Our large group of 27 students waited for the buses to Pondicherry. In our group huddle, our logistics coordinator and local Aurovillian informed us of an incident that occurred in the Aurobindo Ashram located in Pondicherry. Our logistics coordinator told us the passed down version of the story, stating five women were kicked out of the Ashram due to tension between these sisters and the ashrams. It was rumored they all attempted collective suicide where three were “successful” and the others were rescued. There was reported concern about some immediate uprising against the Ashram with people throwing rocks through their windows.
With caution, we ventured into Pondicherry and received more second hand information from an NGO owner who said she had heard the story over the radio. Apparently, a case was taken to court regarding misconduct of one of the five sisters living in the Ashram and after years of cases and appeals, it was ruled in favor of the ashram that the sisters should be evicted. The sisters threatened to commit suicide if they were to be evicted. According to court orders, the police came to evict the sisters and one sister climbed to the roof and threatened to jump to her death. She was talked down and the sisters left the ashram. Following, the sisters and their parents, who lived nearby, collectively walked into the ocean to end their lives. The father and three of the sisters were rescued by fishermen and were sent to the hospital, while the mother and two other sisters died. Through word of mouth and media reports, we gleaned the details of situation.
When visiting a shop later in the day, we spoke with the owner about what had happened and spoke about the bandh where all shops will be closed in Pondicherry the next day, normally a regular day of business. The owner explained that out of respect for the family, the community in Pondicherry would be closing down most businesses for the day. Later, we discussed as a group the situation in Pondicherry and the unrest of the community. The community was upset at the police for evicting the sisters without offering them an alternative living situation. Coming from different regions of the world, our group spoke about the perceived responsibility of the police in such a situation with no easy solution. In the days to come, we hope to hear the remaining family members will be able to find housing and solace in their community of supporters.
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