The Oregonian's recent five-part series on a checkered piece of Oregon's history – the invasion by Indian guru Bhagwhan Shree Rajneesh and his followers – brought back lots of memories for me, some of which had receded with the passage of more than 25 years of time.
Not all good memories mind you. Threats. Poisoning. Dumping homeless persons. Harsh rhetoric.
But, in the end, memories that testify to the staying power of resilient Oregonians and their political leaders who found a way to withstand the challenges of a sect no one understood very well back then, or even now.
I was involved in that period as a staff member in the office of Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh, so my colleagues at CFM suggested that I recount a few of my memories of this episode. With their encouragement, I will do so, prompted, at least in the part, by ground covered by Oregonian reporter Les Zaitz in his series.
- I remember being part of a number of confidential calls between the governor's chief of staff, Gerry Thompson, and Krishna Deva, who became a source of at least partial reason within the Bhagwan's camp. Late into the night, we talked with him about ways to tone down the inflammatory character, comments and confrontation that had festered at the Big Muddy Ranch in Eastern Oregon. In a perverse kind of way, Krishna Deva performed a service by being at least one person authorities could talk to in a relatively reasonable fashion.