Osho Ashram land sale row explained as disciples meet Maharashtra Governor Koshyari

Media Watch

Remarkably detailed and balanced article by Pankaj P. Khelkar offers more information about the recent Appeal to Maharashtra’s Charity Commissioner. Published in India Today, July 1, 2021.

India Today logo

Osho disciples from Mumbai and Pune met Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and urged him to stop the sale of land and recommend an investigation into the activities of the ashram.

Charity Commission Maharashtra
Location  of Charity Commission Maharashtra in Mumbai (credit Amit Joshi)

Who wants to sell the Osho Ashram land?

The Osho International Foundation, headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, owns the Osho Commune in Koregaon Park. It wants to sell the land citing losses due to Covid-19. It has sought permission from the Charity Commissioner for the same.

Applicant Mukesh Sarda, in his application dated December 16, 2020, before the Charity Commissioner, said the Osho International Foundation should be granted permission to sell two government leasehold plots (number 15 and 16) of the ashram “under section 36(1)(a) of Maharashtra Public Trust Act 1950”.

Total land, according to the application, aggregately measures 9,836.20 square metres along with bungalow and other structures measuring 4,032.56 square feet (374.64 sq m) situated at Koregaon Park, Pune.

Sarda submitted that he and Devendra Singh Dewal, Sadhana Belapurkar and Lal Pratap Singh were the trustees of this trust.

Why does Osho Foundation want to sell the land?

Sarda, in his application, said that looking at the present situation in India and around the world and the uncertainty about the duration of Covid-19 pandemic, it would not be possible to restart the meditation activities in the near future. This severely affected the cash flow of the trust leaving it in the dire need of funds to meet its financial obligations, he said.

The applicant submitted that on account of Covid-19 pandemic, the trust would not have any income for a long period of time during which it, however, had to bear the fixed costs for maintenance and upkeep of the property.

Who wants to purchase the Osho Ashram land?

The trust floated tender on September 1, 2020 publishing notice in two dailies. On October 20, the trust obtained the valuation report of the said properties, valued at Rs 92.11 lakh [123.000 US$]. Mukesh Sarda mentioned this in his application.

Atul Ishwardas Choradia, A2Z Online Services Private Limited, and Rajivnayan Rahulkumar Bajaj (of the Bajaj Auto) filed their bids.

Rajiv Bajaj placed the highest bid of Rs 107 crore [14 million US$], followed by A2Z Online Services at Rs 82 [11 million US$] crore and Atul Chordia at Rs 72 crore [9.5 million US$].

In his application, Sarda said the bid of Rs 107 crore was shortlisted. Thus, Rajiv Bajaj’s bid was finalised.

How Osho’s disciples came into picture

Between January 20 and 25, Yogesh Thakkar, a disciple of Osho, was at the office of the Charity Commissioner, Mumbai. He happened to read the register that had a list of the applications to be heard that day.

A friend of Yogesh Thakkar told India Today that the Osho disciples were shell-shocked to know that their meditation place, the Osho Ashram was proposed for sale. Immediately, Thakkar intervened and made an application and submitted it in January itself. The Charity Commissioner’s office listed the hearing for March 15, 2021.

How many disciples of Osho now oppose the sale?

There are nine disciples of Osho who signed a petition raising their objection to the sale of land. On March 15, while hearing the objection to the sale of three-acre land in a prime locality of Pune to businessman Rajiv Bajaj, the Charity Commissioner took into account their objection and posted the matter of March 25.

What are the main objections to the sale of land?

The objection-intervention petition, filed by Thakkar, listed three primary reasons for objecting the sale. These are:

1. The reason put up by the present Osho trustees for selling the land for Rs 107 crore is unacceptable, the petitioners said. They argued that an expenditure of Rs 3.65 crore [half million US$] for six months was inflated as most activities are closed at the Osho Ashram due to Covid-19 situation and that only 10 people were staying inside. If more disciples were staying then this information was not shared by present trustees, they said.

2. Before putting up this land for sale the present trustees Sarda, Maa Sadhana Belapurkar, Laal Pratap Singh and Devendra Singh Deval had mentioned that the ashram was in need of Rs 3.65 crore for maintenance.

3. There are allegations that the trustees of the Osho Trust have registered private limited companies such as Osho Multi Media and Resorts Pvt Ltd, and Zen Properties Pvt Ltd. The four trustees mentioned in the application by Thakkar are also directors in the above companies.

Thakkar claimed that he had evidence with illustrations of transfer of money. He alleged that the daily income of the Osho Ashram and properties of the trust were being siphoned off by the trustees in the said private limited companies.

He claimed that the amount siphoned off was more than Rs 800 crore [100 million US$]. Thakkar demanded that this amount of Rs 800 crore be brought back to the Osho Commune claiming that it would make the Pune ashram surplus in fund, requiring no need for the sale of the two plots.

Inquiry by Charity Commissioner’s office

Sources said the Charity Commissioner’s office had initiated an inquiry into the allegation of financial misconduct in the affairs of the trust.

The nine disciples of Osho, in their intervention petition, said they were ready to pay the deficit amount of Rs 3.64 crore to Pune’s Osho Commune to stop the sale of the land.

But they put forth a condition for making the payment. They said the present trustees would have to share the details of expenditure incurred during the Covid-19 period. Secondly, the commune would allow all of Osho disciples to enter and meditate at the Koregaon Park centre.

What Osho trustees said?

On the charge of financial irregularities against the four trustees, Osho trustee Maa Sadhana told India Today, “It is inappropriate to talk on this matter when the case is being heard in front of the Charity Commissioner.”

India Today has reached out to Rajiv Bajaj about the purchase of the said land. His reply is awaited.

One of the demands of the five disciples, who had gone to meet the governor, was investigation by the Charity Commissioner’s office into the matter.

What next?

Talking to India Today one of the five disciples said they had sent an application for a probe by the Enforcement Directorate into this case.

These disciples are optimistic that Governor Koshyari would give them another audience to submit more proof to him so that a central agency probe could be initiated.

Note by Osho News:
The next hearing on this case in Mumbai remains scheduled for July 6, 2021.
The Osho Meditation Resort is open to the public, for a limited number by reservation.


Related articles

Comments are closed.