A US bankruptcy court has ordered the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) to pay $9.5 million (nearly Rs 42 crore) to about 450 alleged victims of sexual, physical and emotional abuse at its boarding schools in the US and India.
The abuses relate to the 1970s and the ’80s and have been the subject of a long drawn litigation by a group of former students. Some of them have alleged rape, while others have catalogued physical and emotional abuse. The allegations had led to the closure of the US ‘gurukulas’ by the mid-1980s.
The settlement, handed down on Monday by a California federal bankruptcy court, comes two years after 92 former students of the Hare Krishna organisation slapped a $400 million lawsuit in Texas on ISKCON. An earlier federal suit filed by them had been dismissed.
Each of the 450 victims will receive compensation ranging from $2,500 to $50,000, depending on the nature of the abuse, its severity and the time factor. Distribution of the funds will begin later this year and will be completed by 2011.
Not long after the lawsuit was filed in Texas, ISKCON filed for bankruptcy to protect its assets and to prevent closure of its numerous temples and other facilities across the US. At the same time, ISKCON apologised for the abuses at its centres.
Under the settlement, a reorganisation plan allows the group’s Hare Krishna temples in California and West Virginia to remain open.
The suit by the former students was directed at ISKCON’s boarding schools in California, Texas and West Virginia, and some ‘gurukulas’ in India.
“It is heartbreaking that many of our children were abused. On behalf of our entire society, I apologise to these young people. I pray that someday they will be able to forgive us. And, I pray that today’s agreement will help them heal and move forward in their lives,” ISKCON spokesman Anuttama Dasa said.
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