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Woman raped, confined for over 1 year in Gujarat ashram; accused blackmailed by ‘NGO workers’ – Times Now

Posted: June 30, 2020 at 3:48 pm

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The police booked two other women were also part of the NGO (Representative Image). |  Photo Credit: iStock Images

Ahmedabad: A 35-year-old woman was allegedly raped and confined to a room for over one year at an ashram in Gujarat. Three persons were arrested over their involvement in the incident and soon after, the police also arrested three other people who allegedly blackmailed the rape accused.

Three men, identified as Raghuram Bhagat, Jagdish Bhagat and Bhavesh Bhagat were nabbed for raping the woman on multiple occasions and confining her to a room in Sat Devidas Ashram in Amreli for one-and-a-half years.

Days later, the cops arrested- Pravin Rathod, Ramesh Maru and Jigyesh Manvar for attempting to extort money from the rape accused using a video of the survivor and for defaming her. Pravin, Ramesh and Jigyesh claimed to be members of an NGO. The police also booked two other women were also part of the NGO. An investigation revealed that the NGO was unregistered.

On June 20, a rape case was filed by the Damnagar police. During the investigation, the police identified the accused who claimed to be 'Sadhu Bhagat' or devotees of a sadhu. The three men told the police that they were members one of Swami Narayan's sects and stayed in Sat Devidas Ashram in Amreli.

As per the police complaint, the three accused brought the woman from Botad to Amreli for labour work. Following this, the accused raped her on multiple occasions. The accused also threatened to frame the survivor in a theft case, warning her against sharing the incident with anyone, The Indian Express reported.

After the accused were arrested, three persons claiming to be members of an unregistered NGO approached the woman and offered to help her. The three NGO workers recorded a video of the woman and uploaded it on social media without her permission. After uploading the video, the three men asked the rape accused to pay Rs 45 lakh.


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German woman alleges molestation by 'babas' at Ashram in Varanasi

The accused arrested the three NGO workers and also booked two other women in relation to the case. The five persons were booked under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

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Woman raped, confined for over 1 year in Gujarat ashram; accused blackmailed by 'NGO workers' - Times Now

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10-year-old pushes mom and sister on wheelchair for 350 km – The New Indian Express

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By Express News Service

KURNOOL: Armed with just his courage and willpower, a 10-year-old started walking from Hyderabad to Bengaluru, pushing a wheelchair with his physically- challenged mother and oneyear- old sister. His goal was to reunite with his three siblings, who were sheltered in an ashram in Bengaluru. He was found near Kurnool, about 350 km from Hyderabad. The tale of this child, Shah Rukh, came to light after Veldurthi Sub Inspector T Narendra Kumar Reddy went to help him on hearing of his plight from the locals on Saturday night, and shifted the family to Bengaluru with help from Dhronachalam Seva Samithi, a voluntary organisation.

Speaking to The New Indian Express, Narendra Kumar said Shah Rukhs mother Haseena is a native of Uttar Pradesh. After she lost her husband, she went to Hyderabad with her five children, and was eking out a living by seeking alms. Before the lockdown was enforced, three of her children were taken to an ashram for orphans and destitute people in Bengaluru by an acquaintance. She too was to go, but was forced to stay in Hyderabad due to the lockdown.

During the lockdown, Haseena found it hard to survive and was eager to be reunited with her three children in Bengaluru. However, as transportation options were limited and she did not have enough money, she and her son Shah Rukh managed to get a foldable wheelchair from a hospital, and decided to head to Bengaluru. Their journey began in the first week of June, when the lockdown restrictions were relaxed. Shah Rukh managed to push the wheelchair with his mother and sister till Veladurthi, near Kurnool town, which is about 350 km from Hyderabad. When locals noticed them at a roadside dhaba on National Highway 44 on Saturday night, they alerted Narendra Kumar Reddy, who went there, took them to a local shelter, and gave them food.

Shah Rukhs courage in wheeling his mother and sister has greatly moved me. Though he is 10 years old, his determination to help his mother reunite with her other children is moving, the sub inspector said. To help the family, members of Dhronachalam Seva Samithi were roped in and the family was taken to the ashram in Bengaluru on Sunday night, he added, and thanked Dhorachalam Seva Samithi and two youngsters - Shiva and Ravi Teja - who alerted him.

