(Note: This article is an update on this story that we reported on a few days ago. Briefly, A 7-year old girl from the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh is being hailed by Buddhist leaders as the next reincarnation of a Buddhist Goddess. Rationalist groups led by a group of dedicated activists including Babu Gogineni, International Director of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, have been protesting this abuse of the rights of children in the name of religion.)
A number of us approached the State Human Rights Commission and the Judge ordered for an inquiry into the antecedents of those behind the child and the parentage of the child. Meanwhile, the Commission ordered that police be posted to accompany the so-called caretakers. The case is at a crucial stage now.
The following are the entire contents of the petition presented to the State Human Rights Commission.
The Honorable Chairperson
AP State Human Rights Commission
Mr. Justice B. Subhashan Reddy
‘Gruhakalpa’ Complex, M.J. Road
Nampally, Hyderabad 500001
28 December 2009
HRC No. 7777 of 2009
On 20 November we drew your attention to the gross, public and unrestrained abuse of the reportedly 7-yr old child Sambhavi, and sought your intervention to ensure the rehabilitation of this child through the help of psychologists, as well as appropriate civil and criminal action against those responsible for this abuse.
Following your orders, Mr. Mukesh Kumar Meena IAS, the Collector & District Magistrate, Kurnool District, has presented two commendable interim reports as regards Sambhavi’s parentage and background. Meanwhile, Mrs. Usha Rani has filed an affidavit in the High Court making claims which are completely contradictory to the statements given by her to the Collector’s Inquiry – but she has not furnished any proof for these new claims. Further, her claims have not been corroborated as yet by Mr. Soumya Acharya who she claims she married in 1999, but who in his statement to the Collector’s Inquiry has said that he is not related to her.
The Dalai Lama announced through his official representative in Bangalore that he was not visiting Surya Nandi as a Human Rights Inquiry was going on – the Dalai Lama was scheduled to inaugurate the Ashram for Sambhavi. We fear that this retreat of the Dalai Lama is not final since reports say that he has only ‘postponed’ his visit and that Mrs. Usha Rani claims that the Dalai Lama would now come to Surya Nandi on 17 January 2010.
Having obtained additional information about the modus operandi of the Dalai Lama, and having obtained details about one of the Dalai Lama’s previous child victims, we wish to bring to your notice this crucial information so that you may pass such orders as would ensure that not only Sambhavi but other vulnerable children do not fall victim.
We respectfully submit again that the action we plead for goes beyond ascertaining the question of who the parents of Sambhavi are, to the sordid issue of exploitation of children for religious and political purposes, both by those who claim to be ‘guardians’ of the child and those who are highly placed in society.
The full truth of the matter is unlikely to come out without ascertaining the involvement or complicity of the organisation of the Dalai Lama, the Dalai Lama and his Official representative who specifically visited Surya Nandi two times, and who also was in touch with the district administration.
THE COLLECTOR’s REPORT, HIGH COURT AFFIDAVIT, MEDIA INTERVIEWS
a). The Collector’s reports dated 30 Nov and 21 Dec 2009 concentrate on the parentage of Sambhavi as well as the background and antecedents of those adults who we believe are making use of Sambhavi as a circus animal, parading her as one endowed with divine powers, as one capable of prophecy, as one who is the reincarnation of a Buddhist goddess, as one who is a reincarnation of a childhood friend of the Dalai Lama, and as one who miraculously read Tibetan texts in a trance, and as one who spoke Tamil and Telugu spontaneously without any prior teaching.
b). Contrary to the claims of those exploiting the child, the Collector’s Report concludes that the child is like any other child, ie without any special abilities or powers. The Reports also state that
- Mrs. Usha Rani is not a legal custodian of the child.
- Mrs. Usha Rani once said Sambhavi is the daughter of her own deceased sister, and another time that Sambhavi is the daughter of a deceased cousin.
- Mr. Soumya Acharya who claims to be father of Sambhavi refuses to reveal the identity of Sambhavi’s mother who he says was his first wife, deceased when Sambhavi was 7 months old.
- Mr. Soumya Acharya has said that he is not related to Mrs. Usha Rani.
- Neither Usha Rani/Soumya Acharya produced Sambhavi’s birth certificate.
- It is still to be proved beyond doubt that Mr. Soumya Acharya and Mrs. Usha Rani are the parents of Sambhavi. How this child came into the control of Mrs. Usha Rani is unclear, mainly because of non-cooperation with the inquiry.
Mrs. Usha Rani has not produced any proof for her latest claims of being Sambhavi’s mother or of being Mr. Soumya Acharya’s wife. Further, while she has stated either herself or through her lawyer that she and Mr. Soumya Acharya were married in 1999, Mr. Soumya Acharya has neither corroborated nor supported these claims.
c). We learn from Mrs Usha Rani’s statement to the Collector’s Inquiry that she completed BA from ‘Mysora’ University but that she does not remember where this University is, nor the year of graduation. It is not credible that a graduate from a University says that she does not remember where her University is. On the one hand she is parading a child who can remember details from ‘past lives’, while on the other hand, she herself cannot remember details from her own present life!
d). It is claimed in defence of her that Mrs. Usha Rani did not mislead when she stated that she was a guardian of Sambhavi, as the mother is the natural guardian. However they conveniently ignore the fact that apart from saying that she is the guardian, she also said that Sambhavi’s mother was dead – and that she also attributed motherhood of this child to two different women, both of who she said were dead! If Sambhavi’s mother really died as claimed, and if Mrs. Usha Rani is the mother, then is Usha Rani also a reincarnation? Not only this, Mrs. Usha Rani also told the Inquiry officer that her own father was dead, whereas he is alive and has been identified by both the journalists, as well as the inquiry teams!
e). It is now said by, or on behalf of, Mrs. Usha Rani that it was never claimed by them that Sambhavi had special divine powers. However, this is what has been stated by themselves to the Media, the Inquiry or in the Affidavit to the High Court:
- Mrs. Usha Rani said that Sambhavi went to the Himalayas in a trance.
- Mrs. Usha Rani said that Sambhavi teaches yoga to ‘devotees’; that she knows some secretive yoga techniques, even though no one taught her yoga!
- Mrs. Usha Rani said that Sambhavi has a divine attraction.
- Mr. Soumya Acharya said that his child has special powers.
- Mrs. Usha Rani said that Sambhavi is not bitten by mosquitoes.
The above claims, read along with the claims that the child is a reincarnation of a dead person, or the reincarnation of a goddess, the claim that Sambhavi who never spoke any Telugu started speaking Telugu as soon as she came to Surya Nandi, and the claim that the child asked in Tamil (a language that Sambhavi supposedly did not know till then) about a mango tree in CVV ashram which she purportedly had never previously visited are all clearly claims of miracles or of miraculous powers.
f). It is also said in the affidavit by Mrs. Usha Rani that it is the media that is responsible for the hounding or the promotion of Sambhavi as a spiritually and miraculously endowed person. However, here are the facts:
- Mrs. Usha Rani said to the Inquiry (and prior to that to the media) that Sambhavi was born in Varanasi; and then to the High Court that she gave birth to her in Tirupati. The mentioning of Varanasi and associating an ancient site of Hindu pilgrimage to the child’s birth is clearly deliberate.
- Mrs. Usha Rani said that since 2005 she has been continuously coming to Surya Nandi with Sambhavi. Here is the schedule she herself gave of her, and Sambhavi’s, travels in the last 12 months (in her statement to the Inquiry):
In Surya Nandi from 25 Dec 08 to 16 Jan 09. Came back in February last week and went away by 1 March. Came back in 1st week of April and went away in 1st week of May. Then went to Dharam Shala on 25 June and came back to Surya Nandi on 20 July. Then went to Dharam Shala in September and stayed there for 15 days. Left for Nellore on 4 October: Sambhavi had 15 days of programs in Nellore, Gudur, Kavali, Kammaripalle near Chitvel, Atmakur. On invitation of ‘devotees’ Sambhavi went to all these places.
