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HindustanTimes Sat,20 Sep 2014

Land grab twist to Art of Living extortion calls

IANS  Bangalore, June 30, 2010
First Published: 20:41 IST(30/6/2010) | Last Updated: 20:47 IST(30/6/2010)

The reported extortion calls to Art of Living of spiritual teacher Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Wednesday turned into a land grab issue with a don-turned-journalist and film maker accusing the group of lodging a false case to silence him.

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Sridhar, who publishes a Kannada tabloid 'Agni' (fire) and has a written a book about his days as don in Bangalore, lodged a complaint against the group at the Kumaraswamy Layout police station saying he was being falsely accused of making extortion calls.

"I met Ravi Shankar at his ashram (complex) June 18 to persuade Art of Living to settle a land issue. It was a cordial talk. There was no threat or any such thing," Sridhar told reporters, a day after the group said it was getting calls to pay up Rs.42 crore failing it would be defamed.

Sridhar said he learnt from someone in the Art of Living that while his name had not been mentioned in the complaint to the Ramanagara police, his telephone numbers had been given.

"After seeing the news about extortion calls Wednesday, I decided to take the matter to the police so that the truth will come out," Sridhar told IANS.

He said he met Ravi Shankar as his help was sought by Paul Fernandes, a realtor who claimed that about 15 acres of his land had been taken over by the Art of Living ashram, about 20 km away from Bangalore city centre.

Fernandes told reporters he had purchased the land, adjacent to the Art of Living complex on the basis of power of attorney about 12 years back from a farmer. The farmer died before executing the absolute sale dead.

Fernandes said he came to know after the farmer's death that the land had been pledged to a cooperative society in the area, from which Art of Living acquired the land.

Fernandes said he had spent over Rs. 10 million on the land and had approached Art of Living several times seeking either return of the land or fair compensation.

Since he did not get any relief, he approached Sridhar to mediate. Sridhar said he had not got any call from the Ramanagara police though his telephone numbers had been mentioned by Art of Living in its complaint.

Art of Living spokespersons did not respond to repeated calls for their reaction. Ravi Shankar founded the group about two decades ago. It is engaged in stress-management and social-religious services.


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