For some reason there are no earlier images available about this area then 2001, and then again just in 2008, so the state of Halkhoria during these gap years can only be assessed by comparing the images of 2001 with earliest ones in 2008. Even so, it is easily seen that until Ram Bomjon first great public appearance in 2008 (which had attended by the current international “Sangha’s” chief, Andrea Good – Jyampa Dolma) the forest, lakes and riverbeds were relatively intact.
(1) The destruction of Halkhoria Jungle, (2) reducing and drying out of Devaha Lake and the smaller Halkhoria Lake East from it, (3) the desertification of the immediate riverbed of their settlement and (4) tree-cutting around the paths and forest roads connecting Bomjon’s compound with the East-West Highway and Ratanpuri, (5) the depletion of the forest around the concrete villa of Bomjon, (6) and the gradual drying up of the drinking water spring – all this is apparent only after Bomjon had invited there the crowds of residents and visitors, as it is seen on the below images.
To avoid any accusations of manipulation (for example with the size of lakes) I am always comparing a set of images from exactly the same altitude, where the only variable is the time the images had been taken from the satellites. For those not familiar with Halkhoria and the nature of satellite photos, the white color is not water but mainly sand in dry temporary riverbeds (filled with water only during the monsoon season, May till about September), and the deepness of water in lakes is indicated with darker colors, while blackish is a deep water, and blue-green is less deep.
This image of the riverbed in front of Ram Bomjon’s settlement is from 2001, when Ram Bomjon was still not occupying Halkhoria. Look at the lush forest, so dense that the earth is invisible under the trees! Attention: villagers had been already living in the area, and using the jungles for its natural resources, yet there is no visible damage!
This is the same distance from the air, how it looked after Ram Bomjon had moved to Halkhoria to “meditate” in 2007. Images are not available from 2007. But he started to invited there crowds or residents and visitors mainly later, in 2008. The change is dramatic:both sides of the riverbed are depleted of trees (many trees had been used to build his numerous huts and houses, as well as poles for his 13 km long barbed-wire fence!), and many ways had been created in the jungle and riverbed for daily commuting on motorbikes and tractors to and from his compound.
His 2008 November blessing program further depleted the jungle in his vicinity, trees disappear in large patches around his meditation place, for residents to build houses (left, Western bank of the river) as well as on the Eastern bank, which is connecting his compound with the path to Ratanpuri (his former meditation place). Crowds and vehicles are stampeding the grassy jungle paths, buses, jeeps and tractors arrive. For such big vehicles to fit into jungle pathways, many trees had to be cut along the roads. The riverbed was not always suitable for vehicles (rain, too much sand caused them stuck).
This image from 2010, when Bomjon was already established in Halkhoria, shows the new buildings his Sangha had constructed. He was so paranoid, permanently afraid of “enemies”, that he needed “guards”, surrounding himself with tens of strong men and young lamas. in fact he used these men to attack innocent people. These “guards” needed to eat, sleep and make laundry…Everyone can see how naked the land became due to the construction activity of Ram Bomjon’s settlement an how many unnatural roads had been cut into the land by the Bomjon’s 2 tractors and the heavy jeeps of his devotees. The formerly lush dense forest opposite his settlement, on the Eastern bank, is practically totally depleted. One must watch other parts of this jungle to see compare and see the significance of such a dramatic change though.
In 2012, after he kidnapped, tortured with violence and sexual abuse two women, he was asked to leave the jungle. Police had erased his buildings. This state (without Bomjon) can be viewed on this image. The jungle could have rapidly regenerated, if a local court did not grant Bomjon the right to return to Halkhoria and continue with his destruction in summer 2014.
The gradual reduction and drying of Devdaha Lake:
This photo from April 14, 2008, when Ram Bomjon was still not surrounded by his guards and groups of residents, having just a few members of his family and a nun Palchen-Mo (Bishnu) with him, shows a lake in black color, indicating really deep water. Similarly black (deep) is the smaller Halkhoria Lake to the right of it (East). The meditation tree of Bomjon can be seen above the “Google Earth” writing in the right bottom corner. Its area is already cleared for the visitors.
Just two years after his stay, in March 19, 2010, the Lake became reduced in its size and the deep water disappeared, leaving just patches of swamp in its place, with high grass (brown color) and even other plants (bush, young trees) growing in to it. A clearly visible white road had been created directing to Bomjon’s meditation site, so its purpose is very easy to guess…Later on such “jungle roads” would be created to adjust for tractors arriving to the small lake, where his concrete villa would be constructed during 2011.