This does not appear to be the doings of the media, though clearly good use of the media was made by them in all the trips. This is indicative of an active promotion and cultivation of the belief and image that Sambhavi is an extraordinary child. In any case, it appears that there is a lapse of memory as Mrs. Usha Rani she does not mention the fact that in March 2009 they were in Dharam Shala, about which there are media reports in the newspaper The Tibetan Post. It was in March 2009 that the first public attempt seems to have been made to announce the divinity of Sambhavi, and in front of the media, when Sambhavi was made to perform homam along with the Dalai Lama!
g). Those who are exploiting the vulnerable Sambhavi are claiming that members of the family of the late IAS Officer Veda Vyas never went to school. That it is a family tradition not to send children to school in Brahmin families. That in Varanasi it is a tradition not to send children to school upto a certain age.
It may be that some have not gone to school prior to the law about compulsory school education. But that does not mean that these individuals were being made to sit in temples. In any case, while this is a futile effort to portray their circus with Sambhavi as justified by tradition, even when they so seriously conflict with the law, there is no explanation why, if this were such a valued family tradition, Mr. Soumya Acharya’s second daughter Soubhagya (who he mentioned in his statement to the Collector’s Inquiry) is being sent to school.
h). There is no information that Mr. Soumya Acharya has denied the claim of Mrs. Usha Rani made in the Affidavit that she married him in 1999 – even if he said in the inquiry that he was not related to her. If it is true that Mr. Soumya Acharya also married Sadhana Acharya, and has had a daughter through her, then is part of all this drama an attempt to hide a bigamous relationship, prohibited by law in India?
While curious onlookers have no right or even a need to know, does the child not have the right to know who her parents are? Is it not an abuse of the rights of the child that the most basic information about the identity of her parents is being withheld from her, and without any credible reason. This is an attempt to weave a sense of mystery around the origins of Sambhavi.
We fear that the prediction that on January 14 2012, Veera Bhoga Vasantharayalu will be born in Surya Nandi is also an attempt to prepare the ground for another scam. Who will this child be born to? Who will be the parents of this Veera Bhoga Vasantha Rayalu? Or will the child Veera Bhoga Vasantha Rayalu also have a mysterious origin as was sought to be done with Sambhavi?
THE DALAI LAMA and HIS ORGANISATION
i). It is a tenet of the Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhist sect that Lamas or religious leaders of the community are reborn and that they should be identified as early as possible and installed as Lamas again. This sect is continuously in search of children who they can designate as the reincarnations of dead lamas. In fact their religion can only persist on this activity. The present Dalai Lama was identified at the age of 2 years, and Sambhavi appears to be the latest victim of such efforts of this sect, but certainly not the only one.
j). Following the huge outrage expressed by a large number of intellectuals and Human Rights organisations in Andhra Pradesh state, and following the orders of the AP SHRC, the Dalai Lama’s official representative announced to the SP, Kurnool that the Dalai Lama was not going to Surya Nandi to inaugurate the Buddha Vijayam ashram being built for the 7-yr old child Sambhavi. It is however unclear whether he has postponed or cancelled the visit. To persistent questions from the media in Hyderabad, the Dalai Lama was tight lipped about Sambhavi, rather than clarify what his relation was with Sambhavi or his links with Mrs. Usha Rani.
k). There is ample television footage of the Dalai Lama jointly participating in religious activities with the child Sambhavi in Dharamshala (clearly this footage was supplied by the adults around Sambhavi to the media). Claims are made that the Dalai Lama has recognised that the child Sambhavi is in fact the reincarnation of a child hood friend of his. We learn from the Affidavit filed by Mrs. Usha Rani with the High Court that the Dalai Lama is in regular touch with Sambhavi by e mail.
