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If he seeks to explain or clarify something connected with the testimony of a gurukula veteran, he may be perceived to be defending himself, and therefore not appropriately remorseful.
Who will investigate the culpability of the Child Protection Office in the assault on Dhanurdhara Maharaja?
Many of them have been in the dark for so long that they are thoroughly discouraged and disgusted.
from Dhira Govinda dasa
ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection
P.O. Box 1438
Alachua, Florida 32616-1438
Dear Maharajas and Prabhus,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I have received a lot of comments recently on the situation of the case of Dhanurdhara Maharaja, prompted by the incident last month in Mayapur when Maharaja was assaulted by a gurukula veteran. Therefore I am sending a general letter to many devotees, in the hope of providing relevant information and perhaps clarifying misconceptions.
The ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection has completed a lengthy phase of the investigation into the case of alleged child abuse against Dhanurdhara Maharaja. Many people have been interviewed, and many testimonies have been obtained. The file on this case is very large (The three small notebook files I delivered to Dhanurdhara Maharaja in Mayapur are not even five percent of the entire file). However, this is not the end of the investigation.
Now, Dhanurdhara Maharaja, and/or his chosen representative(s) have a full opportunity to respond to anything in the file in any way they choose. For instance, he can obtain statements countering testimonies that were given by alleged victims, he can point out perceived flaws in the interviewing methods or the investigative process, he can explain where and why he feels allegations have been distorted or exaggerated, etc. After Dhanurdhara Maharaja has had full opportunity to respond, then the entire case file, including his responses and additions, will go to a panel of arbiters who will resolve the case.
It is important to note that the current case file does not contain only statements and interviews that are unfavorable to Dhanurdhara Maharaja. All testimonies that we have received, many of which are favorable towards Dhanurdhara Maharaja, have been included in the case file. Still, he has full opportunity to contest anything that is in the file before it goes to the adjudicatory panel.
I realize that this process itself puts Dhanurdhara Maharaja in an awkward position, and I've spoken with him several times about this point. If he seeks to explain or clarify something connected with a testimony of a gurukula veteran, he may be perceived to be defending himself, and therefore not appropriately remorseful. Another option is for him to simply make no response, at the risk of having statements about him that he perceives as false, or at least very much distorted, passed on as truth. I think this is one of the reasons that several months ago he asked Sadhusangananda Prabhu to be his representative in these matters.
I want to emphasize that anyone who wants to present any materials to the adjudicatory panel may do so. For instance, I've recently seen letters supporting Dhanurdhara Maharaja, and expressing distress at the way his case has been handled, from devotees such as Brajajana Prabhu, Raghunatha Prabhu, and Vraja Kisore Prabhu. If these devotees want, these letters can be included in the case file for the panel members to consider.
Regarding the panel, I don't regard it as an adjudicatory panel as much as a truth and reconciliation committee. That is, I don't think the primary focus should be on guilt or innocence, but rather on resolving the situation in a way that is as satisfying as possible to as many parties as possible, with all persons being heard and respected. The pain of the disciples and aspiring disciples of Dhanurdhara Maharaja must be considered and weighed heavily, as must the hurt of the many gurukula veterans and their parents. Dhanurdhara Maharaja must be held accountable for his actions, and simultaneously mitigating factors such as the atmosphere in ISKCON towards education at the time, the pressures of running a school without organizational support, and the culpability of others must be considered. Panel members must consider Dhanurdhara Maharaja's abilities as an effective preacher who can bring many souls to Srila Prabhupada's movement, and they must also be sensitive to the feelings of gurukula veterans who suffered abuse and mistreatment as children. There are many factors to balance in this endeavor, and we want to hear from all concerned persons.
The panel is comprised of Bhaktitirtha Maharaja, Sesa Prabhu, Laksmimoni Prabhu, Kalakantha Prabhu, Bhusaya Prabhu, Yasoda Prabhu, and Dhira Govinda dasa. From my first conversation with Dhanurdhara Maharaja about this case, in June 1998, he expressed that he felt that two of the panel members are biased against him. The ISKCON Child Protection Task Force Report, which provides the guidelines for the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection, outlines procedures for appealing a panel member. Recently, Dhanurdhara Maharaja has officially appealed two panel members, and this appeal will be processed in accord with the Task Force Report.
One of the devotees that have been appealed has already resigned from the panel, so only one appeal will be processed. From my first conversations (and email correspondences) with Dhanurdhara Maharaja and Sadhusangananda Prabhu, I've been offering that they could propose a panel member, or even two, of their choice, and the Child Protection Office would seriously consider placing these devotee(s) on the panel. Dhanurdhara Maharaja has declined to suggest additional panel members, stating that he's not interested to select someone "in his favor," but merely desires that the panel members are unbiased. I respect this approach, and the one remaining appeal will be processed shortly.
For the past nine months or so I've been reading lots of documentation on this case, dating back many years. It is clear that the case has been mishandled, and that Dhanurdhara Maharaja has been one of the victims of this mismanagement. I see no particular individuals at fault for this situation; ISKCON was simply not set up to deal with the matter. The ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection opened on April 1, 1998, and the investigation into the case of Dhanurdhara Maharaja began around July, 1998. We have often heard that the case has been investigated for 12 years, so it's absurd to spend more time on this investigation. What we found, however, is that there has not been a formal investigation mostly just rumours, gossip, undocumented third hand reports, etc. Considering the scope of the investigation dozens of alleged victims and other witnesses in every part of the planet an eight-month investigation is not a very long time. Still, I apologize for the delays. Now, the case has been given to Dhanurdhara Maharaja and his representative (as soon as we receive an address where to send the files), and he can take the time he needs to respond.
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