The following article I have updated with some valuable links not available at the time of writing – 28 August 2007. I have, accordingly, withdrawn the old version, which, however, read practically as this version, below.
Shortly before, and since Sathya Sai Baba’s death, news reports, both in India and beyond, report an increasing number of Sai devotees asking accountability and transparency questions about the Sathya Sai Central Trust in India.
I shall briefly make the point that investigative lawyers, media and devotees at large will need to be alert to what former devotee researchers and analysts have shown. This is that the Sathya Sai Central Trust is not an amorphous, homogeneous entity.
Long ago, Hari Sampath (more recently a corporate software engineer) writing as one who had been a member of Sathya Sai Baba’s Security and Intelligence Wing spoke of various circles of knowledge and activity in the Trust members: See: The Sathya Sai Baba set-up: How it works.
The picture is one in which some members, allied with others outside the Trust, are expert practitioners of the darker arts of politics, law, finance, security, and so forth. Whereas others are, by purpose-design, used for their relative innocence of the realpolitik aspects. A consortium of the cynical, on the one hand and a collection of the naive, on the other. Nothing new, of course in the world of power.
My reader may indulge me a most personal note. It comes from from an old teacher – and old students are ever fresh in an old teacher’s heart. When I taught (1978 and 1979) at the Sathya Sai College at Whitefield, via Bangalore, South India, I had any caring teacher’s dream that those I taught would one day be a blessing to the world. And, of course, the young can be a blessing for a teacher, just as they can be for a parent.
As the years wore on, and especially as I became involved in exposing Sathya Sai Baba internationally, I could see, more than I ever had, how powerful is the gerontocratic, nepotistic, and elitist, caste and class-bound grip of political and other types of leadership in India. Certainly, it is not genuine leadership, but an abrogation of responsibility.
However, in my recent speaking with young Indians making their way up in key roles in India, I let my – perhaps unduly hopeful and fond old heart – respond. I thought I could sense these young people starting to carve their own way, rather than having it carved for them by the deadly and disgraced hands of India’s Ancien Régime. They do not have the minatory British colonialist sitting on their shoulder telling them what, and what not, to do.
Perhaps my hope, springing eternal, is but a foolish indulgence. It is most certainly up these new generations of Indians to emulate Hercules’ fifth labour, and clean up India’s befouled governmental and political ‘Augean Stables’. Sathya Sai Baba promised to do it, and, like many of his promises and predictions, his undertakings died long before he did on 24 April 2011.
P.N. Bhagawati, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, a key figure on the Sathya Sai Central Trust (India) has also long been on the Board of Directors of The Times of India.
In a joint public letter (December 2001), Bhagwati along with the former Prime Minister of India of the right wing BJP, A.B. Vajpayee, and another former Chief Justice of India, Ranganath Mishra, and three other prominent leaders wrote a public letter stating that contentions of Sai Baba’s dissenters represent a:
“wild, reckless and concocted allegations made by certain vested interests and people against Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba”.
Wild and Reckless?
What then of an Indian Prime Minister and former Chief Justices and others (one now Home Minister in the current Manmohan Singh Government) who proffer no evidence that they, in a transparent and accountable way, have investigated any of the substantive allegations against Sai Baba?
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. Those who have left in this way include outstanding, former, longtime top leaders of the Sathya Sai Organization. These former devotees are not shunned, reviled and defamed by others in their wider communities, professions and trades, and places of study. See the articles:
(Pictured, from the BBC’s ‘The Secret Swami, is World head of the Sathya Sai Organization, Dr Michael Goldstein – setting a perfect example of anger management. Faced by a wall of secrecy and evasiveness, the BBC producers gained a sanction given under strict circumstances by BBC topmost to use a hidden camera when they met with Dr Goldstein, of Covena, southern California, USA. Anyone viewing ‘The Secret Swami’ can see that the questions from the interviewer, Tanya Datta were polite and unprovocative. The same was true of her questions to a major former Vajpayee government Minister, Murali Manohar Joshi. Yet again, the anger and the obfuscation were clear for the millions who have watched the BBC program to see).
Does not Dr Goldstein look wild and reckless, here?
The leaders of this organization, such as the world chairman Dr Michael Goldstein of Covina, California, USA, know perfectly well the excellent standing of many former devotees who have attempted to bring attention to the allegations. This is both from the point of view of their role when still members and of the high esteem they have attracted in their professions, trades, education institutions and wider communities.
