'Disruptive' campaigner banned from temple

Watford, UK - The father of a student beaten by the former president of a local temple has been banned from its grounds for a campaign against its leaders and policy.

Mahavidya Das, formally Michael Powel, was yesterday ordered to stay away from Bhaktivedanta Manor in Letchmore Heath, for reasons including causing disruption at temple services, “approaching local newspapers to publish negative articles about Bhaktivedanta Manor and its devotees” and his allegations of corruption.

A statement issued by the Temple Council said: “Powell has been asked to leave the temple and not return after an incident last week when he disrupted a wedding at the temple. He shouted at the conducting priest and argued with the brother of the bride, upsetting the bride and their family. The temple considers that such behaviour is not acceptable and has been forced to notify Powell not be allowed to come to the temple until he gives written assurances that we will not cause any future disturbances in the temple.”

Mr Powell denied any such behaviour and instead accused the temple of attempting to silence his concerns with the way it is run.

Last year, former president of the temple, Gauri Das, was found guilty of inflicting “inappropriate and excessive corporal punishment” at a school in India and banned from a position of leadership at the temple for three years.

Mr Powell says this promise of a ban has not been kept, pointing to Gauri Das' speech at a recent planning hearing and his continued paid work on temple projects.

He said: “I'd like to know what I have done wrong. I haven't beaten children, I have simply asked questions. Questions they do not wish people to hear the answers to.”

He also claimed there were double standards regarding the temple's criticism of him approaching the press, and informing the RSPCA of the student abuse case during a high-profile campaign against the killing of temple cow Gangotri.

He said: “They want all the newspapers and publicity to run stories saying “they've murdered our cow” but when it's something negative they try to ban all press.”

Mr Powell, still a devoted Hare Krishna follower, also criticised the way weddings are conducted at the temple, alleging they were intended as a profit making venture and contrary to the teachings of Hare Krishna founder Swami Prabhupada.

The Temple Council said not one of Mr Powell's campaigns, including reporting a breach of charity commission laws, was successful in its aims. It denied Gauri Das was still working in a position of leadership and has defended the weddings as a right for people to get married in accordance with their faith.

It added that the letter banning Mr Powell was “a letter we never wanted to write” and invited him back if he stopped his campaigns and protests.

In January, plans for a summer marquee at the temple were refused following residents' concerns with noise from weddings in previous years. The matter has since been taken to a government inspector on appeal.