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10-year-old pushes mom and sister on wheelchair for 350 km - The New Indian Express

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Shock treatment, exorcism, psychotropic drugs: behind conversion therapy for queers – The Hindu

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Rihaan* came out to his parents in the summer of 2008 three days after they created a profile for him on a matrimonial site. His conservative upper-class family in Pune reacted badly. There was confusion, rage, tears. My father begged me to meet a psychiatrist, who instantly diagnosed my condition as mother-fixation. Rihaans treatment started the same week. First it was coercion and counselling; then he was given medicines and dragged to brothels.

Then came the final sitting to reverse my orientation and cure the disorder. I was locked into a room wallpapered with pictures of nude men and they gave me some injections that made me throw up. I retched the entire day, collapsing in between, then waking up covered in vomit. Two days later the session was repeated and I was shown gay porn. Within a couple of weeks Rihaan was a defeated man. Panic rose in my chest even at the mention of same-sex attraction. My parents were summoned and officially informed that my conversion was complete. I lived like a zombie those days. I was heavily dependent on medicines and each time I tried to stop, I was ravaged by withdrawal symptoms. I contemplated suicide. Then, before I knew it, I was married to a cis woman.

Rihaans marriage lasted five months, but more than 10 years later, he still gets panic attacks. He has no career or confidence. I am unable to have a meaningful relationship and at times the shame and pain are unbearable, he says. Now, Rihaan is finally on the road to recovery.

Curing queerness

Not everyone is so lucky. Anjana Harish, the 21-year-old queer student from Kerala who was found dead in Goa last month, was also subjected to conversion therapy. Her friends say that Harish live-streamed a video revealing the torture she had to endure from pseudo-therapists.

Disturbingly, it looks like the discredited concept of conversion therapy is still being practised. Claiming to cure queerness, it can involve everything from shock treatment to exorcism and hormones to psychotropic drugs and kindling a sense of shame. According to medical experts, it causes irreparable damage to the mental health of victims.

Members of the LGBTQIA+ community say conversion therapy is practised in stealth. The patients are taken to psychiatric wards in hospitals or de-addiction centres with falsified files. When Jay*, a trans man from Ahmedabad, consulted a psychiatrist at a government facility for sex reassignment surgery, the doctor insisted that he go through conversion therapy first. I am a 43-year-old gazetted officer and I went there with some community members. If they could try to coerce me, think about what they must do to younger people with no support, says Jay.

Quacks and clerics

This so-called therapy is dished out not just by unscrupulous health professionals but also by preachers, naturopaths, shamans, and religious establishments. When Marie* told her parents in Coimbatore that she was a trans woman, they asked her to attend a course at an ashram the family used to frequent. On the second day of the course, I woke up in another place where I was held prisoner for two months, she says. I was slapped, body-shamed and sexually abused for being a sinner and acting against the divine plan.

Realising there was no point in fighting, Marie stopped reacting and convinced them that she had changed. I was sent home where I continued the charade for two more months. At the very first opportunity, I fled and never went back. Marie has since undergone sex reassignment surgery and works as a doctor in a hill station where nobody knows her past. I survived because I stayed vigilant from the beginning. Once they break your spirit, there is no going back.

Salmas* relationship with another girl became a scandal that rocked her hometown, Lucknow. It was a cleric who advised the family to keep her in isolation; she was raped multiple times by a close relative, a man she called kaka (uncle). In India, religious institutions and representatives play a big part in promoting conversion therapy. In the West, groups like Exodus International openly promoted conversion therapy across nearly 20 countries, but it has been more hush-hush here, with saints, pastors and babas doing it on the sly. Organised groups operate as de-addiction centres, prayer groups or ashrams.

Against the law

We condemn conversion therapy. Its unlawful, says P.K. Dalal, President, Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS). IPS has taken a strong stand against it. We have a protocol when it comes to such cases and we will soon be coming out with a statement, he adds.

Although there is no specific law prohibiting conversion therapy, legal experts emphasise that the practice violates the Right to Privacy enshrined under Article 21. If sexual abuse is involved, its an IPC offence anyway and now we have the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, that gives a lot of agency to individuals, says Sandhya Raju, an advocate at the Kerala High Court and a member of the Human Rights Law Network. Once mental health review boards are constituted as part of enforcing the law, the community can use it to protect their rights.

