Indian Media’s Reticence on Top Guru, Sathya Sai Baba, Weakens
Posted by Barry Pittard on January 15, 2007
Breaking decades of virtual Indian media silence on comment critical of Sathya Sai Baba, a number of major Indian news organizations have run (mostly November 22, 2006) the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) report on Paul Lewis’s article in The Guardian, ‘The Indian living god, the paedophilia claims and the Duke of Edinburgh awards’: http://tinyurl.com/wokpf . Several times attempting to draw comment from the Awards representative, Shona Taylor, the IANS met with the same evasions from the Palace authorities as investigators like Paul Lewis: http://tinyurl.com/y2vd6v
One hears that many Indian editors and broadcasters are not Sai Baba devotees or even admirers but fear to rock the ‘boats’ of political patronage and advertizing revenues. A notable exception to Indian media censorship of serious criticism of Sai Baba has been the 10-page cover story, India Today, December 4, 2000: http://tinyurl.com/y4ysqo . Sai Baba devotee attempts to suppress critical news about their guru are not confined to India. In Canada, with its huge Indian diaspora, a Can West newspaper, the Ottawa Citizen, researched a story about allegations against Sai Baba but it was toned down, and a staffer related privately that the newspaper chief, including legal counsel, had been holed up lengthily placating a Sai devotee multi-millionaire advertiser. Former Indian Air Chief Marshal N.C. Suri, went the rounds in the UK attempting to stop media stories inimical to Sai Baba. The senior head of the Sathya Sai Organization in Europe, Thorbjørn Meyer, threatened legal action against the Director of Denmark’s national broadcaster DR, Christian Nissen, who also refused to bend and screened ‘Seduced’ (2001). The then head of the Australian Sathya Sai Organization, T. Sri Ramanathan, threatened – in vain – to sue SBS, Australia’s multi-cultural national broadcaster, which also proceeded with the screening of its in-English version, retitled ‘Seduced by Sai Baba’ (2004): http://tinyurl.com/y2m9a8 .
The one-hour BBC documentary The Secret Swami (2004) has sorely troubled Sai Baba’s international organization, as its the deputy world chairman, Dr. G. Venkataraman, has admitted. Typical of its interfaces with bona fide investigators, our international group was open and cooperative. Sai Baba’s leaders are the opposite. For example, they cast the BBC out of Puttaparthi the moment the producer, Eamon Hardy, raised normal questions about the worldwide allegations against Sai Baba. The Sathya Sai Organization has recruitment drives, often in super deluxe venues, but commonly, cultishly, acts as though it has no responsibility to respond to questions from the media that any democratic public would wish to be answered truthfully:
http://tinyurl.com/unrme . The evasions by his leaders were so serious and repeated that the BBC’s legal advisors sanctioned the use of a secret camera trained on Dr Michael Goldstein, Sai Baba’s world leader, whose rudeness,
arrogance and Soviet-style cover-up have now been seen by millions in scores of countries. These qualities showed too in Dr Murali Manohar Joshi, then a minister in the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his fellow staunch Sai Baba devotee. When she asked perfectly valid questions of him, Manohar Joshi grossly bullied the BBC interviewer Tanya Datta. David Savill, the assistant producer, told me that the BBC unearthed more individuals with serious accounts of sexual molestation of young
males by Sathya Sai Baba, including Indians, than the many we had been able to provide. The BBC documentary’s focused on sexual abuse allegations from just one family and one other victim (no doubt to personalize the story). This obscured the sheer extent of the allegations, which come from many countries (although a BBC voiceover did briefly mention these).
The transcript is at: http://tinyurl.com/sngkt Video clips are at: http://tinyurl.com/y6cxan
But what Sai Baba’s leaders do not reveal, including to their own ranks, are the genuineness of many individuals and families who have come to them in anguish, and who they have shunned, and in some cases cast right out of the Organization.The ‘Hislop Letters’ are but one of many examples of the cruel process: http://tinyurl.com/u2j6r . Former devotees or other critics who attempt to bring the allegations to light are defamed on the Internet and elsewhere – sometimes actionably, according to our lawyers in different countries. Statements from a US attorney and others at: http://tinyurl.com/yaqsmt indicate how a courageous young man and his parents, who filed a lawsuit against Dr. Goldstein and the directors of Sathya Sai Society of America can be stymied by a powerful, legalistic, unaccountable group. Sai Baba himself and his chain of command have demonized Ex-leaders and other members of the Sathya Sai Organization, once highly respected, who have attempted to call him and his organization to show accountability and duty-of-care. Such is the cultic character of the organization and their shunning of responsibility points to the acute need in all our education systems for strong teaching of critical thinking.
