I was surprised to hear about the Pandit uprising in a town where peace resonates at the corpus of operation. I’ve heard stories of various situations that have rubbed members of Maharishi University of Management (MUM), Vedic City, and the surrounding Fairfield the wrong way in years past. But alas, I wasn’t here to experience these realities.
The uprising, on the other hand, was the start of my day during the second block of my MUM education. The reports on the details of the situation — the uprising — were rather shocking as I read about them in the Student Life press release that I’ve included below. The release lacks the details about the Pandits’ life, however, that I was able to glean from the local prime time news report that I include below the press release. I did find it odd that the city of Des Moines was more transparently informed in further depth than the student body at the university — the press release seeming to marginalize the incident — requiring students to attend an on campus Q/A session with the university’s administration; keeping students informed on a need-to-know basis. Compare for yourself.
Early yesterday morning, March 11, a Vedic Pandit who was part of the group on the Iowa Vedic Pandit campus in Jefferson County, Iowa, in operation since 2007, was being escorted off the premises with the assistance of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office to be returned to India for internal disciplinary reasons.
A large group of this Pandit’s friends were apparently upset at this decision by the Pandit administration and attempted to block his transport. An altercation then occurred with local law enforcement officials, which we understand included the throwing of rocks and damage to a vehicle. No persons were injured and the peace was quickly restored.
No similar incidents or violence have occurred in the seven-year history of this program, where over 2,600 Pandits have come to Iowa to participate in this unprecedented cultural exchange approved by the governmental authorities which involves the Pandits engaging full time in daily group meditation and Vedic performances.
Pandits normally come for two to three year tours and return to India, and often then after an Indian leave return to the Iowa facility for an additional tour. The Pandits, aged 20 to 40 years old, have all gone through rigorous training over 10-15 years in these traditional practices with the affiliated organization in India before coming to Iowa for this program.
A very harmonious meeting was held with the entire Pandit group immediately after the incident to discuss what transpired. An internal review of the situation is being conducted with an aim to avoid any such repeat incidents in the future. We understand no criminal charges are being pressed as a consequence of the incident.
For any further information, please contact Bill Goldstein, the representative of the sponsoring organization, Global Country of World Peace, 641-919-7899.
NOTE: If any students, staff, or faculty have any further questions about this incident, please come to the Student Lounge in the Argiro Student Center tomorrow, Thursday, at 3:15. John Revolinski, one of the Pandit campus administrators, and Bill Goldstein will be there to answer questions.
When I discovered the Pandits’ compensation was a mere $200.00 USD monthly, and that $150.00 USD (75%) was in escrow for potential transfer to their families in India, I was shocked. I’m not sure what one does with $12.50 USD per week, because that’s more of an hourly wage here in the United States of America.
But on a more subtle level it’s not a far cry from “Sweatshop” contexts we witness around the world, fundamental mathematics suggesting this instance a rate of $1.78 per diem. SNAP! To pour salt in the already gaping wound, notice the words in the university press release “Pandits engaging full time in daily group meditation and Vedic performances.” From a full time standpoint we’d perhaps estimate performance and ritual consumeing eight(8) hours per diem, fiscally quantified at a wage of $0.22 USD hourly — less than a parking meter. Even if compensation wasn’t garnished, it still wouldn’t breach $1.00 USD per hour — for a two(2) to three(3) year term.
I understand that the goals and objectives of the Pandits are highly spiritual as they enliven the unverse with the ancient sounds of the Veda. It’s for this reason that I feel their compensation should be perhaps greater than the compensation of the campus faculty.
Then consider the fact they — the Pandits — aren’t allowed to leave the “compound” without an escort, nor are they allowed to hold their own visas / passports. Reminds me of the movie “12 Years a Slave” though hardly compareable to slavery. While the Pandit escorts seem a logical safety precaution for all parties involved, the collection of circumstances on the whole beg obvious questions in respect to the oversight of the program’s operation.
Moreover, a lack of transparency in respect to the alleged offense(s) commited by the Pandit being detained. People are not property. America isn’t perfect, but there are some core values — truths — that we at least claim to hold even if we fall short.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Considering the nature of the situation, I find authorities a tinge lucky. If someone started pilfering my family members I doubt rock throwing or glass breaking would even make my list of recourses. In wake, authorities become victims of the Global Country for World Peace (GCWP) / Maharishi University of Management (MUM) / Transcendental Meditation (TM) careless human experimentation … just as the Pandits, students, faculty, local citizens, and nearly about anyone or anything in proximity.