Child Abuse Rife In India. But Who Would Speak Out?
Posted by Barry Pittard on April 13, 2007
It is impossible for many of the Indian students and former students of Sathya Sai Baba’s colleges and university, and others to come forward with their accounts, which are innumerable from around the world of his decades of sexual abuse of boys and young men.
Their parents, relatives and friends are – very often – Sai Baba devotees who worship Sai Baba as God, and are unlikely to believe them, or, in other cases, concoct rationalizations for why Sai Baba would do such a thing. The victims have nowhere to turn, unless to persons such as David Bailey, who was a music teacher at Sai Baba’s Institute of Higher Learning), or Terry Gallagher who, after considerable investigation resigned as head of the Sathya Sai Organization in Australia. They, like even myself once, as a lecturer in a Sai Baba college, had a ‘privileged’ seat on Sai Baba’s veranda. Various Indian and western former students and others who have had close ties with Sai Baba also get in touch with those such as Robert Priddy and me, owing to our high profile in investigating Sai Baba and his movement, and ensuring that information reaches the world more widely. It is essential that their accounts be kept highly secure, such as lodgement in the vaults of a bank. Many may never wish to witness in for example a class action lawsuit but if ever they should so wish the option is there.
A former staff member who contacted me told of how, when he raised disturbing questions with other staff members, he was tipped off by one of his teaching colleagues that his life was now in danger. The Germans Jens and Gurprit Sethi were similarly tipped off and fled from Puttaparthi. They informed their embasssy in Delhi and the German police, and returned to their country for good. If students were to withdraw from their studies, they would lose their education, career and marriage prospects.
In India a great many marriages are arranged, and marriage is in many ways a complex family alliance. Some of Sai Baba’s former Indian students, including those with personal accounts of his sexual abuse of them, have told me that the shame and stigma attached to having been abused by Sai Baba thwarts the type of action former devotees have initiated in the West.
India is a country where survival is often a fight, if not in everyone’s case for food and shelter , at least to achieve and maintain tenuous social position. The abuser is a world-famous religious teacher, in a country with thousands of years’ tradition of intense guru worship and extreme idolising of notable public figures. Sai Baba’s power and influence in virtually all sectors of Indian society is so great as almost to defy the imagination.Discussion of various forms of sexual abuse, such as rape, incest and molestation, is strictly tabooed in India.
A common Indian perception is that only if one has a great deal of money and power, with the ability to use them corruptly, is there a chance of getting one’s story out and acted upon. But even here, who would wish to break the taboo?
Barry Pittard. Email: bpittard AT optusnet.com.au
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