In 2001, a UNESCO Media Advisory appeared, giving notice of its withdrawal from a conference at Sai Baba’s ashram in Puttaparthi, citing their concerns about allegations against the guru: http://tinyurl.com/yxok9u . Late in 2003, the then Foreign Minister in the Vajpayee government, Jaswant Sinha, managed to draw abject written renunciation and an apology from UNESCO’s Director. It was as though Sai Baba and India were synonymous. Numerous former devotees from around the world protested to UNESCO. Although it was too late for the UNESCO turn-around to be mentioned in The Secret Swami, the BBC confirmed that UNESCO had: (a) folded to Indian government pressure and (b) had claimed to The West Australian, and former-devotee and third-party enquirers, like the Anglican Primate of Australia’s representative, that the disappearance of the Media Advisory from the Internet was simply a routine system purge. The UNESCO spokeswoman, Sue Williams, told the BBC that UNESCO now stood by the original Media Advisory: http://tinyurl.com/y7j49c
In 2001, UNESCO had to go to the Press Trust of India to get The Times of India to publish the whole of the UNESCO Media Advisory, instead of a watered-down version of it. On November 23, 2001, the US State Department issued a warning about a local guru (unnamed) to US citizens traveling in Andhra Pradesh. In The Secret Swami, the BBC stated that the US State Department had confirmed that Sai Baba was the individual referred to in its warning to US citizens traveling in Andhra Pradesh (The official for current status re Sai Baba at the US State Department is: William Hurst, Overseas Citizens Services & Crisis Management Specialist 202 647 5395 FAX 202 647 3732
Many former devotees love India’s sacred culture. It is a source of regret to them that the call for proper legal and governmental investigation of Sai Baba and his leaders has mostly come from other countries. There are, of course, cases of Indian Rationalists and Humanists who have tackled Sai Baba and his cult. Sadly, the famous ‘guru buster’ B. Premanand has had to face attempts on his life; his son’s murder; and detractors have attempted to distort Premanand’s findings regarding the police killings in Sai Baba’s bedroom on June 6, 1993, about which he has written a book, ‘Murders in Sai Baba’s Bedroom’, Publ., B. Premanand. 11/7 Chettipalayam Road, Podnadur. 641 023 Tamil Nadu, India. See, http://tinyurl.com/y92c4o . In 1986, a case B. Premanand brought in the Andhra Pradesh High Court shows a close Sai Baba devotee judge’s violation of India’s secular legal system. Judge Y.V.Anjaneyulu pronounced,
“An article or ornament materialized from air in a split second by the use of spiritual powers or otherwise cannot be said to be made, manufactured, prepared or processed within the meaning of section 11 of the Gold Control Act.”
Another example of how a kangaroo court with Sai Baba-oriented judges undermined attempts by a famous Indian attorney to bring him to heel may be seen at: http://tinyurl.com/ydhmzd
India is a rising superpower. How, then, can Indian governments – so often led by Sai Baba devotees – win world respect unless they address problems of endemic corruption that disgust many Indians themselves as well as close observers worldwide? To stand for truth and integrity, they would need to call for intelligent, unbiased investigation of Sai Baba, arguably the most powerful guru figure in India’s history, and his hand-picked leaders who profoundly cover up for him. Investigation would reveal the incredible irrationality seen in countless high-profile Sai devotee Indian leaders in all walks of life. Most of his devotees accept his word that he is a “full avatar,” that is, a full embodiment of God (all gods and goddesses rolled into one); the “Father” who sent Jesus Christ, Muhammad, and all the other great saviors; completely omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. He has categorically stated that he holds the Universe in the palm of his hand and is the creator and mover of all worlds (see Conversations with Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba (conversations recorded between 1968 and 1990), by Dr. John Hislop, revised edition (undated), Sri Sathya Sai Books and Publications Trust, Prasanthi Nilayam, India, pages 36, 73-4, 144). He drew many followers with his demonstrations of so-called miracles (manifesting objects and sacred ash out of thin air) but in recent years his manifestations have been shown on video, to be faked. In the witness of many, he has carelessly drop palmed objects and been caught concealing under cushions, etc., objects about to ‘materialized’. Some intractable phenomena would need to be scientifically investigated, which Sai Baba is against. Many in India (where the present writer lived for several years) do not approve of the way gurus are worshipped as gods and demigods. Although noting the good social works Sai Baba’s followers often do, many Indians strongly disapprove of the pomp and dazzling splendor he spends millions in creating all around him.
Barry Pittard (Former lecturer at a leading Sai Baba college). Email: email@example.com
For Online Viewing and/or Dowloading
- Sleight Of Hand. The Sleightness of Sathya Sai Baba (Exposing film clips)
- Right Hand. Sleight Hand. Watch Sai Baba Cheat With Sacred Ash (Film clip)
- Censored Indian National Television Film of Sai Baba Cheating
- Sai Baba Cultists’ Gull Wider Communities
- BBC Cameras Catch Sai Baba Cheating With Gold Sivalingam. (Film Clip)
- Sathya Sai Baba Chief, Dr Goldstein, Explodes. “I am the consummate professional” (See Film Clips)
- The BBC’s ‘The Secret Swami’ (Sai Baba). Revealing Footage
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