Further, Sambhavi, as well as her ‘caretaker’ Mrs. Usha Rani have said on television that Sambhavi met the Dalai Lama in a trance when she travelled to the Himalayas, and that she has discussed the question of Tibet’s freedom with him either by e mail or by telepathy. It has also been suggested that Sambhavi prayed for his health, and that his health has improved. It has also been suggested that the Dalai Lama was in his previous life Balabhadra and that Sambhavi was probably Ugra Taraka Devi. It has also been suggested that Sambhavi could be the successor to the Dalai Lama.
However, neither the Dalai Lama nor the adults around Sambhavi have clarified:
i). What was the name of the childhood friend who reincarnated as child Sambhavi?
ii). How and by what signs was the Dalai Lama able to identify Sambhavi?
iii). If in previous life the Dalai Lama was Balabhadra, who was the 13th DalaiLama?
l). We have uncovered information from unimpeachable sources like the Guardian Newspaper of the UK and Time Magazine of the US that a young man Osel Torres has come out in Spain as recently as June 2009 with the dramatic statement that he was identified by the Dalai Lama in 1986 (when he was 14 months old) as the reincarnation of Lama Yeshe, and that he was ‘taken away from his family’ and kept in a monastery in South India. He clarified now that he was not a Lama incarnation, and that he was ‘living a lie’. He also claimed that while he was held captive in the South Indian monastery he was not allowed to meet other people in a way that normal human beings do, and that he could only meet ‘other reincarnated souls’.
m). Attributing divine, miraculous powers to a child, isolation of the child, denial of possibility to meet others, the denial of normal education prescribed by government or allowed by law, the refusal to treat a child as a child, whether done with the consent of the parents or not, is a crime against the child’s potential and autonomy, and in serious conflict with Indian law and the International Conventions to which India is a signatory. It is an affront to our common humanity.
These acts are not just in conflict with the provisions of the secular law but also against the enlightened words of the Buddha. The Buddha has said clearly in the Mahavagga that it was an offence to accept in the Sangha any child below the age of 15. The Vinaya rule is very clear. In defiance of the Buddha’s dictate, and in violation of children’s rights, the Dalai Lama organisation seems to continue to identify little, helpless, vulnerable children as the reincarnations of dead Lamas.
n). It is a crime to so mentally abuse a child that it is made to lose all touch with reality, that the child is made to think that she is in touch with others by telepathy, and that she has divine powers.
o). The life of Osel Torres is in ruins, and now, the main persons behind the Sambhavi scandal are maintaining a destructive silence about their links and role in the matter, even though the whole thing was launched in Dharam Shala. If Osel Torres is right, then where in South India or in Dharamshala are the monastries where children are being groomed as Lamas? In which monastery in South India was Osel Torres held, after being identified by the Tibetan Buddhists? Where is it located? Apart from the child Osel Torres, how many other children have been or are still being held in this monastery?
p). There is no reason to ignore the fact that a Media Conference has been held in Dharamshala in March 2009 to promote Sambhavi; and that the Dalai Lama’s official representative from Bangalore Mr. Dorje has made two visits to Surya Nandi to arrange the Lama’s visit there.
In the light of the above, we wish to respectfully submit that
1). The problem is not only that Sambhavi is not going to school, but also that she is being exploited by being made to sit in a temple, that people are being allowed to prostrate themselves before her on the unsubstantiated and false claims of reincarnation and prophesy, and that bands of devotees are being cultivated for this innocent and vulnerable child who will never ever be allowed to have a childhood if this situation persists.
This act of exploitation should attract criminal action, and the fact that Mrs. Usha Rani is the mother of the child or that Mr. Soumya Acharya is the father does not provide them any special immunity in this matter. The rights that are being sought to be protected are the rights of Sambhavi who is vulnerable and defenceless.