Due to his extensive violence against two women and villagers, practiced from 2007 and culminating in 2012, the authorities advised Bomjon to leave Halkhoria. He did in summer 2012. The compound stayed intact, and occasionally guarded and maintained by his followers, local Tamang lamas (memes). This is an image taken not long after Bomjon and his entourage left Halkhoria. The photo is from October 20, 2012, about 3-4 months after Bomjon’s leave. The size of Devdaha Lake further reduced and ingrown with bush, while the smaller lake near Bomjon’s Kajogpa (villa) entirely dried out, after hijacked by his Sangha to use for construction and satisfying the needs of tens of workers and residents during 2011 and 2012. The new building of concrete is seen clearly. Though the police bulldozed down his other office houses (to the East, the settlement along the riverbed, not seen here),they did not have equipment to erase a 3-floor concrete villa. We can see much used forest roads and paths, leading from the villa, which might have led to similar secret places of tortures like the the jungle “hides” of the two captive women held by Bomjon in 2012. Interestingly the previously cleared and sandy area around his “meditation Banyan tree” had started to be ingrown with vegetation, which is a sign of regeneration.
The state of Bomjon’s compound did not change much after he left. This image is from February 19, 2013. The pathways and roads inside the jungle started to be used by Ratanpuri and other villagers to cross to distant jungle rivers for fishing, or to pick Niuro Saak, known to grow in swampy areas. Yet the few villagers who come and go, do not reside in the jungle, so they do not do any significant damage to the ecosystem.
RATANPURI GUMPA – FIRST MEDITATION SITE
The damage of the Ratanpuri forest after Bomjon arrived there
In this state did Bomjon leave the area in 2012, while still installing a few lamas to look after his Ratanpuri buildings, shown here. In 2011 there had been already these two concrete building standing, further trees cut and land stampeded by the residents. Toilets and washing places had further dirtied the jungle.
HALKHORIA’S SMALL LAKE
The drying up of the smaller lake near Bomjon’s meditation Banyan tree:
This earliest available image from April 14, 2008 of the Lake of Halkhoriya (not the Devdaha Lake, but a smaller lake near Ram Bomjon’s meditation place and the spring water) shows deep water present (black color on satellite images), with nearly intact forest around. The settlement of the Sangha (followers) still is not built, its later place is covered with trees. Until this time there had been just a modest wooden shelters of Bomjon’s sisters and brothers, who were looking after him here. This idyllic situation had dramatically started to degenerate after his first crowded public appearance, attracting buses, jeeps, motorbikes and tractors to bring thousands of attendants, including Andrea Good of the current foreign Sangha, in November 2008… The Sangha started to build concrete houses and bring a generator, to accommodate the needs of politician visitors, foreigners and khnepo Gyurme.
On this image from March 19, 2010 the lake of Halkhoriya is till having some water in it. According to the conversation of khenpo Sonam Gyurme with Bomjon in 2011, there had been fish and even crocodiles living here. The dry patch North of this lake is the drinking water spring, and North-East from already seen the houses of the followers and guards of Bomjon, with trees depleted around them. The spring, actually a smaller forest river, would dry up in 2011, due to the water-usage by the hundreds of crowds regularly staying over, dozens of permanent residents and thousands of visitors of “Buddha Boy”.
In 2011 the khenpo Gyurme, the so called “committees” and J.S. Waiba decided to finance the construction of a 3-floor concrete villa (Kajogpa) for Ram Bomjon, at the Halkhoriya Lake. Bomjon’s own tractors were bringing stones, wood, cement and other building materials many times daily, disturbing the peace of wildlife and destroying vegetation on their way. This image from October 2012 is the situation in which Bomjon left Halkhoria (at the pressure of locals, after he transformed this jungle into a place to hold kidnapped people, torture them and sexually abuse women. About 50-100 followers and workers had the need to stay over, eat, make laundry and wash themselves, and use the water for construction, during 2011. The compound of Bomjon had been entirely destroyed, many trees visibly cut and the lake’s and spring’s water both dried up to the end of 2011. The lake in 2012 was a tiny mud only, bubbling and smelling, its bottom filled with construction rubble. You cannot see the houses of Bomjon’s settlement anymore: they were bulldozed down by the police, after Bomjon had to leave this Government Forest, as they were illegal. The bulldozer but was unable to erase the 3-floor Kajogpa.
Where had all the tigers gone? (The radical pseudo-ecology of Ram Bomjon’s cult)
About Ram Bomjon’s controversy: