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We have not grabbed any land: AOL


Amidst allegations of land grabbing, the Art of Living foundation has decided to come clean and explain in detail its land holding and how it came into their possession.

The AoL said that in the year 2005, preparations for the silver jubilee celebrations of the foundation were on. Many people from all over India and the world were expected at the ashram in Bengaluru for the event.

In light of this, the AoL purchased 14 acres of land from a person named Vijay. All the land documents were verified, a notice was issued in the newspapers calling for any objections.

After waiting for six months for any response, the land was bought from him at the market price. After AoL took legal possession of the land, a gentleman called Paul P challenged the sale claiming that Vijay’s father was his business partner and owed him money, the ashram authorities said in a statement.

“Agni Sridhar (an intermediary), recently alleged that the ashram had grabbed the land of the aforementioned Vijay, a dalit, who as it turns out is a Brahmin. Paul coming on TV and saying that ashram has grabbed his land is baseless. We had even requested Vijay and Paul to settle their grievances amicably. We will never agree to any unfair practices and we will follow the verdict of the court,” the statement added.

“Where is the question of land grabbing? We have always bought land at the current market value after checking all the legalities. Land laws in Karnataka [ Images ] are stringent and it takes a lot of time for the deal to become legal. By the time the land is registered, years pass and prices soar. After the deal is made, by the time you actually get possession, sometimes you pay ten times more. Nevertheless we have always paid the correct value for the land. Often we have lost land because we did not wish to indulge in bribery,” the statement also said.

“In recent years, when more people began coming to the ashram, more accommodation and facilities were required. Over the years we have acquired an additional 22 acres of land from Kashinath, 8 acres from Colonel Sobti, 16 acres from Madhusoodan Baliga, 13 acres from Shiva Kumar and 15 acres from various farmers,” the statement went on to say.

According to real estate experts, land costs around Rs 85 lakh per acre in the area where the AoL ashram is situated.

“Currently, we are in the process of acquiring few acres more of land for the proposed Ayurveda hospital and educational institutions,” the statement said.

The AoL also said that when it started out, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar started receiving invitations from different parts of the world to give lectures on Vedic knowledge. During a visit to the German university, he was asked to decode Sanskrit manuscripts. Ravishankar decided to do the same, and along with some eminent personalities such as Justice V R Krishna Iyer (former Chief Justice of India) and others, established the Ved Vignan Maha Vidya Peeth in 1981.

“In 1985, VVMVP applied for 100 acres of fertile land close to a forest on Bannnerghatta Road in Bengaluru to build a Vedic academy. Gundu Rao, the then chief minister of Karnataka, agreed to allot the land. In the couple of years that followed, it transpired that the land to be given to them had been given to Islamia Institute. The CM then gave alternative land to VVMVP off Kanakapura Road. This was 60 acres of barren land covered with rocks where nothing grew. There was not a single tree,” the AoL stated.

“Although it was such arid land, VVMVP agreed to take it on lease for a period of 30 years. Even though the full amount was paid to the government at the time of the purchase, VVMVP had to wait an additional two years to take possession of it. By this time, locals had begun encroaching upon the land. When the officials gave VVMVP permission to take possession of the land, only 24 acres was available of the 60 acres, as villagers who had settled on the land had usurped the rest.”

“The land authorities were on the verge of removing the settlers when Sri Sri Ravishankar intervened and said that VVMVP would take only 24 acres and allow the villagers to remain where they were,” the ashram also stated.

“Subsequently, VVMVP approached the government to give the remaining land due to it somewhere else. It was in the mid nineties that the government allotted 19.5 acres on the opposite side of where the ashram now stands. This was also a barren hill. At present VVMVP still does not have all of 60 acres of land, which was allotted to it in the mid eighties and is still awaiting an additional 16.5 acres,” the statement said.

“Since some malefactors have come up with stories that the Art of Living ashram has grabbed land from poor people, the foundation felt compelled to present the truth behind each piece of land possessed by VVMVP. Then VVMVP bought another eight acres next to the lake near the ashram. This land was purchased from people around the lake, which was all set to be used for a poultry farm, the ashram said in the statement.

Sri Sri attack case solved: B’lore Police


The Bangalore police on Saturday claimed to have solved the mysterious attack on spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

On May 30, it was reported that an unidentified gunman had fired at the convoy of the spiritual leader while he was on his way to attend a programme near his ashram. One of his devotes had been injured in the incident.

The police claimed that one Dr Mahadev Prasad fired the bullet to chase away a stray dog.

Dr Mahadev Prasad, chairman of the Dr B R Ambedkar Medical College, owns a farm house 2,000 feet away from Sri Sri’s ashram. He fired three rounds of bullets to chase away a stray dog, and one of the bullets landed at the ashram, said the police.

The police, who had retrieved the bullet at the site, tracked it back to Prasad.

