Two Indias. Barry Pittard Reflects On India Days
Posted by Barry Pittard on October 12, 2008
During the number of years I lived in India, I was able to see across-the-board social uplift work in some of India’s poorest villages. One of my strongest observations was the manner in which, for many years, one outfit refused to accept financial input from abroad. A great emphasis was laid on challenging the consciences of the wider communities. Considering the implications, it was a tough love.
Will The India of Great Ideals Triumph?
There were outstanding inputs by those from different traditional castes and creeds. In an India often torn by communal clashes, key workers were widely respected through various communities.
One of the results might seem counter-intuitive: once programs of reclamation had gained a hold, a number of banks, cooperatives, restaurants and other places, where it had seemed that the poor classes had been forbidden on the grounds of caste, began to open their doors to the once terribly bedraggled people.
Will The Way of the Knife or of the Heart Triumph?
One overseas guest had a near personal miss to life-and-limb, when an extremely militant and highly organized Hindu outfit assumed a foreigner was a Christian missionary. Uncertainty crossed the face of its wielder when he found the foreigner singing a Sri Ganesha bhajan to the village children, very far from any Christian hymn. Social workers on duty that day were Hindu and had just managed to stop the torching of the village by the militants. They came racing to the site where the confused and scowling would-be assailant stood hovering in the doorway, and explained the nature of the foreigner’s presence. The latter afterwards said that, in the upthrust of the moment, the best thing had seemed to be to go on singing a divine song with a full heart, better than trying to use language or to argue with a knife.
Will India As A Superpower Oppress, Like Her Old Imperial Master?
Seeing the quality of the work – in which there were many examples that counter shallow notions of an India in which diverse communities cannot pull together, one felt moved to great hopes for an resurgent India that is belied by images of incredibly uneven and flashy opulence and profound squalor and violence. One saw a sweet idealism fleshed with the sweat of practicality. One could see, especially among the intelligent and energetic young workers, an India that has painfully and slowly worked to throw off her colonial experience under Britain’s lengthy, often secret and sometimes public, brutal and profoundly hypocritical imperial rule. A rule that was far from properly traced in the standard western history books around when I studied history, and which, still further, ignored south India almost as though it did not exist.
It would take much more than one movie such as Sir Richard Attenborough’s ‘Gandhi’ to even begin to set the record straight before the rest of the world. The material wealth of Great Britain today in part still reposes on the wealth built up by the British Empire in countries such as India. At least Australia’s new government of Mr Kevin Rudd has had conscience enough to apologize to the noble and tragically long-suffering original peoples of Australia, on the top of whose cries my fellow Australians of today enjoy our flourishing material life-style. See Australia Says ‘Sorry’. A Lesson For Sai Baba And Followers.
However, like Australia, it is a moot point whether India will go the way of fine international accords but sorely breech them in reality – and realpolitik.
If signs of a widespread popular groundswell against institutionalized corruption are any indication, India has the potentiality to become a great force for international good. There is no doubting that she has begun to take on the dimensions of a future global superpower. (See my select articles cited below. A longer list is found in Sathya Sai Baba and India in-depth study
Many Volunteer Organization Do Great Work
This work among the poor was not linked with the Sathya Sai Organization, although the same ideals of service inspire many who have joined Sathya Sai Baba’s global organization. Indeed that, too, I was able to observe at close quarters, as I traveled to a number of States of India.
Those who pay tribute to the social uplift work conducted by many Sathya Sai Baba followers are right to do so, and most assuredly number former devotees, many of whom gave notable and dedicated service when they, over many decades, were a part of the international Sathya Sai Organization. This work should proceed.
However, given the highly unaccountable nature of the organized Sathya Sai Baba cult, the very worthiness of the social uplift work will be badly marred by a wide public perception informed by a series of investigative exposures in some of the world’s leading media, and elsewhere. When such serious allegations keep coming year after year, the public at large has a right to expect proper processes of accountability and transparency that relate especially to powerful organizations. It is not as though, from the top echelons down, members of Sai Baba’s worldwide organization, do other than cultivate mainstream civic, religious, political and government. See the article (and a revealing selection of photos!) ‘Secret Swami’ Cult Recruits At Prime Public Venues,in which I have written:
“Although there is a long history of Sathya Sai Baba’s utterances which forbid promoting of himself, his official worldwide Sathya Sai Organization promotes strongly, at his, of course, secret behest. This zeal to recruit (to use the proper word) tends to take place in exceptionally prestigious venues”.
But – one of the first things noticeable to investigating media – there is a virtually impregnable wall of secrecy surrounding this guru, whom the BBC have called ‘The Secret Swami’.
“But the picture imparted by such a major source as the section on India in Human Rights Watch World Report 2008 is very different to these rosy scenarios so widely touted by Sathya Sai Baba propagandists as Connie Shaw, and, indeed, by himself. The point should be made clear that many heads of the very police and military forces involved are, from time to time, seen bowing down to Sathya Sai Baba at Puttaparthi”.
“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’: . 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”.
Note: Even The Times of India, one of the prime censors of news inimical to Sathya Sai Baba, ran the story.
This is, of course, not to say – courageously. For the story had broken in one of the great newspapers of the world, and available to Non-Resident Indians (NRI’s) around the world.
“Sai Baba had long consumately mastered – but is now fast losing – the art of playing all things to all politicians. A few recent headlines from Indian newspapers (see below) reveal how his latest “divine” pronouncements have produced a political storm”.
The Tehelka article reference to UNESCO involvement, in which it, along with the University of Flinders, Australia, backed out of a major Sai Baba led international education conference, is available HERE, and related is my article: BBC Caught UNESCO Head Bowing To Indian Government
“Many Sathya Sai Baba devotees assume that any questioning of him equates to a denunciation of Hinduism. However, Hindus at large do not make this assumption in the least. A major national Hindu leader has emailed me (December 5, 2006) …”
“Because I lived lengthily in India, living with some wonderful Indian families, and worked beside Indians from a wide array of backgrounds and religious and non-religious affiliations, I was able to gain a sense of how deeply ashamed many thoughtful and sensible Indian people are of these gurus and the harm that they do”.
“Some commentors may find it all too easy to point a finger at India. No country must be let off the ‘hook’”.
“P.N. Bhagwati – supposedly a model of the dispensation of Justice – does a profound injustice to hundreds of good and decent former Sai Baba devotees from many countries who have, on the strictest ethical principle, left Sai Baba and his worldwide Sathya Sai Baba Organization”.
This entry was posted on October 12, 2008 at 12:29 pm and is filed under Opinion, Social and Politics, Spirituality, Uncategorized, World Issues, World Religions. Tagged: British Empire, Gandhi movie, Kevin Rudd, Sir Richard Attenborough. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.