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HindustanTimes Wed,27 Aug 2014

Amritanandmayi memoir sparks social media debate

HT Correspondent and Agencies, Hindustan Times  New Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram, February 22, 2014
First Published: 16:08 IST(22/2/2014) | Last Updated: 17:12 IST(22/2/2014)

A memoir written by a former disciple of Mata Amritanandamayi has sparked a social media controversy over its allegedly explosive content. Amritanandamayi, also known as 'Amma' or the 'Hugging Saint' is a Hindu spiritual guru and has followers worldwide.

Australia-born Gail 'Gayatri' Tredwell in her book "Holy hell: A Memoir of Faith, Devotion and Pure Madness" claims that she was a close disciple of Amma for several years and lived in the ashram before she escaped from there following bitter experiences.

She writes on her website about being an "unwilling keeper of some devastating secrets" and her escape from the ashram. The site, almost serving as a sneak-peek, does not say much about the reason of her escape, nor exactly what her bitterness she experience in her stay at the ashram.

"For two decades I lived in India and served as the personal attendant to Amma. Those intense years of faith, devotion, and pure madness have shaped who I am today and are the basis of my memoir."

"At the end of 1999, I made my daring escape from the organization and fled to Hawaii."

Addressing devotees at the Brahmasthanam Temple in Palakkad on Saturday, Mata Amritanandamayi said, "The working of the ashram is an open book. People come up with such rumours because they did not get what they expected from the ashram. I am trying to forgive and forget. I have never asked anyone to serve me. People are trying to bring about communal tensions," she was quoted by Malayala Manorama.

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Saturday said he did not think anything unlawful had happened at the mutt of Mata Amritanandamayi.

"I do not think anything took place at the mutt (which is) against the law of the land. People have to consider the services provided by the mutt to society and not the charges against it," he told reporters at Sulthan Batheri near Kozhikode.

"As one who has witnessed and participated in its services, it is not possible for the public to ignore the great work done by the mutt," Chandy added.

Meanwhile, CPI(M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan has termed the charges against the mutt serious and demanded that an inquiry be held into the same.

The police registered a case against unidentified persons who posted adverse comments in the social media based on the content of the book against the spiritual leader, who commands a large following worldwide.

The case was registered under the IT Act by the police at Karunagapally, close to Amritanandamayi's headquarters Amritapuri at Vallikkavu in the district, based on complaints lodged by a group of her devotees, police said on Friday.

This controversy follows a few months after Asaram Bapu made headlines, and debates took place across various TV-channels and mainstream media, over a sex scandal which led to his arrest over sexual abuse of a minor.

The case is likely to be referred to the Cyber Cell of the state police for an investigation and follow-up action on the complaint, police said.

Asked about the issue, Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said the case was taken up on a complaint but the government need not bother about the content of the book.

"When there is a complaint against the postings in social networking sites, police have to register a case and conduct probe under the cyber laws. But the government need not bother about the content of the book.," Chennithala told reporters in Kochi.


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