If the practice is used against children below 18, the law is even more stringent. Parents can be booked under Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. Prijith P.K., president of the Thiruvananthapuram-based Queerythm, which operates a 24x7 helpline for LGBTQIA+ people, says, Very often parents are involved, and doctors claim the treatment is for depression or schizophrenia. He thinks new legislation is needed to address the issue. While transpersons are protected under the NALSA judgment, other segments including gays, lesbians and bisexuals have no legal support. Same-sex marriages are still not legal in India. We talk about inclusivity and awareness, but legal backing is very important to achieve that goal. When the discrimination ends, the rest will follow, he says.

While most such practitioners are quacks, there are some who strongly believe they are offering a service. A Kerala-based psychiatrist who practises conversion therapy said, on condition of anonymity, that his patients undergo the treatment willingly as its easier to live as a heterosexual individual.

According to him, many of his patients now have a family and children. But he admits that many of them return due to marital discord and are on endless medication for depression.

A Hyderabad-based sexologist is equally confident. He offers different programmes tailored to the severity of queerness and says, You can fix most homosexuals with hormone therapy. Psychiatric interventions have been successful in most cases Ive treated. For example, testosterone injections can reverse same-sex desire to a great extent while some people respond to behavioural therapy.

He refuses to share his methods and says sexual deviance often springs from childhood sexual abuse and conditioning. He believes he is helping queer people by reaffirming their real orientation or gender identity, making them acceptable, and protecting the honour of their families.

Hypnotised, lobotomised

The origins of this clandestine practice date back to the 19th century, when deviant sexual orientations were considered sinful or criminal. One of the first documented cases comes from the accounts of Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, a German physician who reportedly used hypnosis to cure homosexuality in the 1890s.

By the early 1900s, practitioners worldwide began to use hypnosis as well as electroconvulsive therapy and sometimes surgical procedures like lobotomy. People were tortured, castrated and subjected to sordid corrective measures. Aversion therapy, of the kind Rihaan underwent, was portrayed in Stanley Kubricks 1971 film A Clockwork Orange.

In India, the Department of Psychiatry at AIIMS, New Delhi, conducted a study to reverse sexual orientation between 1977and 1982. The subjects were six homosexual people, who were administered electric shocks using an aversion therapy apparatus set at 50 volts to control their homoerotic fantasies. The report claimed that four persons were successfully reoriented. By the 2000s, several doctors and healers had popped up across the country.

In May this year, the U.N. published a report cataloguing the severe and everlasting impacts of conversion therapy. The report says, Attempts to pathologize and erase the identity of individuals, negate their existence as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or gender diverse and provoke self-loathing have profound consequences on their physical and psychological integrity and well-being. It urges governments to ban conversion therapy. So far only five countries Germany (for under-18s), Malta, Ecuador, Brazil, Taiwan have drawn up bills making it illegal, but efforts are on in other countries too.

At the most basic level, conversion therapy is unethical and a human rights violation. Even after the Supreme Court decriminalised consensual same-sex relationships by striking down Section 377 and came out with the historic NALSA judgment to protect transgender rights, Indian society is far from queer-friendly: LGBTQIA+ individuals still face violence, hostility and stigma. And a very real threat to their mental and physical health.

The Turing Effect

In January 1952, English mathematician Alan Turing, who played an important role in breaking German war codes during WW II,

was charged under the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885 for being in a sexual relationship with a man. Turing, who would later become famous as the father of modern computer science and artificial intelligence, was convicted. He was made to undergo hormonal therapy or chemical castration for one year, which reportedly made him impotent and led to the formation of breast tissue. Turing was also barred from continuing his government work.

In June 1954, two weeks before he turned 42, Turing was found dead at home, by apparent suicide, although subsequent reports claimed his death may have been due to accidental poisoning. Turings path-breaking research and his persecution were the subject of the 2014 Oscar-winning film, The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. In December 2013, Queen Elizabeth II overturned Turings conviction. And in September 2016, the U.K. government said it would extend the retroactive exoneration to other men convicted similarly, under a new Alan Turing law.

*Names changed to protect identity.


Shock treatment, exorcism, psychotropic drugs: behind conversion therapy for queers - The Hindu

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Sevagram Ashram president withdraws resignation after appeal by several Gandhians – The Indian Express

Posted: June 17, 2020 at 2:46 pm

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Written by Vivek Deshpande | Nagpur | Published: June 14, 2020 12:19:29 am I have withdrawn my resignation after sustained appeals by many Gandhian and Sarvodaya leaders from all over the country, Prabhu told The Indian Express. (

THE Sevagram Ashram row has taken a new turn, with Ashram president T R N Prabhu taking back his resignation on Saturday, after exhortations from several Gandhian and Sarvoday leaders from across the country.

