A woman, whose name is being withheld for privacy, tried to commit mass-suicide with her parents and sisters. However, her attempt failed and she washed ashore. A few fishermen, who chanced upon the unconscious woman, sexually assaulted her, reported The Hindu.
The entire family is said to have been evicted from their home in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, a Yoga spiritual community in Pondicherry, India on 18 December. Rather than facing humiliation and criticism at the hands of society, the family decided to end their lives. While two of her sisters and her mother drowned, the father and three of his daughters washed ashore unconscious but alive at different locations.
Background from Wikipedia:
In 2004, one of five sisters who had been asked to leave the ashram owing to "gross misconduct" filed charges against various members. These charges were dismissed by a retired deputy secretary to the local government, who found the accusations "false".
Subsequently the same persons made similar charges to the National Human Rights Commission of India, which found the complaint "baseless", and the National Commission for Women, which described the allegations as "false", noting that there "appeared to be malicious planning behind the complaints".
In 2012 the complainants were again ordered by the Madras High Court to leave the ashram, but refused. In 2013 the Union Minister for Women and Child Welfare, Krishna Tirath, communicated complaints from residents of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram to the Chief Minister of Pondicherry, N. Rangaswamy, and the Madras High Court "appointed a retired judge of the Kerala high court to probe the allegations of sexual harassment and misappropriation of funds at the Ashram".
The retired judge, and his successor, took evidence from various participants, and also received complaints from "some 165 people from Odisha stated to be ashram devotees" but with no connection with the ashram itself. As of August 2014 no successor has been appointed.
The administrators of the ashram have maintained throughout that the various complaints were "false and ill motivated". The Supreme Court of India ordered the eviction of the five sisters, who were evicted as per its orders from the Ashram on Dec 18th.
According to the Kalapet police, who have registered the complaint of the woman, two fishermen allegedly assaulted her as she was lying unconscious on the beach. Acting swiftly, the police have even arrested two men in connection with the alleged attack. Mr. N Ravikumar, the Superintendent of Police, confirmed that the two suspects have admitted raping the girl and are being held in police custody pending further judicial procedure, reported the Daily Mail.
The Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, which runs the ashram, has expressed shock and dismay at the unfortunate incident. Describing the mass-suicide as a “heartbreaking” incident, the ashram has shared that it will soon start the procedure of securing another home for the sisters that survived the suicide attempt. In their official statement, the ashram has said,
“The ashram has constantly attempted to resolve the issue with sisters, offered to find them a place outside the ashram or give financial support, for their stay, as fixed by the high court. Even today the ashram continues to extend support to help sisters find suitable place to stay in any government run accommodation. It is a moment of profound sadness for us and we reach out to everyone who feels the loss”
Founded in 1926, the ashram’s followers have to strictly abide by the rules related to sex, drugs and alcohol. Though the ashram hasn’t been forthcoming about the specific reason that caused the eviction of the entire family, it was the Supreme Court of India that had issued the directive. The family was evicted from the ashram under police escort following a Supreme Court order after one of the sisters reportedly violated one of their rules.
Ashrams are generally highly regarded as spiritual institutions. But, as we saw in Australia, and elsewhere in India, the pursuits of the leaders may be more fleshly than spiritual.
Pondicherry, now called Puducherry, was a French settlement for nearly 300 years until 1954. The city is n the state of Puducherry in southeast India.