Mumbai: The trustees of the Osho International Foundation (OIF) and its disciples are engaged in a feud over the proposed sale of a 2-acre plot of land inside the Osho ashram in Pune’s Koregaon Park.
The disciples of Osho, or the Rajneesh movement, allege that the management is trying to sell off the land for “profiteering”. A crowd of 300-500 disciples Tuesday gathered outside the Charity Commissioner’s office in Mumbai’s Worli area to register their protest.
“We have gathered here to oppose the proposed sale of the land of our ashram, and the Charity Commissioner ordering a rebidding of that land. We won’t let the land be sold at any cost,” said Swami Gopal Bharti, a disciple.
The OIF, which partly owns the Osho Meditation Centre, as the ashram is called, in Pune, had in 2020 proposed to sell off the plots concerned alleging financial distress.
The land up for sale is in the Basho Area of the ashram near the samadhi of Osho, the controversial founder of the Rajneesh movement, and includes a swimming pool and a tennis court.
ThePrint reached Osho management via email but had not received a response at the time of publishing this report. The story will be updated when a response is received.
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The first bid
The first bidding process for the land was initiated by the OIF — a registered charitable trust — in 2020. Three parties placed their bids and the winner was Rajiv Bajaj who had offered Rs 107 crore. The OIF signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Bajaj for the sale and received an advance of Rs 50 crore from him.
In early 2021, when Osho disciples got to know of this development, they protested the sale. Some of them filed intervention applications against the bid in the Charity Commissioner’s office.
In 2022, they moved the Bombay High Court against the joint charity commissioner, Mumbai, when an invitation for fresh bids for sale of the two plots was made.
According to the disciples, the charity commissioner ordered a rebid without “considering the fact that financial loss is only an excuse (by the OIF), and financial audit hasn’t been done”.
“We have filed another case in the high court for financial audit, and a final order is pending,” one of the disciples told ThePrint.
They further alleged that “instead of investigating whether there is a real need for the trust to sell any part of the plot at all, rebid has been ordered”, and that “hearing on the first bid process is still underway”.
The disciples have held as many as five protests in Mumbai, Pune and Delhi over the issue.
The joint charity commissioner, who issued the rebid order last month, has postponed the rebidding to 23 November, while the Bombay HC, which is hearing the appeal for stay on the sale, will take up the case on 17 November.
‘Bid to wind off Osho Movement’
Osho was a controversial guru and “godman” of the 20th century who founded a new spiritual movement and managed to make billionaires and celebrities his disciples. He died in 1990.
Osho ashram, situated around 120 km away from Mumbai, is a meditation resort — one of the world’s largest, according to its website. Disciples from across the world visit the place for its various programmes. The philosophy of the ashram is to blend meditation with celebration, as envisioned by Osho.
For several years now though, there have been allegations of misappropriation of funds against the OIF, and of fraud conducted over Osho’s will.
“The official reason given for the sale is losses incurred during the Covid crisis, which is approximately Rs 3 crore,” said disciple Swami Gopal Bharti. “But that’s not true. We are financially sound.”
“Osho’s books have always been among the top 10 bestsellers. In the past 30 years, the royalty received from book sales and audio-video downloads has been staggering. Where has all that money gone that OIF has to sell an integral part of the ashram, which houses Osho’s samadhi too?” Bharti asked.
According to the disciples, efforts are being made “to prove that the ashram is only a resort and not a place of worship or sanctity, in a bid to slowly wind off the entire ‘Osho Movement’”.
They allege that Osho’s pictures have been removed from all over the ashram, including the samadhi area, and have been replaced with a single statue on the entire premises.
“The samadhi is not just a plot of land for us. It is a place of meditation. It’s a place of pilgrimage where thousands of devotees come to work on themselves and transform their own meditation space. And the trustees want to sell it off!” said Arti Razdan, another disciple.
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)
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