Prasad has a licensed firearm, said the police, adding that he hadn’t reported the incident fearing the repercussions.

Bangalore police baffled by attack on Sri Sri


Is there more than what meets the eye is something that Bengaluru police officers investigating Sunday’s incident at Sri Sri Ravishankar’s ashram near the city are trying to ascertain.
Investigations into the alleged shooting that occurred at the ashram, 25 km from Bengaluru, have so far not yielded any definitive information about the incident or its motive.

Police officers maintain it is a stray incident, not aimed at hurting anyone at the ashram.

Bengaluru Forensics Sciences officials say they have discovered nothing during their investigation to indicate that it was an attempt on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s life.

FSL officials say the bullet, which hit devotee Vinay Kollumath, was shot from a distance of about 800 feet and bears no trajectory mark. This, they say, indicates it is stray in nature and not targeted at anyone.

“Although we are still ascertaining the velocity with which it was fired, all leads take us to the fact that it is a stray bullet,” an FSL official told this correspondent.

A city police officer said that information from within the ashram is not forthcoming. “We have absolutely nothing left to investigate,” he added, speaking on condition that he would not be identified by name for this report.

The Art of Living organisation, which Sri Sri Ravi Shankar heads, has claimed that it was an attack on the guru who turned 54 on May 13. Sri Sri Ravishankar himself told the media on Monday that it may have been an attempt on his life, but added that he did not wish to enhance the security around his presence.

The police are intrigued that the complaint about the incident was lodged three hours after the alleged firing occurred. The incident occurred at 6.30 pm, but a police complaint was registered only at 9.30 pm.

A puzzled police officer added, “he is such an important person and if there was an attempt on his life, then it is very natural that they would want police protection and a proper investigation conducted as soon as possible.”

The police are also surprised that despite many people being present at the site of the incident, not one person spotted the alleged assailant. No attempt was made to apprehend the individual who allegedly fired the bullet either.

Kollumath’s trousers bear an L shape tear, FSL officials say. Had the bullet hit him as is being claimed by Art of Living officials, he would have suffered a deep injury.

Also, the bullet was fired five minutes after Sri Sri Ravi Shankar left the venue, indicating that the attack may have not been directed against the high-profile guru.

The AOL continues to maintain that the attack was directed at Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, but refuse to comment further on the case, saying it is the job of the police to find out more.

‘Dinakaran cannot return till his name is cleared’


The Bangalore Advocates’ Association on Thursday took strong exception to the statements made by a group of lawyers, who had demanded that Justice Dinakaran should return to the seat and start hearing matters.

A group of lawyers had stated to the media that the Chief Justice of the Karnataka high court, who has been asked to take leave in the wake of corruption charges, should come back and start hearing matters.

The association took strong exception to the statements, and passed a resolution seconding their earlier one in which it was stated that under no circumstance will Justice Dinakaran come back to the court unless his name is cleared of the charges.

President of the association Putte Gowda told rediff.com that the they have not changed their stand on Dinakaran.

“The statements that have been issued seeking the return of the CJ are motivated, and have been issued by vested interests. I don’t want to go into the details as to why these people have issued such a statement, but would like to add that the association is going to initiate proceedings against them,” Gowda said.

“Further I also want to tell the media that no one, apart from either the Bar Council or the Advocates’ Association, is authorised to give such statements,” Gowda added.

Mass burial in Mangalore


The bodies of 12 persons who lost their lives in the horrific air crash at Mangalore on May 22, will be buried in the city in the presence of various religious heads.

Sources in Mangalore’s district administration told rediff.com that unfortunately, since the DNA tests conducted on these 12 bodies did not match with the samples given by the relatives, they have no claimants.

It was a heart-rending sight to see some of the family members — who have not been able to identify their loved ones — when they agreed to the mass burial. The ceremony will take place near Panambur beach at 3 pm.

The proposal was made by Commissioner of Police Seemant Kumar Singh to the four families which were claiming the bodies. Singh then stepped in and convinced the families not to pursue the claim as it could lead to further complications.

The families then requested that the funeral be conducted in the presence of priests from all religions. While agreeing to the same, the district administration said there would be no problem in issuing a death certificate to the family members.

A single window system has been set up at the Air India office in Mangalore for this purpose, which has already issued 60 death certificates so far.

Records would show that the bodies of Mohammed Zubair from Volakadu Udupi, his children Zainab and Ziad, Navid Ibrahim, Vaman Prabhu from Ashoknagar, Ignatius D’Souza from Shaktinagar, Mohammed Ismail Hassan Jeppu, K K Shetty from Kodialbail, Abubakker Siddiq from Uppala, Abdul Aziz from Uppala, Abdul Basheer K M Bekal, Sukumar Moilatti in Kerala, and crew member of the ill-fated aircraft, Sujata, have not been recovered.

