Girls 'raped at Hare Krishna schools'
By Ben Fenton
London Telegraph, 14 June 2000

CHILDREN at schools run by the Hare Krishna movement were raped, placed in cupboards crawling with rats and forced to eat maggot-infested food, a court was told yesterday.

In a $400 million (L266 million) damages suit brought by 44 former pupils of 11 boarding schools in America, lawyers claimed that girls aged 12 or 13 were "given" or "promised" to older male members of the movement. The commission of even trivial "sins" identified by the cult's teachers could result in a child as young as six being put into a dustbin with the lid closed for two or three days, the plaintiffs' complaint said.

The court in Dallas, Texas, heard that children were routinely forced to rise at 4am, trudge through snow and rain with little clothing and subjected to strict discipline. At one of the schools, known as gurukulas, children were shut in a cupboard infested with rats and at another a young child was made to sleep alone in the loft of a cold barn.

Pupils at the schools would sometimes be sent to massage and bathe the gurus who often lived among them and afterwards had to drink the "blessed" water in which the men had been sitting. The Hare Krishna movement, which operates under the title International Society for Krishna Consciousness, has been running schools in America since 1966 and widespread abuses were first reported to its leadership almost immediately, the suit alleges.

Far from taking action, lawyers for the former pupils claim, the society's leaders gave teaching jobs to sexual predators and provided young girls from the schools to older men who gave large donations to the society. A spokesman for the society said outside the court that the movement apologised if some of the events detailed in the complaint had occurred in their schools.

But he described the amount being claimed in damages as "excessive".

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