Jagadeesh alias Jaggi Vasudev alias Sadhguru is an icon now to millions of his followers. His followers range from High Court Judges to none other than the Prime Minister of India. The clout enjoyed by Jaggi exceeds that of Pathanjali guru Baba Ramdev or Sri Sri Ravishankar. The reason being, while the other two Gurus are very keen to be seen in the company of corporate leaders, CEOs and movers and shakers of the corporate world, Jaggi is keen to enter into the echelons of power. Viz. IAS, IPS and senior officers, Judges, and middlemen.
Within a short span of time, Jaggi has attained cult status and millions of his well-educated followers worship him as God.
The early days of Jaggi Vasudev are quite murky. He was accused of the murder of his wife Viji. Viji, was found dead under mysterious circumstances and Jaggi explained it away stating she had attained Moksha. But Viji’s father Ganganna though otherwise. In his complaint filed with the Bengaluru city police, Ganganna alleged that Jaggi killed his daughter Viji, due to an affair with another woman. He also alleged that Jaggi has burnt the body of his daughter in spite of a specific request by him to perform the last rites. An Indian Express report dated 12, October 1997 reads :
“Close on the heels of scandals relating to fake godmen getting exposed, yet another ashram from Coimbatore is in the limelight with Jaggi Vasudev alias Jagadeesh of Isha Yoga ashram at Poondi near Coimbatore, being charged with the murder of his wife Viji alias Vijayakumari. A team of police personnel recently visited the premises of Isha Ashram at Poondi and interrogated the inmates of the ashram. Godman Jaggi is away in the US.According to police, T. S. Ganganna of Bangalore (father of Viji) had preferred a complaint with the Bangalore Police suspecting foul play in the death of his daughter Viji. The complainant had stated that his daughter left him last on June 15, 1996. He reportedly received a message on January 23, 1997, from Jaggi Vasudev, stating that Viji was no more.Ganganna said that Jaggi Vasudev had hurriedly completed the cremation on Jan.24 even before they could rush from Bangalore, raising suspicion about the nature of death. He suspected death due to poisoning or strangulation.According to him, Jaggi Vasudev could have caused the death of Viji to facilitate his illicit relationship with yet another inmate of the ashram. Based on the complaint of Ganganna to the Bangalore City Police on Aug. 12, a case was registered.The Bangalore City Police transferred it to the Coimbatore Rural Police.The Coimbatore Rural Police have registered a case against Jaggi Vasudev under Section 302 of IPC (murder) and IPC 201 (suppression of evidence).Later, Isa Yoga Foundation has denied reports that Jaggi Vasudev had fled to the USA to avoid investigation of the ashram. Authorised Signatory of the ashram, Kiran stated that Guruji had gone for giving lectures.”
The case registered by Bengaluru city police was subsequently transferred to Coimbatore and the Alandurai PS registered a case in Cr. No. 176/1997 u/s 302, 201 IPC r/w 34 of IPC. However, under mysterious circumstances, the case was closed as undetected on 08.01.1999 in RCS 6/99.
The death of Jaggi’s wife Viji remains a mystery till date. However, Jaggi continues to give detailed lectures about how Viji attained moksha and merged with God.
Jaggi who was a low profile Guru shot to fame following his series in the popular weekly Ananda Vikatan titled ‘Athanaikum Aasaipadu’, which translates as, ‘desire for everything’. This is directly in contrast with the teachings of Buddha, which says, ‘desire is the root cause of all evil’. This series in Ananda Vikatan catapulted him to fame. But he was yet to enter the power corridors.
Come 2006, Jaggi got close to the ruling power due to his association with the Tamil Bi-Weekly Nakkiran’s associate editor Kamaraj. Following his association with Kamaraj, Jaggi got introduced to the then Chief Minister Karunanidhi and got into the corridors of power. There was no looking back from there. Jaggi, who had destroyed the greenery in and around the foothills of Velliangiri Hills, at Coimbatore, started a new ‘greenery movement’ with the then CM Karunanidhi. The campaign made headlines and Jaggi ensured that he had a dedicated uninterrupted power line to his ashram when the state was suffering from acute power shortage. Due to his influence, he ensured that the forest department’s Toll plaza on the way to his ashram was also removed.
