Government of India Seizes Passport of Youthful Guru
NEW DELHI (AP) - A teen-age Indian guru has been blocked from personally dispensing his "perfect knowledge" around the world because Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's government has taken his passport.
There was no indication when, or if, the document would be returned to guru Maharaj Ji, spiritual leader of the Divine Light Mission, which claims 40,000 followers in the United States and tens of thousands of devotees in Europe and Australia. The guru claims five million Indian followers.
INFORMED sources said the government took possession of the passport two weeks ago, apparently to insure he does not leave the country until an investigation is completed into the guru's movement, first exported to the West in the spring of 1971.
The government launched the investigation after Indian customs agents seized, pending customs clearance, $40,000 worth of foreign currencies' jewelry, and watches in a briefcase brought to New Delhi from New York last month aboard a chartered 747 jumbo jet that also carried the guru and 350 American disciples.
A FINANCE Ministry spokesman said that early in the investigation the government was instructed by immigration authorities not to let the guru, who celebrated his 15th birthday last week, leave the country for the time being. Arthur Brigham, a disciple from Denver, Colo., who serves as the movement's public relations director, said the guru had voluntarily surrendered the passport to help with the investigation, which he termed a routine check of where the guru has been.
Informed Indian sources said, however, the guru's passport was taken to prevent his leaving the country. If authorities wanted to note the countries he had visited, they added, all that had to be done was make a list of visas.
When the controversy first broke, the Divine Light Mission issued a statement saying the money was to be used for financing the Western devotees' stay in India and the jewelry and watches were gifts for the guru and his family.
The mission said it is important for the guru to travel because only he or selected mahatmas - holymen - can bestow "perfect knowledge" which is supposed to enable persons to develop spiritual energies within their bodies.