PrabhupadaVision: You may be aware that there has been the recent exposure of child abuse claims in the Vṛndāvan Gurukula posted by Sanaka Rsi Prabhu in his series here, here, here and here. This should have, even in a semi professional organization with a social and moral conscience, produced positive action to make sure that the Vṛndāvan Gurukula was investigated to ensure the safety of the children under their care. Unfortunately this has not been the case as the institution, it appears, is still geared to support the perpetrator at the expense of the victim and truth.
Only after pressure from community members along with Sanaka Rsi Prabhu was a halfbaked investigation conducted by a devotee from the ISKCON Temple Accounts Department [recommended by Pancagauda Dāsa the Temple President] and sanctioned by Champakalata Devī Dāsī the Director of ISKCON’s International Child Protection Office. This devotee concluded that there was no cause for an investigation. This ‘ad hoc’ extremely biased and unprofessional approach to the protection of our children is nothing but scandalous given the situation of child abuse cover ups within our society to date.
It must be clearly understood – India and particularly the Mathura Vṛndāvan region lacks any proper police or welfare services who liaise with or who are trained or experienced in dealing with child abuse what to speak of our special needs as an international community – which makes a proper professional ‘child protection’ unit more needed in the community.
The fact that none of the leaders of ISKCON Vṛndāvan from the GBC down has the common sense or common decency, professional/managerial ethic or morality to not be aware of such a serious oversight, is nothing short of negligent, given the history of ISKCON Vṛndāvan and the predicament of an unprotected child in such an environment.
Needless to say after the initial denials, with the ‘cover’ of the above mentioned ‘investigation’, it took a great deal of pressure from the devotional community and public exposure in order to force or coerce the CPO to act and do its duty. Although no official or unofficial details or outcomes were released to the devotional community it is ‘rumored’ that the case was reviewed and adjudicated and the Teacher who was charged with abusing/torturing children under her care was found guilty, dismissed and told she could never teach children in ISKCON.
The local Police were apparently not involved and therefore there were no formal charges laid against the teacher who even though was found guilty of the abuse and was typically dealt with internally by the institution.
There was nothing said about the Gurukula Authorities who tried to cover the case up and who vilified the teacher who originally brought the matter to light, calling her a liar and an abuser herself, which is typical of the FISKCON institution covering up for their wrongdoers. There was also nothing said about the lack of a Child Protection Team for ISKCON Vṛndāvan. Finally there was nothing said of the authorities – the GBC, Temple, Gurukula or the MVT; all of whom have children involved in their projects; were negligent and failed to act with the integrity and professionalism of religious community leaders.
It is claimed that the CPO director Chamapakalata Devī Dāsī, disciple of Indradyumna Swami, during her CPO presentation at Gopala Bhatta’s – ISKCON Leadership Sanga (ILS) in Māyāpura 2012, announced that apart from some minor hiccups that the Vṛndāvan School was doing fine – and apparently all in attendance believed her.
In light of the past terrible history of child abuse in our ISKCON society it is grossly irresponsible and negligent for the CPO Director, the Vṛndāvan Gurukula Administration, the ISKCON Vṛndāvan Temple Management and the Vṛndāvan GBC otherwise known as the V.E.B, to be so delinquent in their duties to serve and protect our children.
Please send the below form letter petition to show your support for the protection of our children.
Subject: Prabhupada Vision – The International Child Protection Office
Bhakti Caitanya Swami – GBC Chairman – First Vice-Chairman.
Tamohara Dāsa – Vice-Chairman.
Anuttama Dāsa – Secretary
Champakalata Devī Dāsī – Director of the ISKCON International Office for Child Protection
Prahladananda Swami – ISKCON Health and Welfare Minister
Bhakti Purusottama Swami
Braja Bihārī Dāsa
Dear Maharajas, Prabhus and Mataji,
Please accept my humble obeisance. All glories to His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda.
I would like to express my concern regarding:
1. The mismanagement and neglect of the ISKCON International Child Protection Office to make sure that there is a well trained and functioning Child Protection Team operational in ISKCON Vṛndāvan.
2. The mismanagement and neglect by the Temple Authorities, the Gurukula Authorities and the MVT authorities who have failed to provide sufficient or minimal protection for children under their care as per normal social conditions and ISKCON Child Protection requirement established by the International Child Protection Office as per their guidelines.
3. The fact that a simple incident of child abuse could have been dealt with in a expedient manner but due to gross negligence, irresponsibility and lack of professionalism the CPO and the Temple and Gurukula Authorities, whose duty is to make sure that the children were being properly protected in Śrī Vrdnavan Dham – failed to act to protect the children under their care.
I am hereby requesting the International CPO Director Champakalata Devī Dāsī to give an official report on the status of its program [as given below] in ISKCON Vrndavan Dham from the time she has been in position.
