Call For Media and Government Investigation

of Sathya Sai Baba And his worldwide cult, the Sathya Sai Organization

A Top Indian Editor Vir Sanghvi Fails Research Test

Posted by Barry Pittard on February 25, 2007

Recently, one of India’s top editors, Vir Sanghvi of the Hindustan Times, has written against Sathya Sai Baba:,00300001.htm

Vir Sanghvi’s article lacks argument

Now that foreign newspapers have run researched articles on Sai Baba, it will get easier for superficial writers in India to come out of their foxholes, after long years of hiding in them, and poke glib tongues out at India’s flailing top guru, who has recently come under siege in India for dangerously irresponsible political comments of a sort that he has long avoided making.

Unlike the BBC, Times of London, Telegraph, Guardian and other leading media in the world who have investigated the claims of networked former devotees and our compelling documentation, Vir Sanghvi has failed to consult with those best  able to evidence the sheer extent of the allegations against Sai Baba. For reasons of security and because of the painful sensitivity for many witnesses, a great bulk of these cannot be accessed to the public – e.g., via the Internet. With the occasional honorable exception like India Today and to some degree Khushwant Singh, the Indian media has been notoriously silent about any news adverse to Sai Baba or his Sathya Sai Baba Organization.

Is Vir Sanghvi simply posturing?

Does he want to be first at the scene of Sai Baba’s considerable demise? Is it that he realizes that each successive wave of critical press from outside India given to Sai Baba, increasingly lands heavy blows to that guru’s power and influence? Certainly, it has great potential to embarrass India before the world as not having resolved crucial  elements in its growth towards being a more mature democracy, and to reveal the almost unimaginable rampancy of superstition and guru-grovelling among its power echelons. 

Over time, news about Sai Baba that is suppressed in India but breaking elsewhere in leading foreign newspapers will get back to India, especially given the huge Indian diaspora. From both devotee and former devotee complaints, it appears that Vir Sanghvi refuses to listen to the representations of either side. He blithely writes and runs, it would appear.  He weighed in with a largely subjective piece, intellectually very slack. Does that not harm serious readers’ chances for understanding a topic so sensitive and serious? At least in this regard Sai Baba’s former world head, Indulal Shah, and present deputy world head and director of Sai Global Harmony Sai Baba’s far-penetrating, global radio venture, Dr G. Venkataraman, are in a way right – but not in the way they so wildly and sweepingly generalize. Yes, media sensationalism does exist. We all know that. Sanghvi has failed the research and analysis test badly.

Vir Sanghvi and Indian media colleagues need to research

Why do not Sanghvi and other Indian editors write something rigorously researched on Sai Baba and any of the myriad of allegations facing him? That is to say like Paul Lewis in The Guardian or Dominic Kennedy and his team at The Times of London or Mick Brown in the The Daily Telegraph or Michelle Goldberg for, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation or The West Australian (whose excellently conducted research by Torrance Mendez was pulled at the last moment), and other top journalists in several countries for whom we have been glad to provide access to witnesses, including many primary ones. To be sure, in major world media, no matter what its strengths in ethical and other standards, there are often limitations of real comprehension of the breadth, depth and subtlety of issues, and errors proliferate that there is no time or further occasion to correct. We all have to live with that melacholy fact. The BBC researched intensively for over seven months and others for periods varying from months to weeks. Our work in assisting them was – frequently daily – very demanding, so we can attest that their inputs were, too. We have globally coordinated for well-reputed media, serious academic and other investigators to:

  • Many males (ranging from young, including ex-students from Sathya Sai education institutions to those in the last part of their lives such as Mark Roche who have at last spoken up, who appeared in the BBC’s ‘The Secret Swami’)  from various countries who allege being sexually abused when they were boys or young men, and in some cases their families. Note: We learnt that ‘The Secret Swami’ investigators found still further cases that were not in our (already considerable!) documentation, although of course, and very rightly, the names were not revealed to us.
  • Very qualified sexual abuse professionals familiar with the personal cases
  • Former Sathya Sai Organization leaders – once in excellent standing in the Sathya Sai Organization – and ALWAYS in their wider communities and professions – who investigated and resigned as a matter of ethical principle
  • Spokespersons from various third party religious and non-religious organizations which can confirm that responsible individuals and families have come to them with accounts of sexual abuse of young males by Sai Baba, and the massive cover-up by his key leaders

On the other hand, Sathya Sai Organization leaders like Indulal Shah (Mumbai), Dr Michael Goldstein (California, USA), Dr G. Venkataraman (Puttaparthi, India), J. Jagadeesan (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) etc., attempt to pass these highly reputed media off as being ‘sensationalist’. More widely, whatever former devotees or other critics who attempt to bring the allegations to light are assailed and defamed on the Internet and elsewhere – sometimes actionably, according to our lawyers in a number of countries. Is there a shred of evidence that the Sathya Sai Organization has made any attempt to advise its devotees against associating themselves from these shameful attacks on the Internet? But how could this be done without grand hypocrisy? Some of the attacks on the known integrity of former devotees, in particular, have come from Dr G. Venkataraman, deputy world chairman of the Sathya Sai Organization, and other key leaders such as Ashok Bhagani, Thorbjorn Meyer, Steen Piculell, J. Jagadeesan T. Sri Ramanathan, Leonard Gutter, and others. So much for all their talk about truth, love and compassion! History will not do other than judge them harshly indeed. All except an extreme smallest few former devotees have refused to respond to the incredible nastiness. Sai Baba and the core leaders of his organization, as is typical of cultic behaviour, are monoliths hiding from the rest of the world. He is indeed, as the BBC have termed him, ‘the secret swami’.

The resigned ex-leaders and others who have attempted to get Sathya Sai Organization to be accountable and to show duty-of-care have been, one after the other, demonized, from Sai Baba right down the chain. This reveals the extraordinary cultic grip he exercises, and shows the acute need in all our education systems to effectively teach bold critical thinking.

 Cults Erode Values of Freedom and Tolerance

Does human society really need to wait – before making impartial investigations – for repeated disasters due to cultic following of charismatic leaders, especially those who operate on such as vast international scale as Sai Baba, arguably Indian history’s most powerful and influential guru? In the whole matter of cults, is it not better to investigate the danger signals and widespread allegations, and bring accountability and rescue where they are so sorely needed? The cardinal values of freedom of opinion and cultural tolerance are too readily used by authorities as a pretext for not addressing the problems of cultism. But these powerful cults themselves undermine those very values.

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One Response to “A Top Indian Editor Vir Sanghvi Fails Research Test”

  1. Prashant Luthra said

    vir Sanghvi is a branded professional journalist. he is not at all bothered about the truth. he is a sick man for whom we should pray together. please tell that foolish man that he should go to prashanthi nilayam and see himself who is baba. sanghvi is a drawingroom journalist and nothing more than that.

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