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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 18:19 GMT
Krishnas to file for bankruptcy
A spokesman for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) has confirmed that several of the movement's US temples are to file for bankruptcy later in February to avoid legal action which they say could close them down.

A suit for $400m has been filed in Texas State Court by alleged victims of abuse in the temples' schools in the 1970s and '80s, saying they suffered rape, sexual abuse, physical torture and emotional terror.

The amount being requested is so far beyond any realistic amount

ISKCON spokesman
Anuttama Dasa, ISKCON communications director, told BBC News Online that legal costs for fighting the suit could bankrupt the movement anyway even if it wins the case.

However, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which gives companies breathing space for reorganisation, would allow the movement to continue to compensate victims, he said.

ISKCON, better known as the Hare Krishna movement, has admitted to some cases of abuse, and says it has tried to respond.

Mr Dasa said it was "working with and beyond the government", spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on grants to people who had been abused and on measures to prevent future abuse.

Movement at risk

He added that those who had chosen instead to sue wanted an amount so unrealistic that ISKCON felt unable to settle out of court.

Thousands of westerners joined Hare Krishna in the peace and love era
"The amount that [Dallas attorney] Windle Turley is requesting is so far beyond any realistic amount [so] that there is no scope for discussion," he said.

"Legal fees [in the US] are just out of control."

Lawyers would not just go after the temples being targeted but their affiliates as well, he said, potentially bringing down the entire movement.

He added that current temple-goers who had nothing to do with the abuse now risked having their temples shut down because of deviant behaviour in the past.

Boarding school culture

The movement's founder, AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, brought his form of Hindu devotionalism to America in the 1960s, at the height of the love and peace era and rejection of the war in Vietnam.

Children forced to sleep in unheated rooms
Forced to walk great distances in cold without coats or shoes
Deprived of medical care for malaria, hepatitis and broken bones
Scrubbed with steel wool until they bled

Moved to schools in different states without parental consent
Thousands of westerners joined Hare Krishna, donning the trademark saffron and orange robes, chanting mantras and collecting donations on the streets.

Prabhupada said children should be sent to boarding schools at the age of five so they could learn to be pure devotees, freeing parents to sell devotional books and do other jobs.

By the end of the 1970s, 11 schools, known as gurukulas or houses of the guru, were operating in North America with several more around the world. Most closed down in the 1980s.

See also:

23 May 01 | Business
House of Fraser offends Hare Krishna
13 Jun 00 | Americas
Krishnas face huge abuse claim
29 Nov 98 | South Asia
Krishna devotee ties the knot
05 Apr 98 | S/W Asia
Robot gods at temple
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