I have withdrawn my resignation after sustained appeals by many Gandhian and Sarvodaya leaders from all over the country, Prabhu told The Indian Express.

In a letter issued on Saturday, he stated, I had sent my resignation as Ashram president to you all after feeling harassed by baseless allegations raised against me by the Sarva Seva Sangh president and due to his continued interference in Ashram affairs. But you havent given your consent to it as yet. On the other hand, several Gandhian thinkers and workers are expressing the opinion that I should continue to shoulder the responsibility as Ashram president. In the meanwhile, the Sangh president had called me and spoken in a courteous way. So, in the light of these developments and in the larger interest of Ashram and Gandhian values, I am withdrawing my resignation I will convene a meeting of the Ashram working committee after the lockdown is lifted and conditions become conducive.

Asked about the courteous call from Sarva Seva Sangh President Mahadev Vidrohi, Prabhu said, he had called me a day after constituting a committee to discuss Ashram affairs on June 8, and to say that the committee had been formed to give me a respectable farewell .

As reported earlier, Prabhu was removed by Vidrohi, president of Sarva Seva Sangh, the apex body of all Gandhian institutes, in March, after alleging that he was a Godsewadi. The allegation was made in the context of Prabhu denying permission to the Congress Working Committee (CWC) to hold its meeting at the Ashram in October 2018, among other issues. Prabhu had said his decision was based on Gandhian ideals that forbid the Ashram from making political preferences and allowing political activity on Ashram premises.

This was the first time an Ashram president was removed or any president had to leave before completing the five-year term. Prabhu had decided to quit and had sent his resignation to the Ashram working committee on May 27.

Before Prabhu, Vidrohi had also removed Ashaben Bothra, an Ashram working committee member, on February 1, without assigning any reason, and had replaced her with one Laxmidas . Bothra had opposed what she described as unjust references to Prabhu in the Sangh meeting at Mumbai in January that eventually led to the removal of Prabhu in March.

Laxmidas is now a member of the four-member committee set up by the Sangh, led by Bhavanishankar Kusum of Rajasthan, to discuss issues regarding the Ashram and submit its report within 15 days, a move termed as a farce by many since the committee comprises only members who have already taken a sympathetic view of Vidrohis actions, except former Ashram chief Jaywant Mathkar.

Vidrohi, whose term as Sangh president ended on March 31, had earlier this month also removed a Sangh trustee, Chandan Pal from Kolkata, in his capacity as caretaker Sangh chief.

Vidrohis actions have drawn flak from several senior Gandhian and Sarvoday leaders from all over the country, with many calling upon Prabhu to continue as Ashram chief. Among them are former Sangh president Amarnath Bhai and Radhaben Bhatt, P V Rajgopal of Ekta Parishad, Sanjay Singh, secreatry of Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, Delhi, Durgaprasad Arya of Madhya Pradesh Gandhi Smarak Nidhi and K Ranga Rao of Andhra Pradesh Gandhi Smarak Nidhi. Several Gandhian and Sarvoday leaders from Wardha have also denounced the removal of Prabhu and have called upon him to continue as Ashram president.

Vidrohi, however, told The Indian Express, Who are these people to write such letters? Whats the locus standi of outsiders in Ashram affairs? Has anyone from the Ashram working committee written anything in Prabhus support? And how could he send his letter to the working committee? Did the committee appoint him?

He also said he had not mentioned anything about a respectable farewell to Prabhu. I called him to inform about constitution of the committee to decide on various issues before the Ashram. He asked me what were the committees terms of reference. I said what reference is required. Thats all I didnt say anything about a respectable farewell, Vidrohi stated

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A bobbitised godman and a constantly changing story – Times of India

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The original version was a #MeToo story with a particularly punitive twist a 23-year-old woman, unable to take it any longer, chops off the genitals of her assaulter, a godman no less, who had been exploiting her ever since she was 16. It seemed a real-life imitation of 22F Kottayam, the iconic feminist movie, too good to be true but true all the same there was love, lust, men turning beasts, eventual nemesis and, of course, a young womans determination to cut the Gordian knot (genitals in this case) in one fell swoop. Early in the morning of May 20, 2017, after having done what she did, the young woman walked into the Pettah police station, barely a kilometer from her residence at Kannammoola in Thiruvananthapuram, and confessed to the cops. A S Suresh Kumar, former circle inspector of Pettah police station, vividly remembers the events of that day when the young woman came to the station with blood splattered all over her body. She was calm and composed and she spoke of her deed and named her abuser Swami Gangesananda Theerthapadhar of Panmana Ashram and said the material evidence was still with him. ''She appeared to be very strong. I talked to her and she mentioned similar cases that happened in the recent past in Bangladesh as well as in some of other states in India. It means she had been thinking about making such a move for days'', Suresh Kumar said.

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A bobbitised godman and a constantly changing story - Times of India

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Badly-hit India will only hit virus peak in November, experts warn, as train carriages become wards –

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India will not reach its coronavirus peak until mid-November, according to researchers from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), as an overwhelmed Delhi plans to convert train carriages into isolation wards to cope with a surge in infections and a new lockdown looms for the badly-hit city of Chennai.

Last week, some public hospitals in Delhi hospitals were unable to admit coronavirus-positive patients as they had already run out of beds, despite fewer than 40,000 cases being recorded.

Indias capital only has 9,816 dedicated beds for coronavirus patients butits deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia has warned 500,000 people will be infected by July 31.

The Indian Government has now stepped in and announced a plan to convert 500 train carriages into isolation wards in Delhi for around 8,000 people.

In Chennai and surrounding areas, a new lockdown will be imposed on Friday for 15 million people after a spike in cases.

The number of tests being carried out in Delhi will be doubled over the next two days, and a temporary 10,000-bed hospital is being built in the Radha Soami Satsang Beas Ashram.


Badly-hit India will only hit virus peak in November, experts warn, as train carriages become wards -

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Yogini Ekadashi 2020: Date, Timing of puja and the significance of this vrat – World Wire

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Yogini Ekadashi vrat comes after Nirjala Ekadashi and before Devshayani Ekadashi. According to Hindu Panchang, Ekadashi of Krishna Paksha of Ashadha month is called Yogini Ekadashi. Yogini Ekadashi is coming on Wednesday, June 17. Because of this vrat, Lord Vishnu is pleased.

By fasting on Yogini Ekadashi, all sins are destroyed, and prosperity is achieved. By keeping this fast, a person becomes a possessor of heaven.

The importance of fasting for Yogini Ekadashi is like feeding 88 thousand Brahmins.

Yogini Ekadashi: June 17, 2020

Date time: It will start at 5.40 AM on June 16, 2020, and will end at 4.50 AM on June 17, 2020.

Parayan: From 05.28 AM to 08.14 AM on 18 June 2020

On the day of Yogini Ekadashi, clean the house first and then take a bath and wear clean clothes. After this, place the idol of Lord Vishnu.

Then offer flowers, akshat, coconut and basil leaves to the Lord. Then worship Peepal tree too. Listen to the story of Yogini Ekadashi Vrat and do Parayan on the next day.

A king named Kubera lived in the Alakapuri city of heaven. Kubera was a devotee of Lord Shiva. He used to worship Bholenath every day.

A gardener named Hem used to bring flowers to worship the king. Hem Malis wifes name was Vishalakshi, a gorgeous woman. Then one day, Mali brought a flower from the lake, but due to being lustful, he got busy entertaining his wife and did not go to the palace.

On the other hand, the king waited for the gardener till noon. After this, King Kubera ordered the soldiers that go find out why Mali has not come yet.

The soldiers returned and told the king that the gardener is very sinful and transgressive. He is engaged in banter with his wife. Hearing this, King Kubera became enraged and ordered Mali to be present immediately.

Then Hem Mali came to the king, trembling with fear. King Kubera cursed the gardener and said, Oh low! Sinner! Kami! You have disrespected Mahadev, the god of gods.

I curse you that you will suffer from disconnection from your wife. You will become a leper by going to death.

After that, Hem Mali started suffering a lot of problems later. Once, going to the terrible forest, Hem Mali wandered without food and water. Then he went to the sage Markandeyas ashram.

He told his story to the sage. Hearing this, the sage said You have told me the truth, that is why I am telling you a fast for salvation, if you observe Yogini Ekadashi fast by law, then all sins will be destroyed.

Hearing this, the gardener bowed down to the sage and methodically observed the fast of Yogini Ekadashi. Consequently, Hem Mali went to heaven again and lived happily with his wife.

