Ma Anand Sheela - Rajneesh's Secretary - Mass Poisoning and Murder Plots

Mass Poisoning and Murder Plots

Faced with a growing array of legal, legislative and personal challenges, Sheela's tactics became increasingly desperate, gradually morphing into criminal behavior. She conspired to cause a food poisoning epidemic by infecting local restaurant salad bars with salmonella, which sickened around 750 people; Sheela's aim was to prevent the locals from voting in the county council elections. Senior leaders of the Rajneesh organisation pursued an option to employ agents to induce sickness in the townspeople such that they would be unable to vote during the elections. It was the first act of mass bioterrorism in the history of the United States. About twelve followers of Rajneesh were involved in the attempts to manufacture and utilise biological agents against citizens in Oregon.

Sheela met with the senior Rajneeshee leadership, where she and another senior member named Puja discussed "bacteria and other methods to make people ill". According to the mayor of Rajneeshpuram, KD, Sheela stated "she had talked with the Bhagwan about the plot to decrease voter turn out in The Dalles by making people sick. Sheela said that Bhagwan commented that it was best not to hurt people, but if a few died not to worry." KD was short for Swami Krishna Deva, the organisation's internal name; the mayor's real name was David Berry Knapp. Ma Anand Puja was a nurse who was a trusted assistant to Sheela; Puja did not spend significant time with other members of the Rajneesh organisation. Puja's real name was Dianne Yvonne Onang. Sheela and Ma Anand Puja discussed using other biological agents including Salmonella typhi, which causes typhoid fever, before settling on Salmonella typhimurium. Sheela and Puja rejected Salmonella typhi as the biological agent of choice because they thought that an outbreak of typhoid fever would bring too much unwanted attention to their efforts. They obtained the salmonella from the American Type Culture Collection.

Subsequent to Sheela's fleeing Rajneeshpuram, other officials within the organization characterized the location where the biological agents were developed as a "germ warfare" laboratory. With other senior leaders of the Rajneesh organisation, Sheela was directly involved with incidents where they sprinkled salmonella on to surfaces frequented by citizens in The Dalles. After Ma Anand Puja had succeeded in contaminating salad bars with salmonella agent, Sheela congratulated her, "Pujy (referring to Puja), you've done a good job making everyone sick. Too bad you didn't make more people sick." Due to poor relations between Rajneesh followers and the surrounding community and disagreements over land zoning issues, local citizens suspected that they had been deliberately poisoned. Ten salad bars in The Dalles, Oregon were contaminated with salmonella biological agents by followers of Rajneesh.

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