Jaggi’s graph continued to rise and he began to get cosy with many celebrities, thus expanding his clout throughout the country. However, allegations of bulldozing land owners into selling their lands and undertaking constructions in violation of Hill Area Conservation Authority and Town and Country Planning act came to the forefront. This writer in 2013, first exposed the illegal constructions in Jaggi’s ashram through a series of articles. Subsequently, three public interest litigations were filed in the Madras HC seeking a direction for the demolition of illegal constructions. All the litigations are still pending in the Madras HC. But constructions violating all norms and rules, continue unabated to this day.
The cunning Jaggi has gone on to increase his political clout, by showering lavish praises on Modi’s demonetization and various other ‘reforms’.
In February last year, Jaggi constructed a 112-foot statue of Lord Shiva, which he claimed to be of Adhiyogi and invited the Prime Minister to unveil the statue. Green activists and angry protestors voiced their opposition and requested the PM not to participate in the event. A press meet was held with the support of a retired High Court judge in protest of the PM’s visit.
But, Narendra Modi, who is known to never miss a photo op, promptly landed in Coimbatore and unveiled the statue. This photo op with Modi and Modi’s participation in the statue unveiling ceremony sent out a clear message. Jaggi is now beyond the reach of the law.
However, activists continue to pursue and expose the illegal activities of Jaggi Vasudev. One such instance which has come to light is Isha Foundation and Jaggi’s large-scale tax violations. A Chennai based activist has sent a complaint to the Income Tax department seeking a probe and action in which he narrates in detail about the violation of Jaggi and his Isha Foundation. The complaint:
Isha Foundation is a public charitable trust registered vide Trust Deed no. 102 of 2005 book 4 vol 30, dated 8-4-2005. The Trust has registered under sec 12A(a) of IT Act: C.No.327(398)/2005-06/CIT-III/CBE dated 7-10-2005 and its PAN number is AAATI4764K.
The said Isha Foundation has got exemption under Section 80 G of the IT Act. Isha Foundation is headed by a self-styled godman Jaggi Vasudev, who calls himself as ‘Sadhguru’. The foundation built across several acres in the foothills of Velliangiri Hills, Coimbatore District is mired by controversies like the construction of buildings without proper permission from the local authorities or Town and Country Planning Department or the Hill Area Conservation Authority (HACA).
The foremost condition of exemptions under Section 80 G of the IT Act is ‘donations’. According to the definition in Webster’s dictionary, “donation is something that you give in order to help a person or organisation”. In essence, the donation should be voluntary and not forced.
The Isha Foundation conducts yoga classes, throughout the state. According to information, Isha Foundation hires Marriage Halls to conduct temporary yoga sessions The yoga sessions range from 7 days course to 15 days course. The foundation also conducts several stages of advanced courses in the Isha Foundation centre in Coimbatore.
For the initial 7 day course, the foundation collects a fee of Rs.2000/- to Rs.2500/-. This amount is not voluntary but a compulsory fee to participate in the yoga classes. But when the amount is paid, the receipt provided for the payment invariably states that it’s a ‘donation’ and exempted under Section 80 G of the Income Tax Act. The fee for the advanced stage of Yoga classes run into several thousands.
At all the yoga sessions in Chennai and other places, various items such as books of Jaggi Vasudev, audio and video tapes of Jaggi, Jaggi’s pictures, and several items such as pickles, rudraksha malas and other items are being sold by the organisers of Isha. On the sale of all these articles, the receipt provided states that it is a ‘donation’ and not a sale.
Jaggi Vasudev through his disciples has started a new firm, ‘Isha Shoppe’ and sells various items from books to garments. The said Isha Shoppe has 2 outlets in Coimbatore, 3 in Bangalore, one each in Chennai and Salem. The receipts provided in these outlets, also state that the amount paid was a ‘donation’. To cite an example, a drawing containing Jaggi’s footprint costs Rs.1,31,700/- which if bought will be termed as a donation.
Jaggi Vasudev has built several cottages inside his ashram in Coimbatore which are of star hotel quality and accommodates foreign disciples, these cottages are rented out at exorbitant rates. As already established, the receipts provided here also claim the amount to be a donation.
Apart from selling Yoga, Jaggi Vasudev is running the following firms through his disciples.
- Trishul Shelters Private Limited, W.Complex, No.260, Avarampalayam Road, Coimbatore 641044.