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Radhika Apte Is On Cloud Nine As She Announces Her English Film Libert: A Call To Spy; To Be Released By IFC Films – SpotboyE

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Radhika Apte has proved, her craft of acting doesnt know boundaries. Being one of the actresses who has worked in the mainstream as well as regional cinemas, film as well as on the digital platform has some piece of good news for her fans related to her international project. After The Wedding Guest and The Ashram, the actress will be featuring in yet another English project titled Libert: A Call to Spy. But the celebratory mood which will make everyone proud of her was unveiled by the actress in her latest Instagram post.

Taking to her Instagram account, the actress confirmed her next English venture being acquired IFC Films. IFC Films who have produced hits like Boys Don't Cry, Sleeping Beauty, Central Park Five and more has acquired the rights to release this film. The film is directed by Oscar-nominated documentary producer Lydia Dean Pilcher. She shared this good news with a movie still where she is seen in her on-screen role of spy Noor Inayat Khan, a Muslim pacifist. The image has Radhika in a winter coat with hair combed in a low bun sporting a hat. This movie scene seems from the sequence where the actress might be spying on someone, looking from the camera, she is seen holding the newspaper already held by a man seen in the frame.

Sharing this news on her Instagram account she wrote, Good news!! Our film A Call to Spy to be released by IFC #LydiaPilcher.

Image Source: Instagram/radhikaofficial/acalltospy

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Radhika Apte Is On Cloud Nine As She Announces Her English Film Libert: A Call To Spy; To Be Released By IFC Films - SpotboyE

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Title insurance is broken. Heres how this $623M startup hopes to rebuild it – The Real Deal

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As a child, Max Simkoff would venture out for fishing trips, mostly along Oregons Deschutes River. On a couple of occasions, he found himself camping right outside the ashram of the Rajneeshees, the followers of a controversial movement founded by the Indian mystic Osho and recently depicted in Netflixs Wild Wild Country. For half a decade, the Rajneeshees grew in power and wealth, lived by their own rules, quickly stifled any dissent and created a parallel universe in Central Oregon. Sound familiar?

In a way, youre taking on a very powerful, well-organized cult, The Real Deals Hiten Samtani said about the challenges facing States Title, Simkoffs startup that is looking to reform the title insurance industry and the residential closing process.

Late last month, States Title closed on a $123 million funding round that valued the firm at $623 million. Simkoff discussed the startups plan for that money, the biggest pain points in a residential closing, his partnership with homebuilding giant Lennar, and how the pandemic may finally wipe out archaic regulation around the homebuying process.

For the full conversation in article format, subscribers can click here.

(Write to Hiten at [emailprotected] And to check out more of The REInterview, a series of in-depth conversations with real estate leaders and newsmakers hosted by Hiten Samtani, click here.)

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Title insurance is broken. Heres how this $623M startup hopes to rebuild it - The Real Deal

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Sevagram Ashram chief removed over allegations of being Godsewadi, he strongly denies it – The Indian Express

Posted: June 2, 2020 at 8:50 am

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Written by Vivek Deshpande | Nagpur | Published: May 27, 2020 9:07:47 pm Mahatma Gandhi and Nathuram Godse

A controversy has erupted in Mahatma Gandhis Sevagram Ashram at Wardha with the unceremoniously removal of Ashram president T R N Prabhu for, among other reasons, allegedly being a Godsewadi.

Prabhu, 73, was removed by president of Sarva Seva Sangh, Mahadev Vidrohi, on March 18, barely two years after he himself had appointed Prabhu to the post in his capacity as the chief of the Sangh, which is the apex body of all Gandhian institutions.

This is the first time in the Ashrams history that its president was removed before he could complete the five-year term.

Prabhu, however, decided to resign and put in his papers on May 22. He also released a press note rebutting the allegations against him and expressed his anguish at being ill-treated, insulted, removed without giving any chance to defend myself, against principles of natural justice and against the constitution of the Ashram..

Vidrohi cited denial of permission by Prabhu in October 2018 to the Congress Working Committee to hold its meeting in the Ashram premises, and not issuing a statement against shooting of Gandhis portrait by some Hindu fanatics in Uttar Pradesh, as some of the reasons for his removal.

Prabhus removal, however, has split Gandhians, with many criticising the manner of his removal and others supporting it.

