Mar 08, 2016 VRINDAVAN DHAM (SUN) The children in the Vrindavana Gurukula continue to suffer.
I have dozens of reports filed over the last 6 years, of physical, sexual and emotional abuse to the children of the Vrindavana Gurukula. Many of these documents have been submitted to Gopal Krsna Maharaj, Sesa, Anuttama, Tamohara and Champakalata, but the situation has never been adequately addressed.
It may not come as a surprise that children in the Vrindavana Gurukula are still being abused, but perhaps it is a first that the Gurukula management openly defies the CPO and the GBC…
In 2010, Gopal Krishna Maharaj took over the management of the school. He appointed Lila Purushottam as the Principal; he lives in Kanpur (300 km away) and visits the school very seldom. Lila Purushottam had no prior experience running a gurukula and no training or guidance. In turn, he appointed Radha Kantha as the Vice-principal. At the time, Radha Kanth was fresh out of university and also without any experience in education or management.
Radha Kantha has now resigned following allegations of sexual harassment by one of the lady teachers in the school. Lila Purushottam has also resigned. The new Principal is Harikesh and he lives in Singapore…
The catch is that both Lila Purushottam and Radha Kantha are still working for the Gurukula; they have now been promoted with the title of "Directors".
I have been in Vrindavana for over a month and I have spoken to several students and teachers. I have discovered that the children in the school are beaten on a regular basis.
Navadvipa and Subhash, two teachers accused of sexually abusing the children, have been allowed to continue teaching without an appropriate investigation or consultation with the CPO. It is also alleged that one of the lady teachers was quietly removed for having physical relationships with the older students.
Last week Lila Govinda, the new Vice-principal lost his temper and beat one of the children. Prana from New Zealand was asked to investigate the incident. In the course of the investigation it emerged that Lila Govinda has beaten children on at least two occasions before. It also came to light that often, incidents of alleged child abuse at the Vrindavana Gurukula, go unreported. As per ISKCON law, Lila Govinda was suspended while his case is being reviewed.
However, the suspension did not go down well with the school management. Lila Purushottam verbally abused Prana and removed him from the Gurukula. He then brought Lila Govinda back in the school in contempt of ISKCON Child Protection regulations.
Prana was requested to investigate the Vrindavana Gurukula by the CPO and the GBC. His forced removal from the school and the disregard of his recommendation to suspend Lila Govinda are an act of open defiance to Child Protection, to the GBC and ISKCON.
Today Lila Govinda was back, and it was business as usual in the Vrindavana Gurukula.
We have a situation where both the cause, and the potential repercussions of these events go far beyond the immediate incident in the Vrindavana Gurukula that caused the suspension of Lila Govinda.
Gopal Krishna Maharaj's decision to appoint Lila Purushottam and Radha Kantha to run the Vrindavana Gurukula with some 200 children was irresponsible at best.
Allowing them to continue, despite all the reports of child abuse that have surfaced in the last years, has been a reckless call of judgement on the part of the CPO and the GBC.
This tolerance of child abuse has created a scenario where the outrageous has become the accepted norm; and any attempts to challenge this now will naturally encounter much resistance.
It is going to be difficult if not impossible to solve the bigger problems of child protection in ISKCON without addressing the decisions that enabled the problem in the first place.
It is my hope that this incident will motivate the GBC to take a stance on an old problem that has been neglected for far too long.
There is an urgent need to take prompt and adequate measures. Otherwise we are bound to see many more children suffer in the years to come.
Lila Purushottam and Radha Kanth have also opened a girl's school in Nandagram, and they are currently fundraising to build a huge, 10 Million dollar school in a rural area in Vrindavana. The remote location of the new school means that the children would be exposed to a greater risk, because the reporting of incidents from there will be even more difficult.
Given the track record of Lila Purushottam and Radhakanth, what guarantees can they offer that they will look after the physical, emotional and spiritual development of these children?
The questions that now arise are: Who do we hold accountable for the recent abuses? Will Gopal Krsna Maharaj stand responsible? Or will Lila Purushottam? Perhaps Tamohara, Sesa and Anuttama will shoulder the responsibility…? Or will Champakalata? And more importantly, who will be accountable for the future abuses?
It is time to stop using children as expendable pawns to serve political or financial interests.
How many more will need to be sacrificed before ISKCON takes the protection of its children seriously?