- Uzhavan Agro Solutions Private Limited, No.38/1, Kasthuribai Street, Kugalur Post, Gobi Taluk, Erode. TN 638 316
- Isha Naturo Organic Solutions Private Limited, 17, Govindasamy Naidu Layout, Singanallur, Coimbatore 641 005
- Isha Arogya Private Limited, 17, Govindasamy Naidu Layout, Singanallur, Coimbatore 641 005.
- Isha Foods and Spices Private Limited, No.20, 9th Street, Tatabad, Coimbatore 641012 ‘
- Isha Institute of Inner Sciences, Vellingiri Foothills, Semmedu Post, Coimbatore 641 114.
- Trishul Foundations Private Limited, W.Complex, No.260, Avarampalayam Road, Coimbatore 641044
- Isha Crafts Private Limited, No.17, Govindasamy Naidu Layout, Singanallur, Coimbatore 641 005.
- Isha Beauty Products & Wellness Private Limited, Khasra 504, Next to NDMC Girls School, Rajokri, New Delhi 110 038
- Isha Capital Private Limited, No.15, 1st Floor, Govindasamy Naidu Layout, Singanallur, Coimbatore 641 005.
- Isha Life Fitness System Private Limited, No.17, Govindasamy Naidu Layout, Singanallur, Coimbatore 641 005.
- Isha Naturo Organic Solutions Private Limited, No.17, Govindasamy Naidu Layout, Singanallur, Coimbatore 641 005.
- Isha Business Private Limited, No.17, Govindasamy Naidu Layout, Singanallur, Coimbatore 641 005.
- Isha Arogya Private Limited, No.17, Govindasamy Naidu Layout, Singanallur, Coimbatore 641 005.
- Isha Life Research Foundation, No.17, Govindasamy Naidu Layout, Singanallur, Coimbatore 641 005.
- Krishi Land Farms Private Limited, Osho Drive, Gadaipur, Mehruli, New Delhi 110 030.
Further, I would like to bring to your notice that, any charitable organisations which are availing exempted under Section 80 G, should not indulge in any business and if they do so, according to Section 80 G (5) (i)
(a) the institution or fund maintains separate books of account in respect of such business;
(b) the donations made to the institution or fund are not used by it, directly or indirectly, for the purposes of such business; and
(c) the institution or fund issues to a person making the donation a certificate to the effect that it maintains separate books of account in respect of such business and that the donations received by it will not be used, directly or indirectly, for the purposes of such business;
As listed above, the Isha Foundation is involved in 16 businesses in various fields. It is suspected that the funds collected through the sale of various items, yoga classes and Shivaratri events are being funnelled into the above businesses to evade tax and multiply the investments.
That apart, Section 80 G (5) (iii) specifies that “the institution or fund is not expressed to be for the benefit of any particular religious community or caste”.
The Isha Foundation is a Hindu organisation. Worship of Lord Shiva, a Hindu god is being propagated by Isha Foundation’s leader Jaggi Vasudev. He had erected a huge statue of Lord Shiva in his ashram at Vellingiri, Coimbatore.
Every year during the Maha Shivaratri, a Hindu festival, Jaggi used to bring together several important people and conduct an event at Coimbatore. This clearly shows, the exemption granted for ‘charity purposes’ is being misused for religious purposes.
On the night of 13 February 2018, Mahashivaratri festival was celebrated by Jaggi Vasudev. The entry fee for the event was Rs.500/- Rs.1000/-, Rs.5000/-, Rs.20,000/- and Rs.50,000/-. On a rough assessment, around 5 lakh people participated in the event.
The entire amount collected towards this event, which runs into several crores have been accounted for as donation and not as entry fee”
The activist who doesn’t wish to be named told this writer “I know, given the clout of Jaggi Vasudev, there may not be any action on my complaint. But as a citizen, it is my duty to expose the illegal activities of a fake godman and the loss he is causing to the exchequer. I know, Jaggi Vasudev can haunt me if he knows my identity and try to bully, just like he ensured the arrest of Coimbatore based activist Shiva and Piyush Manush. But, some one has to take up the cudgel”, said the activist.
He also added that if there is no action on the part of tax authorities, he won’t hesitate to move the Madras High Court for appropriate orders.
With the Madras High Court sleeping over four PILs against Isha Foundation for more than 6 years, it is doubtful that even if a new PIL is filed, it would see the light of the day.
Keep watching this column for any developments in this regard.