Government & Local Opposition

_Opposition to the new city keeps pace with its success. Responding to the anti-cult fervor which pervades all levels of American society during the Reagan years, local, state and federal politicians make inflammatory speeches against the Rajneeshees. At least four US government agencies are harassing the commune with unwarranted and fruitless investigations.

INS Commissioner Charles Nelson acknowledges subsequently to the media that there had been ‘a lot of interest’ in the investigation from both the Oregon Senators, the ‘White House and the Justice Department’. And there were many ‘opinions, mostly like “This is a problem, and we need to do something about it”‘. US Attorney Charles Turner also later acknowledges, ‘We were using the legal process to solve … a political problem.’

The Governor of Oregon, Vic Atiyeh, states in 1982 that ‘since their neighbours did not like them, [the sannyasins] should leave Oregon’. A commune representative responds: ‘All you have to do is insert the word Negro or Jew or Catholic …  and you understand how that statement sounds.’

The State of Oregon also sets out to destroy Rajneeshpuram. It challenges the validity of the city in court. While the law suit is pending, government services to the City are suspended. The state government eventually loses the law suit and the city of Rajneeshpuram is found to be legal, but by that time the US government has managed to deport Osho, and the city is abandoned as the residents leave to follow him. Charles Turner, at his press conference, says, ‘The deportation was effective because it caused the destruction of the entire movement.’

James T. Richardson, a US specialist in the legal regulation of religion, reports that ‘this plethora of legal action shows the immense power of governmental entities to deal effectively with unpopular religious groups’.

The local Antelope ranchers are also hostile. From the moment Osho arrives, a Christian anti-cult organisation starts distributing negative publicity about the newcomers, including untrue and inflammatory reports from the yellow press in India. A county road runs through the centre of the ranch, and some locals take to driving down it brandishing rifles and shooting into the road signs. Their trucks carry bumper stickers showing Osho’s face or his Rolls Royce in the cross-hairs of a rifle, and slogans like ‘Better Dead Than Red’ (the sannyasins all wear red clothing). Anti-Rajneeshpuram meetings are held in nearby towns, and the atmosphere becomes tense. The sannyasins form an official city ‘Peace Force’, and its officers are trained and armed with weapons.

In July, Osho starts speaking publicly again in the huge two-acre hall ‘Rajneesh Mandir’.

At around this time he meets Hasya, the former wife of the producer of The Godfather, who arrives from Hollywood with a group of friends. She is to become his new secretary.

Some weeks later, his current secretary Ma Anand Sheela and members of her team responsible for managing the huge commune suddenly leave. And a whole pattern of illegal acts they have committed – including wiretapping and attempted murder – is exposed by a few people who had secretly worked with them.

As he learns of this from his new secretary, Osho publicly exposes the facts and invites law enforcement officials to investigate Sheela’s crimes. The authorities, however, finally see their opportunity to destroy the commune entirely and force Osho out of the country. 

Their very expensive four-year long investigation against Osho has revealed nothing. But they now see the possibility to put pressure on some of the people Osho has exposed, hoping to turn them against him. They persuade Sheela to hand over to them all the tapes made when she secretly bugged Osho’s room.

But nothing comes of this – in the end, both US Attorney Turner and Attorney General Frohnmeyer publicly acknowledge that ‘they had little evidence of [Osho] being involved in any of the criminal activities that unfolded at the ranch’.

So  the authorities eventually settle for a sealed indictment accusing Osho of conspiring to commit immigration fraud by encouraging his sannyasins to marry illegally to obtain green cards. This despite the fact that Osho has been in silence during the alleged period, and that it is well known he does not encourage marriage.

Osho’s attorneys get wind of the indictment and offer to surrender him, but the government authorities refuse. They have orchestrated a plan to invade Rajneeshpuram with over 300 armed officers and helicopter gunships, to arrest Osho for these technical immigration violations. It is to be  a foreplay for Waco, where a commune was destroyed and many people killed by a similar raid by agents from the very same government agencies.

Fortunately, Osho senses the trouble brewing, and leaves for Charlotte, North Carolina.



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