Even if Mrs. Usha Rani finally has said either to the media through her lawyer or to the High Court in her Affidavit that Sambhavi has no special powers, the important thing is to tell Sambhavi that she has no special powers. Clearly this is a complex task which only qualified psychologists need to undertake and cannot be left to the ‘care’ or control of those who have been so far mentally abusing the child, most likely for at least 3 or 4 years. Specially in the light of persistent efforts and statements to the effect that Sambhavi will continue to have a training in spirituality. Another argument has been that all have specialisation in life – but that specialisation cannot be decided for the child before the child attains the age of consent for this.
Those around the child are unwilling or unable to prove their biological relationship with the child. They have only made claims to this effect but are unwilling to prove anything. There is therefore no reason why the child should continue to be under their control, guarded by police.
- Orders may be passed for immediate commencement of treatment by qualified clinical psychologists of the child and enrolled in a school appropriate for her situation and where she will be shielded from the trauma of exploitation and deceipt.
- Orders may also be passed that until the child achieves majority age, the child may not be used for any religious purpose by any individual or organisation or Foundation. Mrs. Usha Rani’s lawyer has claimed on TV that they had major donation in Hyderabad for Sambhavi’s spiritual activities, after the Collector’s first report was submitted. The child of course has freedom of religion and may be free to worship any god or goddess, but this right does not translate into a right to be made a goddess or an object of worship, either full time or part time. The charade of projecting the innocent child as a spiritual wonder attracting devotees should, we hope through your orders, be stopped.
2). Sambhavi appears to be a victim of a determined attempt to select and groom children to serve the religious functions of the Tibetan Buddhists sect and to serve the political ambitions of the sect.
Appropriate orders may be passed to the administration for inquiring into the purpose, and details of the activities of the Dalai Lama’s organisation in regard to the Sambhavi matter as well as to obtain details of the monastery in South India where other children are possibly being exploited like Osel Torres was.
We hope that the sordid saga of the exploitation of the child Sambhavi by a number of adults can now be stopped, and the child made secure against the evil intentions of those adults claiming to protect her.
A.B.K. Prasad Kotapati Murahari Rao Babu Gogineni
Editor and Journalist President, CEASE Child Labour Humanist
A.B.K. Prasad, Senior Journalist, Editor, Former Chair, Official Language Commission, AP
Andhra Pradesh Bala Sangam, Achyuth Rao
Asmitha, Hyderabad, Ms. Volga
CEASE CHILD LABOUR, Kotapati Murahari Rao
Dr. Sridhar Children’s Hospital, Nellore
Film Maker, Akkineni Kutumba Rao
Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Prof. Narendra Nayak
Hyderabad Rationalist Forum, Isanaka Muralidhar
Itemalla Chandraiah, Anti Superstition activist
Jana Vignana Vedika, Chintalbasti, T.V. Rao
Kondaveeti Satyavati, Editor, Bhoomika Feminist magazine
Manava Vikasa Vedika, Hyderabad, Mr. N. Vikram
Parivartana, Prof. K. Venkata Reddy, Madanepalle
Prabhakara Sastri, STEP
Prabhava, Nellore, Novelist Chandra Latha Pydi
Prajasahiti, Vijayawada, Divikumar
Prajasahiti, Vijayawada, Kottapalli Ravi Babu, Vijayawada
Vikasavanam, S.R. Parimi, Vijayawada
ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE:
JANA VIGNANA VEDIKA
There have been a number of documentaries on the work we have done, but the 30 MINUTES Special program on TV9, with the highest TRP Ratings of any news channel in all of India was most complimentary saying our work was ‘invaluable and unforgettable’ in unearthing the scam and the scandal.
Not for nothing did the great Voltaire say “People who believe absurdities will also commit atrocities!” Exploitation of children in the name of religion and for purposes of religion or politics should not be allowed!
Babu Gogineni is the International Director of the International Humanist and Ethical Union