Dear Devotees and Friends of New Vrindaban, Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
On Friday, June 19, many devotees attended the memorial service for Venkatachalapati prabhu, a beloved member of the New Vrindaban community. As GBC representative for New Vrindaban, I would like to officially report the latest information regarding the events leading up to his death.
Although an earlier report speculated that his death was an accident, several things have made it clear that Venkata took his life by drowning. One is that he was found holding his personal deity of Lord Nrsimhadeva. Another is that a handwritten suicide note was later found in his office. Finally, we learned that Venkata had personally pre-arranged a sraddha ceremony (puja for a departed soul) to be offered in Vrindavan, India, in his legal name on the day he drowned.
We also have some indication of why he may have committed this grave act. Approximately one week before his passing, ISKCON New Vrindaban received an email from a family that Venkata had been cultivating alleging that Venkata had had an inappropriate exchange with their daughter, a teenage girl, over the phone. The family was concerned and wanted to bring the problem to the attention of the New Vrindaban authorities, primarily so that Venkata could be helped.
That email was reported to Jaya Krsna das, the temple president. He asked Malati dasi (ACBSP)—who has been trained by the ISKCON Child Protection Office—to interview Venkata personally, and the mother of the girl on the phone.
As an organization, ISKCON takes child protection very seriously. Thus, upon receiving Malati’s preliminary report, Jaya Krsna informed the New Vrindaban internal legal committee and the ISKCON North American Child Protection Office (CPO). Malati also contacted Radha dasi, a Family Law attorney, who confirmed that the incident met the criteria for mandatory reporting. Thus, as ordained by law, the case was reported to West Virginia authorities.
Per mandatory CPO protocol, Venkata was info