Ravindra Rukmini Pandharinath, a Gandhian writer, said, Not allowing any political party to hold its meeting inside the Ashram cant be termed as being wrong. Prabhu wasnt in the meeting in which the decision to remove him was taken. This is against Gandhian principles. If there was any issue, there should have been a discussion.

Vijay Diwan, a Sarvodaya ideologue, however, said, Congress and Gandhi have a common ideological cradle. Not giving Congress space to hold its meeting was something that eventually strengthens the RSS. Diwan had issued a detailed criticism in the media at that time, expressing his anguish over Prabhus move.

Prabhu has also been accused by Vidrohi of disallowing permission to host a play called Ya Gandhicha Kay Karaycha staged by another Gandhian organisation, Rashtra Seva Dal, inside the Ashram. That strengthened my suspicion that he was following a Godsewadi agenda, Vidrohi told The Indian Express.

Vidrohi also cited several other decisions by Prabhu, like allowing a chair for President Ram Nath Kovind to sit inside Bapu Kuti in the Ashram, and creation of a toilet behind the Kuti for the President visit last year, as reasons for his removal.

You may have sympathy for Godse and a faith in the culture of violence but such people have no place in Gandhi Ashram, Vidrohi said.

Incidentally, Prabhu and Vidrohi have known each other for over 30 years and it was Vidrohi who had insisted in making him Ashram president two years ago when many others had pitched for a weightier name.

Prabhu, however, refuted all allegations. My decision not to allow a CWC meeting inside Ashram was in tune with Gandhian values. What did Congress do for Gandhi on the occasion of his 150th birth anniversary? The Congress had severed its relationship with Gandhi since 1946. They used to consult Gandhi for strategic purposes, not for ideological guidance, after that. And isnt it far-fetched to say that if I have not allowed Congress to hold the meeting, thats tantamount to being pro-RSS, Prabhu said.

Prabhu accepted that he denied permission to hold the play in front of Bapu Kuti. The Ashram is a silence zone. Only prayers can be held there. I had allowed the Congress also to hold the prayer, in which Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi had participated. The play was good and was allowed to be staged in the adjacent Yatri Nivas premises, Prabhu said.

Vidrohi also accused Prabhu of allowing the meeting of a RSS-promoted urban bank in Yatri Nivas. The Sarva Seva Sangh has its account in the bank and the bank had held its business meeting there, not any ideological programme, Prabhu said.

About a chair for President Kovind inside Bapu Kuti, he said, The Presidents staff had requested it. He actually didnt sit and prayed while standing. The toilet was raised again as per the request from his staff even otherwise, when Gandhi used to stay there, his guests would use the toilet inside the Kuti.

Prabhu was also accused of allowing some new concrete structures in the premises, including roads. All these are part of the plan to develop the Sevagram-Pavnar Ashram tourism circuit by the previous Congress government, and pushed further by the subsequent BJP government, and had been going on since 2010-11. How can I be held responsible for it, Prabhu asked.

Prabhu accused Vidrohi of not inviting him for the Sarva Seva Sangh national executive meet at Mumbai in January, in which Vidrohi got Prabhus removal approved through a resolution, despite being a member. I wasnt allowed to defend myself. This is against principles of natural justice and totally undemocratic, he said.

Avinash Kakde, a member of the Ashrams 12-member committee, said, I was a leading opponent of Prabhu when he denied Congress permission to hold the CWC meeting. I had told Prabhu that he had taken the decision unilaterally and hence it was wrong. But to remove him after about a year-and-a-half is certainly not done. Vidrohi had known Prabhu for over 30 years. He made him the managing trustee of the Sangh first and then insisted on making him the Ashram president. So, how come he suddenly finds Prabhu being a Godsewadi?

Kakde was given the task of drafting clear-cut rules regarding holding of programmes on the Ashram premises after the CWC episode. I did it., so the issue was settled then. How can that be raised again after a year-and-a-half? he asked.

Kakde has since written many times to Vidrohi, asking how he suddenly found Prabhu to be in contact with Godse supporters after having worked with him for so long. But he doesnt answer any of my letters, Kakde said, adding, the turn of events leading to Prabhus removal in this fashion is a very sad chapter in the Ashrams history.

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Sevagram Ashram chief removed over allegations of being Godsewadi, he strongly denies it - The Indian Express

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June 2nd, 2020 at 8:50 am

Posted in Ashram

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