May 6, 2016

Foreign tourists allege misbehaviour by forest staff at Beatles’ ashram

May 4, 2016

Beatles’ ashram
DEHRADUN: Two tourists from the UK who had gone to visit Chaurasi Kutia in Rajaji Tiger Reserve have filed a complaint the forest staff had an altercation with them when they were caught roaming around inside the area without buying a ticket. The couple filed a complaint with the British High Commission besides registering one with local police.

"We investigated the matter and found that the British couple was at fault. They had not bought the tickets and had entered the area secretively from some other route. It was when the forest staff spotted them and questioned them on seeking wrongful entry that they began arguing and the matter escalated," said forest secretary S Ramaswamy, talking to TOI.

According to wildlife officials, the couple also raised the question of high cost of the entry fee and refused to pay it. The accent of the couple also hindered the process of smooth communication between both sides. When the couple refused to pay the fee, the forest guard stopped the male tourist from going out without paying the fee. After this, the woman allegedly began screaming. Although the couple were let off soon, they went and filed a complaitn with Laxman Jhula police station as well as the British High Commission.

Chaurasi Kutia appeals to tourists from across the world as the Beatles famously stayed with their guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1968 and composed 48 songs, of which 20 went on to be recorded. The ashram, situated in Gohri range of Rajaji, was inaugurated in a revamped avatar by the Uttarakhand forest department for tourists. The ashram which was run by Maharashi Mahesh Yogi's organisation till 2003 was closed for tourists since then. 

When contacted, IG Garhwal Sanjay Gunjyal told TOI, "We have received the application from the tourists. A gazetted officer has been appointed to probe the allegations. Once the findings are out we will take further required action."

He added that the stand of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve staff and authorities would also be taken into account. "Prima facie, it appears that the couple entered the Chaurasi Kutia ashram without buying the ticket. However, it is completely illegal if anyone has misbehaved with the tourists or thrashed them," said the senior police officer.

He pointed out that keeping in mind the importance of the matter the inquiry has been given to a gazetted officer, who would look into the various aspects of the matter. According to Gunjyal, the couple after the incident had approached the Laxmanjhula police station with their complaint on Monday evening. The investigating officer would also look into the video clipping prepared by a person who was present on the spot. "We will decide the further course of action after going all these facts in details and the getting the version of Forest department staff," added Gunjyal.

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