Police block drive-in protest against guru

Courier Mail (Australia)/September 4, 2002
By Tony Keim

A former devotee of the Indian guru Mahariji yesterday failed in his bid to use his rented truck to batter his way into a convention west of Ipswich to denounce the spiritual leader.

Neville Ackland, a self-proclaimed "ex-premie" (follower) of "Mahariji" Prem Pal Rawat, was yesterday stopped by police from driving into the Ivory's Rock convention centre to confront the "false guru".

Mr Ackland had been carrying a petition signed by hundreds of followers who claimed they were duped by the leader of the "cult."

"I am one of hundreds of ex-premie of the Mahariji who came to realise he is nothing more than a fraud and fat cat who is living in the lap of luxury at the expense of his followers," Mr Ackland said.

"I am more than a little embarrassed but admit I got sucked in by (him) for many years.

"I realise now, as do many others, that we were in denial for years and years and now realise he is nothing but a fraud."

Mr Ackland's protest went almost unnoticed by the more than 4000 people from 61 countries who attended the centre, 60km west of Brisbane, for yesterday's first address by their spiritual leader during the four-day conference.

The builder claims he handed over about $500,000 in property to Mahariji when he was an impressionable young man a quarter of a century ago.

"It's all about surrender," he said of the Mahariji's teachings. "Unfortunately that includes surrendering your money."

The Mahariji, who has refused to give media interviews for the past 18 years, was yesterday unavailable for comment on Mr Ackland's allegations.

Elan Vital, the company established to organise the Mahariji's spiritual exploits, yesterday issued a written statement claiming Mr Ackland's allegations were "baseless" and were the words of a "disgruntled former employee".

The statement also rejected claims by freelance journalist and former devotee John Macgregor that Mahariji had a secret tax haven in the Channel Islands, owned luxury homes from Brisbane's Fig Tree Pocket to South Africa and flew money out of Australia into Swiss bank accounts.

Followers of the 44-year-old Mahariji have paid $US275 ($A510) to register for this week's conference.

Organiser Cath Carroll said tent accommodation was also on offer at rates raging from $US50-a-day for basic facilities, up to $US1200-a-week for additional services. The conference ends on Friday.

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