Nov 9, 2009

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Rs 60,000 crore fortune faces battle between two groups of followers

Mahesh Yogi (left) with the Beatles in 1967.Mahesh Yogi (left) with the Beatles in 1967.
Mahesh Yogi (left) with the Beatles in 1967.
Shantanu Guha Ray

India Today

July 2, 2012

November 30, 2009
Transcendental Meditation guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's vast fortune in India, mostly land, estimated to be worth Rs 60,000 crore, has sparked a bitter conflict between his heirs and followers. There are allegations of illegal land deals and formation of fake trusts to take over the properties.

The godman, famous for introducing the legendary Beatles to India, died in February 2008, leaving behind more than 12,000 acres of land across India. This includes prime locations in Delhi, Noida, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Goa, all vested with the Spiritual Regeneration Movement (SRM) Foundation, set up by the guru in 1959. The guru established several societies with the SRM Foundation and Maharishi Global University based in Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh at the top of the list. The other four educational institutions are Maharishi Shiksha Sansthan, Maharishi Ved Vigyan Vidyapeeth, Maharishi Gandharva Ved Vidyapeeth and Mahila Dhyan Vidyapeeth that run 148 schools in 16 states across India.

Immediately after the Maharishi's death in Vlodrop, Netherlands, tensions started between members of the societies and followers for control of the assets. Two groups, each claiming to be his real inheritors, accuse each other of 'impersonation' to gain control of the land-rich societies. On one side are the guru's nephews Anand Prakash Srivastava, 51, chairman of SRM Foundation India and Ajay Prakash Srivastava, 43, secretary, SRM Foundation India, and Brahmachari Girish Chandra Verma, 55, chairman of the educational trusts. They are pitted against G. Ram Chandramohan, 61, a member of the 12-member SRM Foundation. He is supported by Vijay Dhavale, 51, a Chhattisgarh-based real estate agent and disciple of the guru as well as Opender Kalsi, 55, who heads International Human Rights Organisation, a Jalandhar-based NGO.

The maharishi's global headquarters in Vlodrop, Netherlands.
The maharishi's global headquarters in Vlodrop, Netherlands.

In January, the Srivastava brothers petitioned the Delhi High Court to win a stay on sales of land owned by various societies formed by the Maharishi Group. They accused Chandramohan and his associates of trying to illegally acquire society land through forged documents. Chandramohan claims instead that the Srivastavas were selling the guru's land without the sanction of all SRM Foundation board members.

In a complaint to the it Department in March, Chandramohan blamed Ajay Srivastava of taking into his possession books for accounts and details of all land from the offices of the srm Foundation for "personal gains". Chandramohan submitted what he claimed was proof of some land deals executed by the Srivastava brothers without informing the srm Foundation board. He said it was illegal because land owned by the foundation was meant only for religious, educational and philanthropy purposes.

Chandramohan submitted as evidence to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the it Department in March that Ambati Krishnamurthy, president of Ajay Bharat Trust, a wing of the srm Foundation, and Ajay Srivastava had formed a fake srm Foundation of India in Hyderabad. The duo opened an account (09540100014312) with Bank of Baroda in Hyderabad in 2010 to encash two demand drafts for Rs 22 lakh from the sale of foundation land in Chhattisgarh. Once the cash was withdrawn, the account was closed in July 2011. Ajay insists it was Chandramohan who forged papers to acquire land. "They got 30 acres of the 175-acre plot in Chhattisgarh by forging papers. We filed a counter in December 2011 in court and got a stay.? india today has a copy of the fir Ajay filed on December 16 at Bilaspur police station, which he later submitted to court, accusing Chandramohan of forging documents for the sale.

In his counter in March 2012, Chandramohan has offered it officials evidence of other "illegal" land deals by the Srivastavas:

A residential property in Golf Links, Delhi, was sold by Ajay without a valid resolution passed by SRM board members, some of whom then lodged a criminal complaint against Ajay with the Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police, alleging the Rs 50-crore sale was at one-third of the market price for 2,000 sq ft. "We had an agreement-vetted by the court-signed more than 11 years ago to sell it for less than the current amount. I got the best deal possible," says Ajay.

Chandramohan claims 50 acres close to the Greater Noida Expressway was sold by Ajay three months ago for an undisclosed amount without authorisation by the SRM Managing Committee. Ajay claims he has the power of attorney to sell the land.

Chandramohan says Ajay sold four acres of land in Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh in 2011. The sale was cancelled after it was proved that board members of SRM Foundation were not consulted. Ajay says the charges are false. He claims Chandramohan and his men sold without permission of srm board 56 acres of land in Takhatpur tehsil of Bilaspur district for over Rs 25 crore. "A case is pending in the district court of Takhatpur against the sale deed," says Ajay.

In April, it Department and the Ministry of Home Affairs initiated investigations into such "illegal" sale of land and also into the functioning of the SRM Foundation following complaints from Harshvardhan, MP from Maharajgunj, Uttar Pradesh. A Maharishi devotee, he wants the Government to seize control of assets owned by all Maharishi societies pending the investigations into "illegal" sale of land and donations to the societies. The MP claims he has evidence that the Maharishi Vidya Mandirs are in a mess; barely 20 per cent of the schools have students and lack even basic amenities. "Someone needs to take notice," says Harshvardhan. "Just four years after his death, the group is in total disarray," he told India Today.

Harshvardhan has shared with it officials details of the SRM Foundation's financial transactions for the last two years that he claims show almost 90 per cent of society revenues from donations were used to acquire properties. The MP said the Maharishi Nagar Colony in Sector 39 of Noida, which the guru's followers built in the late 1970s, is in a state of neglect. "Those who live there lack basic civic amenities. On inquiry, those working there told us they are being underpaid for years," said Harshvardhan. Ajay says a religious trust cannot give "corporate salaries" to its people. He says the group only has an annual turnover of Rs 25-30 crore. "We have huge tracts of land but do not have loads of cash," he said.

The colony, spread over more than 900 acres, currently houses four buildings, each with more than 800 rooms. Most rooms lie in total neglect. A helipad once used by the guru is now dedicated to grazing cattle. Local real estate agents peg the worth of the land at Rs 15,000 crore. "The global university no longer operates from here. The Transcendental Meditation yoga classes are rare because there are very few students," says Ashok, a resident. He says 500-odd devotees of the guru stay in the colony, doing odd jobs to run the ashram. Ajay argues that if portions of the building are in a dilapidated condition, there is little he can do because "you need huge donations for the upkeep of the complex".

Large donations have dried up, so have the hordes of people who once filled the compound to hear the "giggling guru". A mere four years after his death, the Maharishi's legacy in India is in tatters.

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