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Exclusive: Big battle for Osho land to start in court

One group consists of devotees who are opposing the sale of two plots of land at the Osho ashram in Pune’s upmarket Koregaon neighbourhood. The other group includes members of Osho International Foundation (OIF) that claims they are the only successor of the property and want to sell the land to raise cash to run the commune.
11 Month ago

New Delhi: There is a strange lull before the Bombay High Court which will hear claims and counterclaims of two groups of devotees of Acharya Rajneesh, the voluble spiritualist with piercing eyes.

The fight is over two big plots of land in Osho’s Pune commune in upmarket Koregaon Park. The commune was once called the IBM of peace and love.

Rajneesh propagated a cult of materialistic spirituality and inspired thousands of saffron-swathed residents – including celebrity devotees – to follow him. He called his home the unknown.

The total land, as per the application, measures 9,836.20 square metres. It includes a huge bungalow and other dome-shaped structures Osho built for meditation. As per the valuation report, the properties are worth Rs 92.11 lakh. That means it is less than Rs 1 crore. This amount is reportedly mentioned in Sarda’s application. So why such a high valuation hovering between Rs 80-100 crore? No one has an answer.

Seasoned journalist and author Abhay Vaidya’s book Who Killed Osho, revolves around the big question whether or not Osho was murdered. The book says strange things have always happened in the commune; it has always been shrouded in secrecy. Osho’s girlfriend and caretaker of many years, Ma Prem Nirvano, died under mysterious circumstances a month and half before Osho’s death. It was instantly hushed up. Then Osho died reportedly of heart ailment which was not confirmed by his physician. There was no will left behind by Osho. A fake will raised by some of the devotees was eventually withdrawn. An unresolved case relating to the will is still pending at the Koregaon Police Station.

Across the world, there are over 200,000 devotees who adopted his unique brand of sannyas. And their fight is now in the court.

One group consists of devotees who are opposing the sale of two plots of land at the Osho ashram in Pune’s upmarket Koregaon neighbourhood. The other group includes members of Osho International Foundation (OIF) that claims they are the only successor of the property and want to sell the land to raise cash to run the commune.

So this is what has happened till date.

Interestingly, advocate Venugopal is not just a lawyer but also a Osho sanyasi. In his first appearance he sought permission to cross examine the Trustee in the Charity Commissioner Office. OIF’s advocate opposed it. As a result, the Joint Charity Commissioner, Ms RU Malvankar kept the order reserved but eventually gave permission on May 16, 2023 to cross examine the trustees. The trustees went to the Bombay High Court to seek relief from the Charity Commissioner’s order. On June 15, 2023, Venugopal opposed the writ petition filed by OIF for not cross examining the trustees. Senior advocates representing OIF tried hard to delay the proceedings but were eventually told by the judge that they should not worry if their client had done nothing wrong.

“It necessarily contemplates that both parties be given a fair opportunity to lead evidence which is not limited to the extent of filing affidavits but goes to the extent of examining witnesses on oath and subjecting themselves to cross-examination,” said judge NR Borkar in the order.

This, claim those in the know, is the biggest problem because the trustees will have to answer many questions in the Charity Commissioner Office.

And there lies the biggest fear.

Osho’s books, audios and videos are generating a huge royalty running into a whopping Rs 100 crore plus. There are charges that the trustees are running their own private limited companies inside the Pune Ashram selling books, CDs and food. The cash is collected by the trustees and not transferred to the account of the trust.

On October 10, 2022, the Charity Commissioner of Mumbai gave special permission to OIF to open a new bid to sell part of Osho’s ashram – namely plots numbers 15 and 16 – in Koregaon Park, Pune. This part of the land (quite close to Osho’s Samadhi area) has an Olympic size swimming pool and tennis court and is called Osho Basho.

The swimming pool and tennis court area were developed as per Osho’s instructions. His guidance was that for many sports like swimming and racquet play, which can become doorways to meditation. His insistence was that modern man will require modern methods to bring him to meditation. Over the last decades, thousands have participated in meditation in this part of the Osho Ashram and there is a special energy field created here, noticeable even to the first-time visitor. Therefore, plots 15 and 16 are indivisible units of a living energy field that Osho created for humanity and selling and re-purposing any inch of the land will be an irreplaceable loss for those interested in spirituality and inner search.

Osho Rajneesh died of heart ailments on January 19, 1990. There is a glass house that stores an ageing Rolls Royce. Rajneesh reportedly had 85 of them when he was in Rajneeshpuram, a 64,229-acre ranch bought by his followers in the US. He then wore gem-studded Rolex watches, he was called Bhagwan (God) when he was only 48.
OIF had signed a MOU with the highest bidder, Rajiv Bajaj, for this sale. An advance amount of Rs 50 crore was taken from Bajaj by OIF. Reasons cited for this sale were losses of Rs three crores incurred due to property closure during COVID and to build a corpus fund for such future calamities. The four trustees who signed this MOU on behalf of OIF were Mukesh Sarda, Pratap Singh, Devendra Dewal and Sadhana Belapurkar.

In January 2021, many sannyasins began to hear about this sale and were outraged. For the last 12 years, two Osho sannyasis, Swami Prem Geet (Yogesh Thakkar) and Swami Anadi (Kishore Rawal) have been opposing various OIF actions to diminish Osho’s Koregaon Park Ashram.

In July 2022, one Osho sannyasi, Swami Yog Sunil (Sunil Mirpuri) made an application to the Charity Commissioner asking for the hearing on Osho Basho to stay pending the investigation of the operations of the Trust and the OIF Trustees themselves.

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