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Facebook critics of India's 'god-woman' face investigation

Former devotee of the 'hugging saint' alleges abuse and fraud

  • ucanews.com reporter, Thiruvananthapuram
  • India
  • February 21, 2014
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Police in Kerala have registered criminal cases against unidentified Facebook account holders, who posted allegedly "derogatory" remarks against Mata Amritanandamai Devi, popularly known as India's 'hugging saint.'

Devi, who has a global following, is based in the Karunangapally area of Kerala's Kollam district.

The police move came after they received a complaint from a devotee of the so-called “god-woman” yesterday, claiming a "character assassination" of the 60-year old Devi, police officer Jaya Shankar told ucanews.com.

The officer said they have registered a case in Karunangapally police station and an investigation is progressing.

A senior police official in the state capital Thiruvannathapuram said his men have been monitoring Facebook posts for the last week after discussions began over the 2013 memoir Holy Hell: A Memoir of Faith, Devotion and Pure Madness, written by Australian author Gail Tredwell, a former 20-year devotee of Devi.

The book claims Tredwell ran away from Devi's Ashram after enduring years of sexual abuse while serving as personal assistant to the revered saint.

The police official, who asked not to be named, said Facebook was flooded with comments after portions of the electronic version of the book began appearing on Facebook and other social networking sites and started heated debates.

Tredwell told ucanews.com that she was not aware of the police case and was in no way involved in the Facebook posts.

“I’ve written the book based on my experiences and it was published in November 2013," she said, adding that she was with Devi from January 1979 when the god-woman was just starting her movement, until 1999, when Devi was established as an Indian guru.

"I’ve written the book not for any personal gain or to become a tool in the hands of her baiters. I was sharing what I experienced there,” Tredwell said. The book alleges a senior follower’s sexual involvement with Devi, and how he continually abused Tredwell for years.

Devi, unmarried and a school dropout from a fishing community on the coast of the Arabian sea, built up her billion dollar spiritual empire over the course of 33 years. With a global following, she has addressed a UN peace summit and runs hospitals, schools and charity projects.

Among the book’s most controversial allegations made by Tredwell include her rape by the most trusted and powerful disciple of Devi, the smuggling of gold to India and the misuse of donations to the ashram.

Paul Zacharia, a Malayalam author, told ucanews.com that he had read the book six months back, before it was published.

“It’s a frank admission of what she had suffered in the spiritual industry. It talks about the truth the author experienced. If I’d written such a book, I would have been butchered. Now she is far away from the mad world, which crown humans as saints,” Zacharia told ucanews.com.

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