Given ISKCON Vṛndāvan’s history of child abuse, the lack of external professional social welfare, medical and police services to support parents or devotional community members with regards to the protection of children, it would be appropriate that the report should cover:
1. The investigation by the CPO including the findings of the CPO Judges regarding the incident reported by Sanaka Rsi Prabhu on the recent instance of Child abuse in the Bhaktivedanta Gurukula and International School outlining why.
a) The Gurukula authorities did not take the claimants report seriously and act immediately to ensure that there was no wrongdoing on the alleged perpetrators part.
b) Why the staff were not trained in child abuse reporting to be able to take the report by a fellow teacher seriously. Why they are currently uninterested in being trained in child protection matters.
c) Why Gurukula managers were allowed to vilify the claimant without any proof, which only supports the theory that the authorities were attempting to cover up any abuse.
d) Why is there a ‘milieu’ existing within the Gurukula that protects the perpetrator at the expense of the victim as was proven in this particular case.
e) In light of the above points why did the Principal not take the initiative or lead role in this to make sure that not only the children under his care were being properly cared for, but also that the teachers were properly trained and mature adults who should have had the best interest of the children at heart.
f) Why did the Temple do an halfbaked initial investigation by using one of ‘their men’ who was not trained or experienced in child abuse and whose loyalties may be conflicted due to the fact that he is working for the Temple? An investigation which turned out to be a mere ‘whitewash’.
g) Why does the CPO have very little if no input or supervisory power in ISKCON Vṛndāvan when the ‘Director’ should be fully conversant with the sensitive nature of the social and institutional milieu that is ISKCON Vṛndāvan and seek to make sure the children under her jurisdiction are being properly protected.
h) Why the CPO finds it entirely acceptable that the Temple / Gurukula / MVT and the local Community have no interest or have made no substantial move to train staff and supervise a Child Protection Unit in ISKCON Vṛndāvan.
2. Explaining why the CPO’s ‘overall plan’ for the protection of the children in the dham in not only the school’s but also the Temple, MVT and devotee community.
3. Explain the status of the Gurukula’s or Temples Health Nurse or Medical Doctor or Medical Health Professional with regard to ‘initial on the scene’ recognition/response and reporting in regards to child abuse. Give the appointment training and reporting procedures of the health professional or any ancillary professionals who have access to the children of the Gurukula and Devotional Community.
4. Outline the various educational programs or seminars and workshops for staff, children and parents that have been conducted and are planned. This should also take into account the lack of social responsibility of the ISKCON Vṛndāvan Authorities and the devotional community as a whole who appear to be rather lax or ignorant with regards to the protection of the children.
5. The child protection Unit status. For example how many staff the unit, what is their experience and training, their relationship with the school authorities, children, parents and Temple.
6. If there is no Child Protection Unit state the reason for this lapse in professional duty and obligation to not only their mandate for the protection of the children of our ISKCON society but also to the devotee community and in particular the children and parents. In addition state what measures they have taken in order to establish a working trained Child Protection Unit for ISKCON Vrndavan.
7. The response of the Temple Authorities or School authorities to the CP Team and/or International Child Protection Office. In other words are they open and supportive or help facilitate the CP officers forming necessary relationships with children, staff and parents etc. Give supporting data detailing their role and response.
8. Outline the relationship between the CPT and the local police and what measures have been taken to increase/improve the relationship to aid in the protection of the children.
9. What are the local Laws that aid the better facilitation/ response from the local law enforcement for investigation, apprehension and charging of offenders?
10. Explain the relationship with the Vṛndāvan GBC [VEB] and the CPO with the view to appraising the ability of the members of the VEB to appreciate / cooperative and take a leadership role in ensuring that they have the best interest of the children under their care – at heart.
11. Why the Vṛndāvan Executive Committee in other words the Vṛndāvan GBC members failed to act to make sure that the Gurukula and Temple authorities acted with integrity professionalism and expediency when the incident mentioned above was first brought to their attention.
Given the history of child abuse in ISKCON Vrndavan the onus is on any Child Protection service to maintain a high standard of vigilance, professionalism, care and involvement in the protection of its children.
It is entirely unacceptable state of affairs that the ISKCON Vṛndāvan Community has been without any service to effectively protect the children under their care for over two years.
The CPO may argue that an ex officio Child Protection Team member was being used ‘from time to time’ by the CPO Director to conduct some minor inquiry as sufficient to provide for the protection of our children in such a major center as Śrī Vṛndāvan Dham; however, this person was not used in this incident which says much for the professionalism of the CPO and ISKCON Vṛndāvan Authorities.
It must be understood that the establishment of a Child Protection Office should not be a tool in the hands of a corrupt institution to use to cover up any abuse or protect the abuser – it is there to provide a professional unbiased service that protects all concerned from unfair or corrupt practices regarding the care and protection of children in their jurisdiction [under their care].
In light of this there should be no excuse for not having a functioning child protection unit in Śrī Vṛndāvan Dham.
The Director of the International Child Protection Office, The Gurukula Principal, The ISKCON Vṛndāvan Temple President and the VEB at the very least must be held accountable for this gross neglect of our children’s protection and care.
It is perfectly reasonable that the International Child Protection Office should be required to table a professional unbiased report of their role and function with regards to the protection of children in ISKCON Vṛndāvan as per the above criteria.
It is entirely reasonable and proper that strong disciplinary action needs to be taken on the various authorities mentioned above for their failure to act in regard to their responsibility for the children under their care.
The Director of the International Child Protection Office must at once rectify the situation regarding the lack of a professionally trained, staffed and supervised Child Protection Unit in Śrī Vṛndāvan Dham and provide the above mentioned report. If the CPO Director is not willing or able to provide such then they must provide detailed reasoning for this and their ability to perform the role they are in must be question with the view to their replacement.
Yours in the service of Śrīla Prabhupāda and the children and parents of our ISKCON society