163 Vedic Pandits ‘missing’ in United States, claims report
In a shocking revelation, as many as 163 Indians, most of them brought to the US as teenagers from villages in northern India to be trained into Vedic Pandits by two institutions set up by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi of transcendental meditation fame, appear to have gone missing over the last 12 months.
Of the 1,050 young Indians brought to the Maharishi Vedic City and the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, 163 - some of them just 19 years old - have gone missing in the last one year, Hi India, a Chicago-based weekly newspaper for the Indian community, reported in its latest issue.
Both the Vedic city and the university are owned by the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s family. According to the report, the management running these places did not even care to trace the missing people.
Even the Global Country of World Peace (GCWP), one of the many teaching centres set up by the India-born spiritual guru, does not know about the plight or flight of these Vedic scholars called ‘world peace professionals’.
‘They have jumped the fence for immigration purposes or for chasing their American Dream,’ the newspaper quoted the varsity bosses as saying.
The GCWP runs a Vedic Pandit programme claiming to ‘bring about peace on earth where there will be no war’.
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.
After some 10 to 15 years, the qualified Pandits are supposed to have a choice to either remain with the organisation and make a living, or leave the centre and work outside on their own.
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.
When contacted, most officials of the Maharishi’s Fairfield complex refused to comment. Only one of them suggested that these students might have ‘run away for immigration purposes’.
According to one Pandit, before the visa application at the US embassy in India, a contract is prepared and signed by the organization and the concerned Pandit for rules, regulations and compensation.
The Pandits are initially sent to the US for two years, and thereafter, either their visa is extended for six more months or they are sent back and recalled for two more years.