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Evicted from Aurobindo ashram, 7 of family jump into sea, 3 die

On Wednesday, another member of the family -- Hemlata Prasad, one of the five sisters, made a suicide attempt.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai |
Updated: January 16, 2015 2:07:00 am

A day after five sisters were evicted from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry following a Supreme Court order, two of them and their mother allegedly committed suicide by jumping into the sea. The other three sisters and the father, who too tried to drown themselves, were rescued, Puducherry police said Thursday.

Police identified the dead as Shanti Devi and her daughters Arunashri and Rajyashree Prasad. Shanti Devi’s husband Gadadhar Prasad and daughters Hemlata, Jayashree and Nivedita have been admitted to the Indira Gandhi Government General Hospital and Research Institute.

Hemlata had attempted suicide on Wednesday too but police thwarted the attempt at the ashram.

Hailing from Bihar, the Prasad family — the sisters lived on the ashram premises and the parents in the city — were locked in a legal battle with the ashram for more than a decade. They were evicted after the ashram filed a contempt petition against the family for not vacating the premises before July 31 as per a previous order from the Supreme Court.

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Prasad, his wife and five daughters became ashram inmates after surrendering all their wealth. Problems began when the sisters alleged  irregularities and corruption at the ashram.

A probe in 2002 by a retired district judge appointed by the Madras High Court indicted Hemlata, one of the five sisters, and recommended disciplinary action against her on the charge of misconduct. The ashram management decided to take action against the five sisters, calling it an  internal matter.

Human rights lawyer Bobby Kunhu, familiar with the case of the Prasads, said: “Police have been saying they cannot interfere in the internal  matters of the ashram. A detailed probe should be ordered to prevent any untoward incident in future.”

A source close to the ashram said it has its own norms and rules. “The five sisters and their parents joined the ashram after they agreed to these  rules. Problems are supposed to be settled or resolved within the ashram, but they took it outside and made it a matter of public discussion,” the source said.

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