ASKED TO TARGET GANDHI PARTY; ROBERT MENDICK CHIEF REPORTER
30 November 2007
The Evening Standard
(c) 2007 Associated Newspapers. All rights reserved
of a former cult leader are accused today of infiltrating a star-studded
event organised by Lord Attenborough to celebrate the 25th anniversary of
his Oscar-winning movie Gandhi.
passed to the Evening Standard reveal how supporters of the Maharaji are
being urged to use the charity fundraiser to spread their leader's message
to wealthy guests.
Attenborough will give a speech at the event, held at the British Academy of
Film and Television Academy headquarters in Piccadilly tomorrow. Ben
Kingsley, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Gandhi, will attend along
with senior diplomats from the Indian, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi High
Commissions and celebrities.
the Maharaji are being asked to pay £250 for tickets for the event to spread
their leader's message. The Indian-born Maharaji - real name Prem Rawat -
has donated £10,000 to Lord Attenborough's Gandhi Foundation for the right
to address the audience before a screening of the film, followed by a
champagne reception and dinner. The money will go to help the poor in India.
An email to
the Maharaji's supporters, obtained by the Evening Standard, states: 'This
is a unique event because it will be attended by a VIP audience of
diplomats, politicians, celebrities and very influential and wealthy
business people who will be exposed to M's message for the first time.
perhaps one of the most influential groups of people ever to gather to hear
M's message in the UK and possibly the West.
'This is a
unique opportunity to attend an event as ambassadors for TPRF [The Prem
Rawat Foundation] and M.'
The email was
sent by City accountant Roland Klepzig, who is also a trustee of Elan Vital,
a charity set up to promote Mr Rawat's teachings. He refused to comment on
Foundation, of which Lord Attenborough is patron, said today it was not
aware of the allegations that Mr Rawat is a former cult leader. He now
enjoys a life of great wealth in California.
read the contents of the email, Omar Hayat, one of the Gandhi Foundation's
trustees and organiser of Saturday's event, replied: 'Gosh. That's news to
Mr Rawat, 49,
formerly known as the Guru Maharaj Ji, enjoyed huge support in the Seventies
and Eighties as spiritual leader of The Divine Light Mission, an alleged
religious cult which set up communes across the world. His disciples are
said to have referred to him as the Lord of the Universe and considered him
a descendant of God. He has since established TPRF and the Elan Vital
of the Cult Information Centre, said: 'These are groups about which we are
concerned. We have received complaints over the years.' Former disgruntled
followers of Mr Rawat accuse him of getting rich on their donations, a claim
branded ludicrous by current supporters.
James Shaw, a
spokesman for Elan Vital, pointed out his organisation had received
charitable status and was governed by Charity Commission laws. 'The fact is
we are not a cult and we do not behave in cult-like ways,' he said.