London: Britain’s first state-funded Hindu school has hit yet another obstacle with the spiritual head of the school’s affairs accused of using corporal punishment against children. The president of the Bhaktivedanta Manor in Watford — the biggest International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) temple in Britain — Gauri Dasa is believed to have hit children when he was teaching at an ashram in India.
Leading the campaign against Dasa is another Hindu group called the Hindu Human Rights. “We have received e-mails for a while now, expressing concerns about allegations that Gauri Dasa used to beat children,” said Arjun Malik, spokesman for HHR. “Parents will obviously not feel safe sending their children to a school where such a man is involved,” he added.
Corporal punishment in schools was banned in British school in the 1970s and since then teachers who hit children can find themselves in court. Gauri Dasa defended himself arguing that “corporal punishment was part of the disciplinary plans of ISKCON in the 1970s and ’80s in schools in India and the US.”
“It was stopped over a decade ago. We run a very successful school as part of the Bhaktivedanta temple,” said Dasa.
“None of the allegations against Gauri Dasa have been proven, but ISKCON has a poor reputation when it come to the child-abuse lawsuits filed in the US,” said Jay Dilip Lakhani, coordinator of Vivekananda Centre.
Harrow Council in Middlesex, which has one of the largest Hindu populations in the country, has received £9.8 million from the government to build the first Hindu school. Hindu charity I-Foundation is setting up the school for the Council is waiting for permission before it begins building the primary school on five and half acres of playing fields in Edgware in 2008.
This too has come under fire with locals in the area vowing to stop construction because it would mean the loss of pitches used by amateur football club Belmont FC. They have formed the William Ellis Action Group and have asked Sir Trevor Brooking, the Football Association chief and England football legend for support. The Action Group also argues that traffic congestion, pollution and noise will all lead to a fall in the value of houses in the area.
Nitish Gor, director of I-Foundation argued that the opposition was simply racist. “There have been paedophilia charges against the Roman Catholic Church as well, but that doesn’t mean the entire institution must be boycotted,” added Gor.