Basava Premanand Long Challenged Indian Governments To Come Clean On Sathya Sai Baba
Posted by Barry Pittard on November 18, 2009
Among many attempts to awaken India to the great danger posed by chronic addiction to swamis, gurus and the like, India’s foremost rationalist the late B.Premanand tried to arouse government, media, legal and public accountability. The odds he faced were utterly formidable. See my in memoriam tribute to Premanand, with whom I kept in touch over the years:
One might have thought that key Indian religious organizations, were they to have had guts, decency and nothing to hide, would, in effect, have said something like this: Yes, we agree that horrible oppressions in the name of religion exist. We disagree with you Premanand in regard to deism and disbelief. However, we are at one with you in wishing to stop exploitation, and we too will speak out very clearly, and do our best to ensure that you are not a voice crying in the wilderness.
And why not? – for indeed, in India, among the well-informed, there is a very long precedent where respect is held for reasoned belief and non-belief. India has evinced strong traditions of a ‘live and let live’ standard. But the case is vexed – as witness casteism and communalism. Nonetheless, non-deistic systems have long survived in India and recognized in a broad ‘hinduism’ – Charvaka, Jainism and Buddhism and the philosophical system known as Mimamsa. One might have wished there were enough forces for fertile and practical cooperation on at least common grounds between the deistic and non-deistic forces in India. But, at this pragmatic level, wherever one travelled, there was a sense that the forces of corruption, reinforced by nepotism, were in far too powerful control for any form of genuine democracy to flourish. It is difficult to imagine any greater reinforcement for the old attitudes of fatalism.
Nor has Sathya Sai Baba kept his promise to “clean (his) own back yard (India), before going to other countries, as I, among others, have chronicled:
With regard to the unwillingness of Hindu temple organizations to come forth regarding Sathya Sai Baba, see my article:
I here quoted from an email from a very notable Hindu leader (with an important government remit) with whom, at various times, I have privately corresponded. Beneath the Premanand quote below, I quote the Hindu leader’s note.
It is well-known that Mahatma Gandhi would in no uncertain terms berate those of his fellow Indians who showed signs of cowardice and its stinky bedmate hypocrisy. One of my well-wishers along my pilgrim way, an Indian swami close to the late Sri Anandamayi Ma, told me that he had witnessed Gandhi delivering himself of a tremendous rebuke when those around him failed to live up to the high standards to which they gave lip service.
As anyone can see, across the years of issues of, for example, his newsletter ‘The Indian Skeptic‘, it was one Premanand’s methods to press governments for accountability. He would carefully register his letters so that a signature was required by any official addressed. His frequent experience was the officials’ very serious obscurantism and inaction, and their replies unwittingly revealed these abysmal qualities to any half alert reader of Premanand’s various publications.
Of course, one of the difficulties was that they regarded him as a ‘nastika’ (an unbeliever). But the problem lay deeper than this. It was that the corruption and its cover up were so endemic, and many terribly courageous Indians have fought against it. In our networked group, there have been, too, cries of upset that anyone of us should deal with Premanand. Glen Meloy and I, and subsequently Robert Priddy too, had a mutually respectful interface with Premanand, which included matters of internationally coordinating credible witnesses for the BBC in the making of ”The Secret Swami’. See:
Of Glen, Premanand wrote to me:
“Glen’s death was a great shock. I wanted him to live till Sai Baba was arrested … I am missing a great loving friend whom I came to know from the BBC film production.”
Fortunately, given the breadth of educated viewpoints among networked former devotees of Sathya Sai Baba, this antipathy towards any contact with Premanand, though strenuously put, was in a minority. As I see it, two of the real questions are:
- does one believe in speaking forthrightly when facts are being profoundly covered up – facts that no ethical system of any major faith or rationalist or humanist standpoint would in the least espouse? And
- does one believe that labelling others is often a great harm, and one of the greatest obstacles to mutual respect of persons as persons?
Undemocratic Non-Response: A Typical Case of Indian Government Cover Up of Sathya Sai Baba and His Cult
See, the article:
Text below taken from the Indian Skeptic, November 2006:
To, The Director and CPIO,
Prime Minister Office,
South Block New Delhi 110 001 Under the Right to Information Act – 2005.
Dear Sir, 24.8.2006
Ref: Statement of Mr. A.B.Vajpayee the Ex. Prime Minister of India along with the two retired Chief Justices Of India Mr.P.N.Bhagwathi and Mr.Ranganath Mishra, published on internet
At last, thank you for your letter No.RTI/26/2006-PMA, dated 17.8’2006 received by me on 22.8.2006 regarding my letter to The Hon Prime Minister Of India dated 13.3.2006 which was received on 16.3.2006 after a long merry- go-round for five months from one ministry to another.
The question was a very simple one “As the Indian Prime Minister and the two retired Chief Justices of India would not give such statements without proper investigation.
To provide me with the certified copy ot the investigation on the sexual abuse of youth by Sathya Sai Baba.
Though you have confirmed that no papers related to such investigation are available in the Prime Minister Office, you have not been courageous enough to seek explanation from Mr. Vajpayee as the statement mentioned in the reference was made by him when he was the. Prime Minister of India.
You have also not acknowledged the memo dated 9.8.2006 from the Ministry of Home Affairs No. MHA ID No.24013/11/2006 – CSR III with the copy of my letter dated 17.7,2006 asking to get information from Mr.Vajpayee whether the statement signed by him and the two .retired Chief Justices Of India was after ascertaining the true facts.
I would be thankful to you if you will kindly write to Mr.Vajpayee and provide me with the information sought for.
I have the greatest regard for one present Prime Minister who has after Mrs. lndira Gandhi added the duties of Indian Citizens in the constitution which even her father dared not, now Mr. Manmohan Singh by promulgation the Rights of information Act 2005 making his Government a transparent one. This needs a lot of courage as the majority of the politicians and bureaucrats would hate this law.
Though not necessary, I am enclosing herewith a Postal Order No.43 E 787592 for Rs. 107- made in your name and I hope to get the information within 30 days of receipt of this letter under section 7 (i) of the RTI Act
The posting by the Indian PM and colleagues was posted here earlier – SEE here
From an email to me from a notable Hindu leader
“There is considerable concern among the Hindu Community, especially among the educated. It is very hard to get any action from the temples as they do not wish to cause difficulties with the Sathya Sai Baba groups. People are starting to distance themselves from Sathya Sai Baba. It’s going to be gradual process of education. The biggest impact it appears was the ‘The Secret Swami’ … it seems it has had a tremendous negative effect on Sathya Sai Baba”.
Premanand Responds to Infamy
“Murders in Sai Baba’s Bedroom” by B. Premanand. Price India Rs. 400/-, Overseas US $40/- (free postage). Publ. by B. Premanand. 11/7 Chettipalayam Road, Podnadur. 641 023 Tamil Nadu, India
Barry Pittard’s comments in regard to the Public Petition) -:
There is a Spanish version available: