Friday, February 21, 2014

Human Trafficking in Vedic City? Missing Pandits

January 24, 2014…  hi India, Chicago’s weekly Newspaper for America’s Indian immigrants, published an in-depth article Pennies for Pandits  about 163 Vedic Pandits  missing from Vedic City. 

 This news flash was repeated by Al Jazeera, India Today, Times of India , ndtv, the thehindu, deccanherald, and more.

The report stated that :

“Under the project to recruit Maharishi Vedic Pandits, publicity literature is distributed in Indian villages, mostly in Hindi speaking areas, among people living under the poverty line. Children are enrolled with the permission of their parents, who are promised that their wards would be given education up to 12th standard, after which they would be turned into Pandits or masters of the art of Hindu religious rites and services.”


“Investigations by Hi India have found that the kids of the programme, enrolled at the tender age of five years, were rarely provided education beyond fifth standard. After investigation by the newspaper, it came to light that these Vedic Pandits were brought to the US from India and were kept in makeshift trailer homes to be guarded by round-the-clock guards.”

“According to the report, a contract is drafted in English but the copy is neither given to Pandits nor is it translated or explained to the fifth-grader emigrants who do not even understand English. The contract states that they will be given $50 compensation while in the US and another $150 in India. This $150 is not given on a monthly basis to the families of the Pandits but, rather, is considered as bond money.”

“The Chicago consulate, however, says the GCWP has never returned or deposited any passport and neither has it shared any missing person information. According the sheriff's department and police department of Fairfield, Iowa, no missing person report has ever been filed by the GCWP.”

In 2012 TMFree posted about Iowa's fenced pandit compound in a linked 3-part series. The 3rd essay can be read by clicking on  "Pandits for Profit".

Cultnews shared the story at this link : The truth about TM compound that Oprah Winfrey failed to see : Course Participants or Captive Pandits.

Four days after Hi India's report,  Raja Hagelin attempted to quell anxiety among TM’s true believers with an insider email. 

As TM's Raja of North America and their oft promoted "World Renowned Physicist" Hagelin stated :

“Over the weekend, a defamatory and wildly inaccurate article about the Vedic Pandit program appeared in a weekly Chicago Indian newspaper and was republished in part by other Indian media in the US and abroad."

Hagelin claimed that,

"The article attempts to cast blame on the Global Country of World Peace for the plight which some adult Pandits now find themselves in. These are Pandits who have left the Pandit campus and program and apparently are seeking employment, unlawfully, in the US."
"Some of the Pandits have returned, realizing this was a foolish thing to do, and their airfare has been covered to return to India. Others have not yet come to this realization and are likely being manipulated by unscrupulous employers who take advantage of their innocence. We are working with the press to correct this matter and already are getting a positive response from responsible journalists which may result in some positive publicity for the Global Peace Initiative."
 Hagelin’s message blamed the pandits themselves, while acknowledging that these "adults" have been held by the TM organization since childhood (!) :
“We have been dealing with a challenge in recent months where a few of the Pandits who have completed their 2-year stays or who say they need to go home to India for some reason are taken to the airport in Chicago. They then leave the airport without boarding the plane, in violation of the terms of their agreement with the Movement and apparently with the intention of violating the terms of their US visa. As you know, we always provide airfare to the Pandits when they come to the US and return to India, and our staff from the Pandit campus and volunteers from the community take the Pandits to Chicago and help them until they go through airport security."
"On a few rare occasions, Pandits have checked in for their flights and have gone through security and passport control — and then tried to leave the airport. In recent months, two such Pandits were stopped by authorities, but were released. This encouraged some other Pandits to try to leave in Chicago or even to slip off the campus."
"The law is that neither Global Country of World Peace that sponsors the Pandits in the US nor airport authorities can force these adult Pandits to board a flight."
"The Vedic Pandits seem to be doing this because they have heard stories that they can make what sounds to them like vast sums of money ($1,800 a month is often mentioned) working in low-level jobs at restaurants and other businesses. They seem to be dazzled by the idea of making a few thousand dollars, but they do not understand what it costs to live in the US or the legal implications of being in violation of the immigration law that result from their leaving the program. Most of the Pandits have been on Maharishi Vedic Pandit campuses in India in residence since ages 12 or 14, where they are honored and respected and all their needs are provided for."

Another message by Hegelin was sent on February 12, 2014, probably after TM attorneys had contacted news outlets :

“More than 30 Indian publications in the US and abroad have retracted the wildly inaccurate article about the Vedic Pandits that they had picked up from a Chicago Indian weekly. .....
This has ranged from direct retractions ....  to publishing the detailed text of our responses, to new positive news articles about the Pandits.”  

Hegalin claimed efforts at treating those retained inside the fenced compound as human beings by stating : 

“Dr. Prakash Shrivastava and Raja Bob LoPinto held 5 days of meetings with the Vedic Pandits at the Maharishi Vedic City campus, working with them about this situation, educating them about the consequences of Pandits going off on their own, and addressing any concerns the Pandits have.
This is already having a positive effect. Some Pandits who had left the Chicago airport without returning to India have returned to Maharishi Vedic City and been given flights home. The vast majority of the Vedic Pandits are very dedicated to their program and happy with campus life. "

To assure TM devotees that business continues as usual, another routine fundraising-for-pandits email was sent by Raja Harris and Arlene Kaplan on February 15, 2014, titled “Maharishi Vedic Pandits Creating World Peace”. They invited others to join them :

“Arlene and I wanted to warmly invite you to make your plans now to come to the Brahmasthan of India for next season, which starts the week of September 22 through the week beginning March 23, 2015. One important reason is that this coming season offers our guests two opportunities to attend the Navaratri Celebrations—the first from September 25 to October 3, 2014 and the second from March 20-28, 2015."

Claiming that :

"Listening to these nine days of recitations is said to bestow prosperity, health, longevity, knowledge and intelligence. Also lively during these Nine Days of Mother Divine are those impulses of Creative Intelligence responsible for helping to remove obstacles from the path of success and for helping to remove all kinds of fear, illnesses, and other negativity.”

One can register for such courses here :

It will be interesting to watch this situation unfold. 

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