Missing pandits: US institute says only 5% students have left course

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Jan 28, 2014 22:17 IST

An organisation that brings students from India to train them as vedic priests here in the United States has said some of them have gone missing since the start of the programme in 2006.

The organisation, an affiliate of the transcendental mediation empire founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, said it has no clue to their whereabouts now.

Hi India, an Indian-American community paper that broke the story, said 163 students had gone missing over the last 12 months, the youngest of them were around 19. Though the organisation, Global Country of World Peace (GCWP), confirmed some students had indeed gone missing, it disputed the number cited by the news report.

“The total number of pandits who have ever left the program in an unauthorised way is only about 5% of those who have come to the US,” Bill Goldstein, dean of GCWP, said.

He added abut 2,600 students have gone through the training since its beginning in 2006. In his telling, therefore, the number of missing students is 130, and not 163. He also contested the report’s claim that some of those missing were only 19. “Their average age is approximately 25, with the ages of those leaving ranging from 20-42,” said Goldstein. And they have been reported to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he added.

These students are selected by another Foundation affiliate, Maharishi Ved Vigyan Vishwa Vidyapeetham, in India and sent to the US for training at a facility in Iowa state. Goldstein said some students, however, do not complete their course and want to return. And they are sent home.

And then there are those who drop out, and disappear. They either just walk away from the campus, or flee from the airport on their way back.

At the airport, Chicago’s O’Hare, some of them flee “even before having their luggage unloaded, and sometimes after having gone through airport security”. The missing priests have not been in touch with Indian missions here.

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