Sri Sri Ravishankar attacked


Sri Sri wants the gunman to attend ‘satsang’

The day after an unidentified gunman fired at his convoy and injured a devotee, spiritual leader Shri Shri Ravishankar ruled out enhancing his security, saying it will block communications between him and the common man.

Addressing a press conference in Bengaluru, Shri Shri claimed that the ‘divine intervention of a supernatural force and the vision of his driver’ saved him on Sunday.

The spiritual leader was on his way to attend a programme near his ashram on Sunday evening when an unidentified gunman fired at his convoy. The shot accidentally grazed the thigh of a devotee who sustained very minor injuries.

Shri Shri added that he wanted to invite the gunman to attend a satsang (spiritual discourse) with him. “If he meets me, he will correct himself. Those who indulge in such acts do so with the sole objective of spreading terror,” he said.

Shri Shri urged his followers to put the incident behind them and move on, adding that he had forgiven his attacker.
Shri Shri claimed that he had no enemies and didn’t understand why such an incident took place. “I am unhurt and safe. We need to look at this incident from a spiritual level. I have no enemies at all,” he said.

Preliminary investigations have revealed that the bullet was fired from a pistol.

While the devotees at the ashram suspect that it could be a terror attack, the police have ruled out such a possibility. A senior police officer said that they are probing the matter and the unidentified gunman was still at large. “We have some clues as of now, but it will not be right to reveal all that right now as it may hamper the probe,” he said.

The police were informed about the incident nearly three hours later, he said.

At the spiritual leader’s ashram at Kanakapura, the day started with the regular rudra puja.

“All activities at the ashram will go on as usual. There will be no change in any of the programmes,” a spokesperson of the ashram told rediff.com.

Scores of policemen, security personnel and investigators probing the case have been deployed at the ashram.

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An unidentified gunman opened fire on the convoy of spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravishankar on Sunday. The spirtual leader was on his way to meet some delegates after a satsang at the ashram, which is 25 km Benguluru city.

A release from the ashram stated that one devotee sustained minor injuries when the bullet brushed past him. The incident took place at 1830 hrs on Sunday.

The police are investigating the matter but are still unsure about the motive.

Home Sec: Govt will not take the attack lying down

The next course of action against the Naxalites, who blew up a rail track in West Bengal that resulted in a collision between a passenger train and a good train, would be taken shortly following a high-level meeting, Union Home Secretary G K Pillai told rediff.com.

He said that the government would not take the latest attack lying down. Pillai, however, refused to comment on whether the government proposes using the army or the air force against the Naxals but added that nest course of action would be decide in a few days.

On the West Bengal incident, Pillai said that all angles point to derailment of the trains as a result of sabotage. “It is an attack by the Naxals and they are responsible for the civilian casualties. Investigators have found clues to suggest sabotage and they are probing further,” he said.

The home secretary said, “They (Naxals) are getting more aggressive each day and have also shown scant regard for the lives of the innocent people. We will take steps to counter their moves, but will not let this menace grow.”

Pillai said the confirmed death toll in West Bengal is 54 while the number of persons injured is 137.

How Maoist derailed the train


The accident caused by Maoists on a railway track in West Bengal on Friday morning, which killed at least 100 people, has raised questions about the lack of security on board long-distance trains in India.

During preliminary investigations, railway authorities found that the fish plates on the track had been taken off in order to derail the train. A fish plate forms a crucial link on a railway track as it is the metal bar that holds the tracks together.

The fish plate is made out of nickel silver and it helps maintain the alignment and electrical continuity on the track. The Maoists removed the fishplates to de-link the tracks, which caused the train to lose its balance and get derailed.

Authorities point out that it is not too difficult to take out a fish plate, as it is fixed to the track with bolts, which can be unscrewed in a matter of minutes with the right equipment. The fishplates are placed at regular intervals of the track and it is difficult to monitor each and every one of the numerous fishplates to spot a case of tampering, say authorities.

The Railway Protection Force, set up on the lines of the Central Reserve Police Force, has been entrusted the task of providing security and taking care of law and order on India’s lifeline. The RPF is also supposed to guard the tracks, though sources in the force admit that it is difficult to provide security all the time.

“There is a need for specific intelligence and without that, we are helpless,” said the source, adding that the RPF also has to deal with a shortage in staff. .

Given the extensive railway network across India, monitoring every part of it is extremely tough, said the source.

The RPF usually focuses on a specific area and needs actionable intelligence to do that, according to authorities.

According to intelligence officials, locals in Naxal-hit areas can provide valuable inputs, ut are reluctant to do so. “There is a list of suspects and we keep a track on such persons. Their movements can be known only with the help of local support. Despite so many inhuman attacks, locals do not share information easily. There is a need to educate these perople about the ill effects of Naxalism. Once the locals turn against the Naxals, it will be easy to address the problem,” said an IB official.