are now aware of the identity of the
>> children who spoke up.
>>
>> One of the golden rules in child protection states that “As long as
>> the accused has access to potential victims, they are not to be
>> informed that reports of their alleged abuse have been made to the
>> authorities, until the investigation starts”. This is so as to limit
>> their ability to tamper with any evidence or potential witnesses; it
>> to protect the best interest of the children.
>>
>> I mentioned the necessity not to inform the school until the
>> investigation was ready to start in my first mail where I submitted
>> Vrajabhumi’s report. I am curious to know why and by whom this was
>> disregarded?
>>
>> In the context of child protection, confidentiality is extremely
>> important. It is essential however to understand that it must serve
>> the higher purpose of protecting the children.
>>
>> The moment maintaining confidentiality becomes harmful to the children
>> it must be disregarded. When Radhakanta requested Vrajabhumi not to
>> report the incident to the CPO, her “breaching of confidentiality” was
>> appropriate and commendable. On the other hand, I am unable to see any
>> advantages for the protection of the children or the investigation
>> that justified this serious breach of confidentiality.
>>
>> In the off chance that the devotees running the school are indeed ill
>> intentioned, this gives them all the time in the world to ensure the
>> investigators will have an extremely difficult if not impossible task.
>> They can cover up, tamper with and dispose of any evidence that may
>> have otherwise been available. Should they choose to go to such
>> lengths; they will also be able to intimidate the children to prevent
>> them from speaking freely.
>>
>> If you think this is too farfetched from the reality of the situation,
>> I ask you to think again. This would not be the first such instance in
>> the history of the Vrindavana Gurukula.
>>
>> For an investigator, the task of getting the children to speak about
>> the abuse they have suffered is extremely arduous as it is.
>>
>> The children had a relationship with Vrajabhumi mataji and they felt
>> comfortable enough with her to share their pain. Now they see that she
>> is gone. If they have been intimidated in any way and/or warned not to
>> speak, chances are the investigators will come and go without
>> uncovering what may have taken place. This will perpetuate the abuse.
>>
>> I find it sadly ironic to see the similarities between this incident
>> and the first investigation that was carried out for Gauri in 1995. I
>> find it unsettling to witness how little has changed in regards to our
>> society’s awareness on child protection, and how little we have
>> learned from our past mistakes.
>>
>> For argument’s sake, it is possible that Vrajabhumi’s allegations are
>> unfounded. It is also possible that the devotees running the school
>> are very nice and sincere individuals that would never hurt a fly. My
>> point is that even if this is the case, it is irrelevant.
>>
>> What should be of serious concern is that the CPO’s ability of conduct
>> the best possible investigation to ascertain the facts has been
>> undermined for no good reason. This is a highly unprofessional
>> conduct.
>>
>> The allegations contained both in Vrajabhumi’s report and the ones
>> pertaining the recent incident of corporal punishment in the
>> Vrindavana Gurukula, are clear indicators that the school may not be
>> playing clean.
>>
>> I suspect, the school authorities are repeating the same mistake that
>> has been responsible for the vast majority of the abuse that plagued
>> ISKCON’s attempts in the field of child protection and education over
>> the years.
>>
>> It appears that the devotees in the school see the interests of the
>> school and the interests of the children as being separate and
>> conflicting; they seem to be under the impression that protecting the
>> reputation of the school takes precedence over ensuring the safety of
>> the children.
>>
>> It is commonplace amongst unqualified individuals that take on
>> responsibilities of managing schools or other institutions to fall
>> into the trap of identifying with their establishment. Effectively the
>> organization they work for becomes an extension of their ego; instead
>> of viewing criticisms made to their institution as opportunities to
>> improve the service offered, they come to see them as personal
>> attacks.
>>
>> When such individuals have come to value their personal image and the
>> reputation of the institution more than the essence, in this case more
>> than the stated intention of the school, then inevitably the quality
>> of the service offered deteriorates and the result is that children
>> suffer and pay the price.
>>
>> Srila Prabhupada established Gurukulas to raise Krsna Conscious
>> children. The sign outside of the Bhaktivedanta Swami Gurukula in
>> Vrindavana reads, “Bhaktivedanta Swami International School, Now
>> Teaching Fine Arts”. There is no mention that if you enroll your
>> children in this school they will become Krsna conscious.
>>
>> Looking at ISKCON’s history and Mother Vrajabhumi’s recent
>> allegations, chances are we are destroying these children’s faith in
>> Krsna instead. I get the sense that this school has lost track of its
>> mission statement and/or its purpose.
>>
>> What is the benefit to ISKCON and to society for us to be making a
>> poor job at running yet another boarding school where the children are
>> abused and leave with a bad impression of ISKCON, the Vaisnavas and
>> Krsna?
>>
>> The ISKCON authorities have offered support to the school. Gopal
>> Krishna Maharaj (the Vrindavana GBC) called Vrajabhumi implying (I am
>> not sure on what grounds) that her assessment of Tejasvini was
>> inaccurate. He told Vrajabhumi that Tejasvini and the other devotees
>> running the school are very qualified individuals because they are all
>> graduates of IIT in Kanpur (one of the most prestigious universities
>> in India). As if a degree in and of itself is sufficient qualification
>> to teach Krsna Consciousness to children and offer them the necessary,
>> love, support and protection. Note that in the conversation, he did
>> not express any concern for the well being of the children, nor did he
>> take the trouble to visit the children to reassure them when he was in
>> Vrindavana.
>>
>> Has anybody bothered to inquire on the wellbeing of the children, to
>> reassure them, or look up Vrajabhumi and congratulate her for her
>> courage in speaking up in an environment where this is clearly
>> discouraged, or to find out how she is feeling?
>>
>> This attitude is reminiscent of the old institutional unconsciousness
>> that idolizes the institution at any cost and above all – even the
>> safety of small children – .
>>
>> This behaviour will discourage teachers and children alike from
>> speaking up in the future. It seems that little has changed or has
>> been learned from the 30 years or so of ISKCON’s incredibly expensive
>> educational mistakes.
>>
>> The report is only a few days old, but it already bears the hallmarks
>> of a despicable cover-up, deny, troubleshoot and whitewash policy.
>> This has turned the whole issue into a circus; needless to say that
>> the ones who stand to lose the most are as always the innocent
>> children.
>>
>> These circumstances indicates that one or more of the recipients of
>> this mail may have been more interested in safeguarding the image of
>> the school than in facilitating an impartial investigation to
>> ascertain the truth to best protect the children.
>>
>> I have just been informed that Pancagauda prabhu, the Vrindavana
>> Temple president, now that the investigation has not yet begun, has
>> said that it has already been decided that Tejasvini, the accused,
>> will be reinstated in the school after the investigation is completed.
>> I am speechless.
>>
>> I am appalled and deeply concerned by these developments. I dread to
>> think how things would have turned out if somehow Krsna had not
>> decided to involve me in this ridiculous mess.
>>
>> I suggest that Kurmarupa prabhu is encouraged to be a part of the
>> investigation team. Though I suspect he may not be willing to get involved,
>> I regard him to be by far one of the best men, with the necessary integrity
>> for the job. If he is unwilling, we need to find a devotee of similar character.
>>
>> If we observe the actions of the GBC and senior devotees involved in
>> this incident and see how little concern and importance they have
>> afforded to the protection of the children, and on the other hand how
>> much emphasis has been given to money and protecting the image of the
>> establishment, it is no wonder that the new devotees running the
>> Gurukula have little regard for child protection. We can hardly blame
>> them.