I have blogged before on “The Selling of Meherabad”, here, here and here, but this post supersedes previous posts. This story is not going away, despite countless Baba lovers having buried their heads in sand regarding it. This is a complex story, but I will try to be as concise and cogent as possible. No doubt much more information will come to light in time, but these are the basic facts.
About two years ago, a property of 3.75 acres at Lower Meherabad owned by the late Dadi Kerawala was given by his heirs to Gary Kleiner to monetize as Gary had placed a deposit on the land years before. Evidently, Dadi requested that this be done just before he died, although the property in question had not been paid for and had appreciated fantastically since the original agreement. The disposition of the property presented a problem as Kleiner is not an Indian citizen. An arrangement was made whereby the land was deeded directly into an Indian buyer’s name, and with Kleiner surreptitiously getting his cut. Ramesh Jangle was the dealmaker in this transaction. This property sold for a rumored $1,000,000.
Kleiner had been clandestinely investing in Meherabad properties for years when he was in service to Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust, with Jangle as his Indian partner and front man. Others have been part of their investment schemes, including Craig Ruff. Both Ramesh Jangle and Craig Ruff are currently Trustees of the Trust, although they may not have been Trustees when these investment properties were acquired. This point is murky because as much as 60- 70 acres of land are reportedly held by Jangle and his proxies, and we don’t know the details of these transactions, i.e. when they were procured, how they were procured, where the money came from and how many other investors are involved. The Dadi parcel was sold to a Jain developer who is planning to subdivide the property into approximately 80 lots, and perhaps serve as the contractor in building condos on them. This development will be adjacent to the old Pilgrim Centre on one side, and the historic Meherabad cremation grounds and Baba’s Flour Mill on the other side. The land in question was part of historic Meherabad, and the sale of the land and wall now enclosing it blocks access to a road that local villagers have used for well over a hundred years.
Why did the Trust allow this transaction to go down? This is an excellent question. Why did Dadi’s heirs not broker a deal that sold the land to the Trust for a fair price and which justly compensated Kleiner? Why did the Trust not object to the termination of an historic right of the villagers to access an ancient road (that at one time went all the way to Ahmednagar)? Above all, with respect to all the parties, why countenance the degradation of Lower Meherabad with condo squalor?
In fact, one account has it that Dadi originally procured this land with the understanding that he would deed it to the Trust when they were in a position to compensate him for it! So, what happened? This looks like a titanic fuck-up on the part of the Kerawalas, the Trust, Ramesh Jangle and Gary Kleiner. Obviously, this is all about spectacular greed and stupidity corrupting the better judgement of everyone involved. It is important to grok the fact that the Trust could have prevented this transaction, but chose not to.
This is not the only transaction that Kleiner has been involved in. He also acted as Jack Small’s agent in the sale of his property east of Lower Meherabad. Now, this may seem inconsequential on the face of it, but several illegal actions are implied: 1) He must arrange for the transfer of the property to a buyer who on paper will pay a fraction of the actual sale amount (so as to avoid taxes); 2) The transaction in rupees must be converted into dollars on the black market for it to be remitted to the US and avoid a paper trail; 3) Couriers need to be solicited to convey the cash in amounts not greater than $10,000 to circumvent currency restrictions imposed by US Customs. There may be additional US and Indian laws that are broken in such transactions. Jack Small’s property reportedly sold for $500,000, half of which went to Kleiner.
Reports state that Kleiner is conducting his illegal real estate transactions from his office at Meherabad where he has a continuing business interest in partnership with Alan Wagner to provide food service to the Meher Pilgrim Retreat. Also, it is rumored that this business concern provides the cover for him to solicit pilgrims to serve as couriers to remit his proceeds to the US. Evidently, the couriers get a free round trip plane ticket out of the deal. There are also reports of astonishing vulgarity with which this business is conducted, i.e. interminable phone calls throughout the night at high volume which have necessitated pilgrims to lodge elsewhere; “holding court” in the MPR dining hall, etc.
Remember that Kleiner has as much as 60-70 acres of land in a silent partnership with Ramesh Jangle that, at current market valuation, is worth anywhere from $150,000 to $300,000 or more per acre. Also, keep in mind that the Trustees and many of the Meherabad residents are perfectly aware that Kleiner and Jangle, and perhaps Ruff and others, are involved in these transactions. How could this be countenanced? Why has the AMBPPCT not put a stop to such venal and predatory speculation?
Well, the Trust itself is compromised: at least two of its Trustees are involved to a greater or lesser degree. Thus, Kleiner and Jangle have carte blanche to conduct a real estate business that is not only illegal but severely obnoxious to the integrity of Meherabad and the sacred trust Baba has reposed in his lovers. And then there is evidently another reason: if there were to be an official police or government investigation into land transactions at Meherabad, it is possible that some past transactions involving foreigners would be determined to be illegal, potentially affecting a great many Meherabad residents. According to this view, the Trust is reluctant to force the issue as the Meherabad status quo might be threatened by taking action against Kleiner and Jangle.
In conclusion, it should be noted that Kleiner has been quoted as saying, “I am no longer a Baba lover”, and “What did Meher Baba ever do for me?” Also, Jangle is reportedly a member of the Hindu arch nationalist political party, Shiv Sena, presumably in an effort to develop a power base in his community. And the Trust; what about the Trust? The Trust has clearly become a paper tiger that many have come to disrespect and even hold in contempt.
Eruch Jessawala, in his last days when he came to hear of Kleiner’s speculation in Meherabad real estate, said, “Gary, I am very disappointed in you.”
Finally, I should pointedly state that the present discussion has little or nothing to do with the Kalchuris, who I may have implied in previous remarks were implicated in suspect real estate transactions. But, to my knowledge, nothing on their part remotely compares to the “selling of Meherabad.”