Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Update on Maharishi Vedic Pandits

On January 24, 2014, Hi India, the newspaper serving the South Asian community worldwide, ran a 2-page article on the sorry plight of Maharishi Vedic Pandits residing in a fenced compound in Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa, U.S.A.

On August 30, 2014, Hi India published a second article about the Vedic Pandits. According to this article, (, despite their January expose, neither the Indian Consul General in Chicago, nor leaders of Chicago's Indian community, nor officials in India have initiated any action to help the Vedic Pandits.

Hi India suggests that after the posting of their first report, the following actions should have been taken, but were not:

- The TM university responsible for the pandits should have invested more resources into improving financial compensation and living conditions for the pandits, rather than into damage-control of their image.

And further, that the Consul-General of India situated in Chicago should have done the following:

- sent someone to the compound to take a first-hand look at the living conditions of the Vedic Pandits.

- raised concern about the passports of the pandits being held as ransom by the sponsoring University, and insisted that the passports be returned to the Consul General’s office, in accordance with Indian policy.

- investigated the plight of the "165 missing pandits." (This was a group of 165 pandits that the TM University drove to Chicago's O'Hare airport after the uprising, in order to send them back home. It was never made totally clear if these Indian men requested their return to India, or if, following the uprising, the University picked out the pandits whom they perceived to be "troublemakers," and forced them to leave. Whichever is the real story, it appears as if instead of boarding their appointed planes back to India, many fled the airport in the sub-zero weather and disappeared.)

- engaged with Chicago police and the local Indian community to locate missing Vedic Pandits who may have been wandering around Chicago.

- lodged a complaint with local police, Immigration officials, other Indian Consulates in the U.S. and the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.

 - issued a press release about the pandits.

- investigated the recruitment tactics and the contract between Vedic Pandits and their sponsoring university.

- demanded the complete list of Vedic Pandits who arrived, left and are missing from the compound.

- asked for travel and ticket details and matched this information with pandits' arrival (or failure to arrive) at Indian airports.

According to Hi India, the Chicago Consul General failed to do any of these things. The conditions of the pandits at the fenced compound at Maharishi Vedic City remains unmonitored by outsiders. And the "missing pandits," (who speak little English) who fled O'Hare Airport 8 months ago, are unaccounted for.

Well, we finally know the fate of one of those missing pandits. According to Hi India, Ajit Panday, age approximately 23, has been found in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. On August 24, 2014, he was shot to death by an unidentified armed robber at the Big Brother 2 Food Mart in Atlanta, while Ajit was closing up the convenience store for the night.

Ajit was brought to the U.S. by Maharishi University about two years ago. When the University brought him to the airport in January, he apparently snuck out of the air terminal rather than boarding a plane to India. He somehow ended up in Georgia, which is approximately 600 miles (approximately 1000 kilometers) south of Chicago, and entered the underground economy of undocumented workers.

 In their statements, the Indian owners of the convenience store and of the property it stood on shrugged off responsibility for his death, stating that they had cautioned Panday to be careful in the night time.

As for how his countrymen have treated this undocumented man, Panday had been working without pay at the store for more than two months. He worked more than 15 hours per day, 7 days a week. No proper food, sanitation or security was provided in the back room of the store, where Panday lived. The owners claim Panday was a friend who they were helping out by giving him a place to stay, and in return he willingly volunteered his time at the store.  There were insufficient security systems, insufficient security training and insufficient backup at the store.

Ajit Panday's body was still in the mortuary six days after the murder, apparently because his family in India is too poor to ship the remains home. Ajit was the only bread-winner in his family, which consists of a widowed mother and two younger siblings.

The owners of the store state the body is still in the U.S. because the family has failed to give authorization to ship the body.

Ajay Prakash Shrivastava, nephew of the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and head of global operations of the sponsoring Maharishi University, said that he could not trace the family, although all the information is available in office records.

Though Ajit is the first casualty that has come to light, there may well be other Maharishi Vedic Pandits being mistreated somewhere in the U.S.  Not to mention those being mistreated in their fenced compound in Maharishi Vedic City in Iowa.

TM-Free Blog has posted several articles about the Vedic Pandits.  Click on any of these titles to see the TM-Free article:  

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