Nov 9, 2014

Six Pandits Sent Back to India, More Expected

March 18, 2014
Pam Credille
Ottumwa Post

FAIRFIELD, IA – Six Pandits returned to India following the riot on their campus on March 11, 2014. The riot was a result of a Pandit leader being removed from campus with the help of the Jefferson County Sheriff. As a result of the riot, the leader was not taken from the Global Country of World Peace campus. However, he and five others were the six who flew back to India on Saturday via the Chicago- O’Hare Airport. The Representative for the Global Country of World Peace, William Goldstein, told The Post that all six Pandits volunteered to return to India.

“This group volunteered to return on Saturday. We suspect some of them may have been involved in the incident on Tuesday and we have come to similar conclusions as to others who will be taken to Chicago over the course of the next seven days,” said Goldstein.

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a pandit is as follows: "a wise or learned man in India —often used as an honorary title." The Global Country of World Peace (GCWP) is the Pandits’ sponsor organization. According to their website, the GCWP’s mission is to “support the Vedic Pandits in maharishi Vedic City to create invincibility for America.”

Goldstein told The Post that the situation is still being investigated and further action is expected.

“An internal review of the situation is continuing with the aim to avoid any such repeat incidents. It is expected that additional Pandits involved in this incident will be requested to return to India this week,” said Goldstein.

Goldstein went on to share that the Pandits in Fairfield are on tours that last for two to three years. According to Goldstein, all Pandits return to India at the end of their tour.

“Other than this incident, a very small number have been sent home for disciplinary reasons prior to their normal tour over the last seven years of the project,” said Goldstein.

The Pandit program has been in place in Fairfield for a total of seven years. During that time, thousands of Pandits have taken part in the program.

“Over 2,600 Pandits have come to Iowa to participate in this unprecedented cultural exchange approved by the governmental authorities which involves the Pandits engaging full time in daily group meditation, Vedic performances and Vedic study. Pandits normally come for two to three year tours and return to India, and often, after a leave to their homes in India, return to the Iowa facility for an additional tour,” said Goldstein.

Below is a FAQ’s Guide Provided to The Post from Goldstein

Is there reason for people in the area to fear for their safety?

This unprecedented and short-lived outbreak of rock throwing by a group of approximately 40 Pandits of the 350 currently on the campus was the first, and we trust the last, such episode in the 7 years of the project. It was not aimed at citizens of Jefferson County and was not based in any animus they feel to anyone here. They were upset that their leader was without notice being removed from their midst in their view by the Sheriff, and this upset those in the group who were closest to him and they reacted to the Sheriff’s presence for that reason alone. They are a very closely knit group of “brothers,” as they have lived and studied together in their campuses in India in some cases for over 15 years and have travelled here together.
For these reasons, we do not feel there is any reason of concern for one’s safety. We are addressing the cause of the reaction and if we need to remove a Pandit going forward, as we might on occasion have to do, we will first allow everyone to say their good-byes to their brother.

Are the Pandits free to come and go from their fenced campus?

There is a security fence around the perimeter of the campus with several gates, but it is quite “porous” and the Pandits come and go for walks outside the perimeter every day, weather permitting, as they please. The fence is more intended to keep outsiders out than the insiders in. Virtually every Sunday, visitors who wish to come on the campus and experience the Pandits in their Vedic performances are welcome, but other visits are discouraged to avoid distracting the Pandits from their program.

The Pandits are used to being in a closed campus as that is the life they have committed to live in the “Ashrams” in India where they engage in their spiritual vocation and study. The campus here is designed to mirror and support that same lifestyle of complete dedication to Vedic study, meditation and Vedic performances. The Pandits understand this and have taken oaths and signed agreements committing themselves to this lifestyle. It is different from the lifestyle that most of us are accustomed to, but we seek to respect and support it as best we can with as few distractions as possible. Occasional trips off campus are taken by the group and as needed for medical care or other essential needs and for field trips. But the campus is quite self-sufficient and well equipped, having been constructed in the last seven years, with its cafeteria, exercise hall, cricket fields, study halls, medical dispensary where two M.D.s and a nurse take care of their medical needs, and their two to ten-bedroom modular homes. The Pandits understand they have not come here to be tourists, but just to continue to engage in the program they do in India, to help foster World Peace.

Are they being paid properly? Is that why they acted in this way?

The Pandits are provided $200 per month in cash compensation and are provided all their needs, i.e., room, board, medical care, incidentals, travel and bonuses on an agreed basis. Of this $200, $50 is provided in cash to the Pandit and the balance is sent to their account in India that their family can access. This $200 is the compensation they agreed to in writing upon coming here and the terms the USCIS-approved Visa Petition provided for. It is higher than the cash compensation they receive in India. In the last year the Indian rupee has declined in value in comparison to the dollar and this, along with inflation in India, has caused some concern amongst the Pandits. We are seeking to address this situation by obtaining more support from the donors who entirely support this project and are hoping we can provide for additional increases. However, this was not the reason for this incident. It had nothing to do with compensation as noted above and our review of the situation has confirmed this.