The Heehs imbroglio has brought about a division among the devotees/followers of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo along a clearly drawn line. The hostile The Lives of Sri Aurobindo is not the only irritant now. Larger issues like the management of the Ashram and editing of Sri Aurobindo’s writings etc. have turned this conflict much more complicated. Power relations revolving around academic irreverence and religious subservience has played havoc with the life and emotions of a whole lot of people.
The so called “dignified silence” of the Heehs camp is a huge façade as hired masks go about denigrating the book’s detractors in a systematic manner. They have never attempted to address the grievances and apply correctives. Somehow, their strategy has been to silence these vocal few so that everything turns normal. Such persistent personal attacks against the critics of a book, however, are definitely rare and against the canons of civil conduct.
It is a matter of astonishment for outsiders that both the warring factions belong to the same commune who take their meals in the same dining hall. As inmates of an avowedly spiritual Ashram with lofty ideals like human unity and world peace, it is an irony that they nurse and betray so much of animosity towards each other. The management reacting to the complaints in a queer manner is another teaser in the whole enigma.
Holding on to power is a powerful instinct and any number of justifications can be marshaled to that end. There is no dearth of henchmen swirling the crumbs of office and lend legitimacy. Men of letters, too, roll out their tracts of interpretation validating all those acts others perceive as evil. No accountability and a conspiracy of silence becomes a sure recipe for autocracy.
Any other issue would have been debatable and hence ambivalent with some scope and hope for reconciliation. But this cardinal slur was such an inviolable weapon that Heehs himself has no means to deactivate it. It has already done irreparable damage and Das Gupta’s protection will go down in the history as an instance of gross impropriety.
Many seethe with consternation at this continued hostility and quite uncritically cry a halt. By this, they play into the hands of the Heehs’ hounds who also advocate silence and normalcy. Some others surmise that all criticism is evil and thus fail to empathize with the agony of those fighting against the book and its author. The gravity of the offence, predictably, is yet to sink in at various levels.
So, this is the hard reality after the two tumultuous years. None can condone the quip and parting of ways is inevitable. This unsavory prospect may not be all that unpleasant in the long run as there would be much independence for experimentation in respective spheres. [TNM]