SABHA's open letter to the GBC on Child Abuse
Dear respected GBC Members,
Please accept our humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
In light of the recent shocking report by the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection (ICOCP), the SABHA would like to share our thoughts.
As we now know from the report, Anirdesya Vapu dasa (AVD), formerly Bhaktividya Purna Swami, for many years committed and overlooked horrific verbal, physical and sexual abuse to children under his care and young ladies serving in his projects, creating a network of abuse within the boys’ gurukula and the girls’ school in Mayapur. Even before this report, AVD had two previous ICOCP investigations and decisions regarding allegations of child abuse.
His abuse was neither accidental nor singular, nor can it be termed a mere ‘fall down’. According to the ICOCP report, it was “…cruel, callous, and unremorseful [in] nature…”. Indeed, it was Vaishnava aparadha of the highest degree. Although first recorded in 1981, it is disappointing that it was insufficiently corrected and continued for decades, spanning years of pain for devotees who were not protected by the institution in which they had vested their love and faith. Their innocence was robbed, their trust broken, and their ability to feel Krishna’s love crushed.
Responsibility for the abuse also lies with the broader management, which tragically failed to implement and enforce adequate safeguarding systems to protect the gurukula students. Doing so from the very first complaints of abuse would have prevented AVD’s ongoing predatory activity in ISKCON’s world headquarters.
With its broad range of members comprising sannyasis, senior devotees, mothers, fathers and youth, the SABHA collectively feels that the leadership must adopt a zero-tolerance policy for abuse at any level. Where possible, we must seek lawful intervention. When ISKCON’s resources and managerial capabilities are inadequate to deal with such situations, we should also approach social services and other appropriate agencies.
Srila Prabhupada warned us that this movement could only be broken from within. Failing to guard those in our care and those who are vulnerable has caused severe cracks in ISKCON. So long as we neglect to protect our future generation, havoc will ensue.
We are deeply disappointed with how the situation concerning AVD has been handled and with ISKCON’s general lack of investment in child protection. An apology without sufficient change means little. As ISKCON’s ultimate managing authority, the GBC must commit to making its temples safer for all young devotees to practise Krishna consciousness and live peacefully. Tangible, practical actions must be taken which demonstrate year-on-year improvement. To this end, the ICOCP and other local child protection offices are invaluable. We urge all levels of management to actively consult with their local child protection representatives more frequently and take their recommendations seriously. We, as the SABHA, also commit to further promoting the fight against child abuse within the areas we serve and, as we have been so mandated, will continue to give our carefully considered suggestions to the GBC.
We commend and appreciate the service of the ICOCP. Due to their persistent and single-pointed focus on making Srila Prabhupada’s movement safer for devotees AVD's abuse has ended. However, there is a need to increase their funding and resources, which will further demonstrate the GBC’s concern for our childrens’ welfare. The SABHA body will donate $2,100 to the CPO by the end of this year.
In closing, we pray that Srila Prabhupada guides us all in our responsibility to prioritise our children’s care. May ISKCON evolve into a safer, happier and more fulfilling place where they can flourish in their devotional service to Lord Krishna.