Yet P.N. Bhagwati and the other signatories wrote of “wild, reckless and concocted allegations made by certain vested interests and people against Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.”
History will judge very harshly of the failure of those blinded by their devotion so greatly as to be incapable of exercising requisite ethics, sensitivity and applied skills and processes to investigate serious and repeated allegations. These have been asserted by scrupulous and conscientious individuals who have, indeed, investigated the allegations with probity, moral responsibility and a natural compassion. See:
Why should the Sathya Sai Organization and a few public figures who support Sai Baba not be subject to the same accountability criteria that are now best practice in countless organizations?
Many Former Devotees Have Proved Open to Bona Fide Investigators
To to name just a few – BBC, Times of London, Telegraph, Guardian, India Today, and media and other instrumentalities in a number of countries in Europe, and Canada and Australia. And institutions such as UNESCO, University of Flinders, etc.
Many individuals worldwide have, in varying degrees, been alienated from Sai Baba and his Sathya Sai Organization from which they expected to see spirituality and compassion in action. In some cases they have been terribly traumatized by their experiences of Sai Baba and his core leaders, whom they see as having grossly derelicted their duty-of-care for members. Therefore, they are not likely to be too open to those who are aggressive, name-calling, and who fail to observe proper ethical and professional canons of enquiry.
In fact, our submissions to various media, government, civic, academic, law enforcement and other authorities are submitted with the utmost responsibility. For those of them who are ready to act with integrity, sensitivity and care, we provide as a further mark of good faith, and on the basis of strict privacy, the contact details of those in outstanding, in some cases eminent, positions in government, law, media, education, psychology, medicine, etc., and, simply, ‘ordinary’ people who are ready to witness to their experiences, who know the facts.
We are able to coordinate personal and telephonic, and where practicable, contact with articulate individuals and families – and also others not intellectually articulate but who are nevertheless also poignantly moving in their accounts – who are ready to share, in a proper atmosphere of respect, their harrowing experiences of sexual abuse by Sai Baba and other of his, and his key leaders’ wrongdoings. These are very far from confined to those like the Rahm family (BBC and DR, Denmark’s national television and radio broadcaster), who have already shared their experiences in the media and elsewhere. See, e.g.,:
We have always been ready to assist investigative journalists from quality major media in various parts of the world, as well as important religious and civic institutions, and, for example, academics who are either researching allied issues themselves or supervising students who are doing so.
We also have provision of highly qualified professional counselors.
In short, we are able, with the strictest accountability, to provide compelling credentials, for those who are far removed from attacking, slandering and maligning the many witnesses who attempt to tell (not always particularly coherently and yet often most movingly) of their extremely painful and traumatic experiences at the hands of Sathya Sai Baba, and of his also profoundly compromised officials and other supporters.
Related Reading and Viewing
See this video clip. Here, BBC footage clearly exposes one of the then Vajpayee Government’s most powerful Ministers, Murali Manohar Joshi, follower of Sai Baba, as he angrily bullies, blusters and evades the interviewer Tanya Datta, who asks him entirely reasonable questions.
This Link is worth a look. India’s foremost Rationalist B.Premanand (later copying the exchange to his newsletter The Indian Skeptic, Vol. 19. No. 7 15-11-2006) wrote a series of letters in 2006 to top echelon Government of India officials, including police, referring back to the period when A.B. Vajpayee was in office. The letters attempt to establish a) whether the provenance of the letter ostensibly written by Vajpayee and other in defense of Sai Baba was true and b) whether, if it was, there had been any proper investigations of allegations against Sai Baba for sexual abuse of young males. The essence is that, as usual – since Sai Baba has for decades been heavily protected by Indian governments irrespective of what regime is in power – he got grand obstruction. Of course, one of the great successes of Premanand’s “failures” in his tireless efforts with power structures is to reveal the billowing smokescreens that rise as soon as accountability issues are probed. See also:
List of signatories to letter supporting Sathya Sai Baba
(then) Prime Minister of India
Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India
(then) Chair Person, National Human Rights Commissioner of India
Formerly Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India
(then) President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union; UNDP Distinguished Human Development Ambassador
Shivraj V. Patil
(Details as signatory: Member of Parliament, India; Formerly of the Lok Sabha & Union Minister. However Patil is now Home Minister in the Government of Manmohan Singh, who himself has shown strong partiality to Sathya Sai Baba)