Gujarat: Swaminaryan sect Warring factions hold first meeting with Judge MS Shah

The two warring groups at Akshar Purushottam Swami Haridham Temple in Sokhda in Vadodara met on Thursday to find a compromise in the presence of the retired Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, MS Shah. It comes even as the trust on Wednesday night elevated Premswaroop Swami as the spiritual successor of the late Hariprasad Swami, whose death in July 2021 sparked the dispute.

In Thursday’s meeting, held at the Gujarat High Court Mediation Center, the two groups, one led by Prabodh Swami and the other by Premswaroop Swami, agreed to pursue mediation to reach a compromise regarding the inheritance of the trust. . While the Prabodh Swami Group has submitted its compromise proposal, with conditions, to Judge Shah, the Premswaroop Swami Group has been instructed to do so by May 23.

The controversy, which began for the trust’s presidency following the death of their guru Hariprasad Swami in July 2021, is now key to deciding the future of the trust’s spread of religious activities. With Premswaroop Swami elevated to the rank of spiritual guru of the trust on May 11 – to mark Hariprasad Swami’s birthday – resolving the dispute does not seem easy, however.

A member of the temple, from Premswaroop Swami’s side, said: “The fact is that the Prabodh Swami group wants to split up in order to dominate the heritage of Hariprasad by creating its own sect. They want to divide the assets in order to have their own identity… Obviously the trust cannot allow the legacy of Hariprasad ji to be divided and misused by people who do not want to be associated with Akshar Purushottam Trust , who was trained by Hariprasad Swami. himself.”

According to sources, more than the presidency of the trust, the dispute is for the successor of the spiritual activities. During his lifetime, Hariprasad was the only guru and leader of the faction that broke with the BAPS in the 1960s. While Prabodh Swami was involved in spiritual discourses with Hariprasad Swami, Premswaroop Swami focused on duties administration of the trust.

“He has no experience of spiritual discourses and he cannot, for this reason, be the spiritual leader because devotees and disciples see Prabodh Swami as the spiritual guru… It doesn’t matter who the chairman of the trust is, the spiritual face of trust can only be the person people identify with,” one follower said.

While arguing the habeas corpus petition in Gujarat High Court, Prabodh Swami’s group petitioner had argued that Premswaroop Swami allegedly falsified documents and records to prove that Hariprasad Swami had resigned as President in 2018 and declared Premswaroop Swami as successor and Trustee. The group is now preparing to separately file a legal action to challenge the validity of the claim made by Premswaroop Swami, outside the realm of mediation.

When contacted, barrister Chitrajeet Upadhyaya, who represents the Prabodh Swami Group, said Judge Shah had ordered the proceedings of the mediation to be kept confidential in the best interest. “The parties voluntarily met before Judge Shah to advance compromise in the dispute. We have already submitted our requests, but the other party has not yet made any submissions. The arbitrator asked them to do it before May 23 in order to have the next meeting on May 25. We are trying to ensure that this issue can be resolved in the best interest of the trust,” Upadhyaya said.

However, he declined to comment on the elevation of Premswaroop Swami as the spiritual guru of the Sokhda trust.

Meanwhile, the Prabodh Swami Group is planning a big event on May 22, to mark Hariprasad Swami’s birthday. The Prabodh Swami group had left the premises of Sokhada on April 21, following an instruction from the HC in a habeas corpus petition filed by Pavitra Jani, the personal secretary of Hariprasad Swami, to request the release of the seers who were allegedly held hostage. by the rival group.

The group had sought a ‘joint operation’ of the trust with Premswaroop Swami, as was the original statement from the board following the death of Hariprasad swami.

On April 21, the HC had also ordered Premswaroop Swami, JM Dave and Tyagvallabh Swami to refrain from trying to visit the two premises or make contact with seers and evacuated devotees from Sokhda.

Meanwhile, on April 27, a seer Gunatit Charan Swami is said to have died by suicide at the Sokhda temple premises. However, Vadodara District Police, which recorded a case of accidental death, opened an investigation into the incident as the temple trust had “decided to pass off the suicide as a natural death and did not inform the police”.

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