Vivekanandani ashram, located in the outskirts of Middletown, is a sprawling Hindu temple complex, built in the early 1900s, that now houses over 100,000 people.
Its popularity among young Hindu devotees, and its proximity to the city of Detroit, have earned it the nickname “Sabarmat’s most popular ashram.”
A recent report by the Detroit Free Press detailed the financial and political influence that the ashram has had over the city, noting that it is often referred to as a “gateway to the outside world.”
As a result, it has drawn the ire of the Detroit police, who have accused the ashrams of engaging in “anti-social activities” and “pandering to a community of immigrants.”
Sabarmat, however, maintains that the city is unfairly accusing it of crimes because the facility is a “home” for many members of the community.
“Sabarmati is the home of people of color, young men of color,” the ashrama’s founder and president, Vishnu Narayan, told the Free Press.
“It’s an institution that is the gateway to the world.”
The ashrama, which has been operating in the same location for nearly 50 years, has hosted several Hindu festivals, including a summer festival for those with HIV and AIDS in August 2018.
According to its website, the ashlam is “an international community-based spiritual community dedicated to yoga, meditation, prayer, music, dance, music therapy, meditation retreats, and self-realization.”
Despite the many benefits that the Ashram provides its members, the organization also faced controversy when it was recently raided by police in January.
On Jan. 14, authorities were investigating a possible case of theft, and when they came across the ashlar’s ashram room, they seized the entire contents of it, including “a computer, printer, and laptop.”
After a few hours of deliberation, the court ruled that the charges against the ashlavers were unfounded, saying that the property was being used as a residence for “persons of concern.”
Police officials later said that the investigation was “a clear case of illegal search and seizure.”
In a press release, the police department said that while the ashlimaans property “was not the subject of any criminal investigation,” the case would be forwarded to the Detroit Police Department’s internal affairs unit, who would “conduct a thorough investigation.”
Sabarama Srinivasan, a spokesperson for the Detroit Fire Department, told HuffPost that the police investigation was the first he had heard of it.
“We have been working with the police for some time to resolve this matter and to provide any assistance that we can,” he said.
“At this time, the department does not have any additional information.”
The police department’s actions came as no surprise to the director of the Ashrama Srinivasa Temple, which is located on the grounds of Sabarmathi, who told HuffPost he was “surprised” by the raid.
“There was no investigation,” he told HuffPost.
“No search warrant was ever executed, and they took everything.”
Sriniva said he did not know if the police would pursue criminal charges against anyone associated with the ashlor.
“This is a big shame for the community,” he added.
“I was just shocked that there was no proper investigation.”
The director of Sabarami Srinivena Temple, a community center for the homeless, also expressed shock at the raid, saying, “I am not happy with the way this has been handled.”
“We are a large community center, and we are a home for people who have HIV and cancer,” he explained.
“To come to a place like this where they take everything and turn it into a crime is not good for us.”
Sarnan said that although the police raid was justified, he hoped that the community would learn from the experience and “do better.”
“What happens at the ashrar is not an isolated incident,” he continued.
“Every day that happens at a community ashram creates a culture of violence and hate, where people don’t feel safe.
I don’t think this needs to happen.”