After Decades of Dormancy, Some Indian Media Now Question Sathya Sai Baba
Posted by Barry Pittard on June 19, 2011
Given that Robert Priddy‘s and my dear friend the late V.K. Narasimhan was once its Editor, I find a touch of irony in seeing that the Express Group is one of those beginning, if timorously, to venture a critical opinion on Sathya Sai Baba.
With the honorable exception of India Today, our group has had to bust a gut and go blue in the face, in one futile attempt after another, to get leading Indian media to investigate Sathya Sai Baba and his cult.
As I have recounted several times elsewhere, the Editor of one of the top Indian newspapers told me privately: Sai Baba and his people are too powerful to take on.
India is riven from top to bottom by all manner of gurus and astrologers. But worse are those in that country, which is otherwise admirable in many ways, who know of this and who do not stand up and speak out. The nation is condemned to scorn elsewhere. Diplomats and those with trade, finance and other ties with India alternatively curse, snigger and despair at her – often behind her back. These are simply facts. Sad facts, really.
In Indian press history, there are few Indian editors as respected as V.K.N., who was a man of fine courage, decency and intellect. We both edited at Puttaparthi, and both of us had tasks, now and then, of weeding out utterances of Sathya Sai Baba that struck us as likely to cause confusion among the faithful. See my: The Quiet Weeding Out Of Sathya Sai Baba’s Embarrassing Statements.
V.K.N. was a rare case of one who was not a sycophant around Sathya Sai Baba. But, then, how important it was for Sathya Sai Baba to have someone like V.K.N. around him. And likewise for many other powerful, skilled manipulators all down history.
In this perspective, Sathya Sai Baba was, indeed, a master. How handy it is for a canny, charming, charismatic, but very flawed, leader to have around them the odd individual who seems to have a voice of his own. It can then appear that the leader respects minority individuals. The fawners gather around and applaud such independence as the leader allows, though they are cowards themselves.
But it is all more subtle than this. To the one who is not required to flatter the Emperor, it is most flattering not to have to flatter the Emperor. Thus is the non-flatterer flattered. And enfeebled.
And in India, there is another powerful ingredient. It been in the psychic conditioning for millennia, as I was able to observe close up in my several years in that ancient culture, moving among very rich and very poor. It is the power of the guru figure, and of other cultural icons – movie stars and cricketers especially – that makes a great many Indians lose any strong self-center. Down on their bellies – becoming like earthworms.
I have sometimes both smiled and felt saddened when I have seen Indian political or religious or rationalist radicals, fall for this profound and endemic cultural spell. I think very few in India are able to stop and ponder to a point of catharsis, and of consequent pragmatic change, such a concept as ‘feet of clay’. That is to say, very few who will systematically and resolutely refuse the mystification. India may be plucky enough to face the Chinese, or the Pakistanis, and, even more formidably, the Australians at cricket – but she won’t face her gurus.
It has struck me that considerations like the above snatched away true independence from V.K.N., whom I loved dearly, and still do. I also think these factors play an important role in enfeebling the Indian media and government and other institutions in taking on someone so big as Sathya Sai Baba. Smaller gurus here and there – fine, selectively pick them off. The Indian media and others, sometimes the police (although usually at the behest of power brokers) will go after them. But when it comes to real courage – no. In the West, we fail to deal with the Mr Big’s of crime, and tend to fill the jails with the footsoldiers.
Satya Sai Trusts assurances fall flat
But on Thursday, when the doors of Yajruveda Mandiram, the abode of Satya Sai, were opened, none of the assurances was kept.
Only trust members and two retired judges were present.
No district administration or pol ice official, leave alone mediapersons, was present.
Questions are now being asked about lack of transparency in the functioning of Satya Sai Central Trust.
Questions are also being raised as to why the relatives of Satya Sai, except Ratnakar, were not allowed inside the building.
Even Baba’s grand niece Chittemma had been kept in the dark about the unlocking of Baba’s residence. Though the trust appeals to people not to have any misgivings on the Yajurveda Mandiram, its way of functioning gives rise to the same suspicions and misconceptions.
In the words of PN Bhagwati, trust board member and former chief justice of India, the reopening of the Mandiram in the presence of all trust members is justified and can be considered transparent as per the constitution.
ANANTAPUR: Sri Satya Saibaba’s dream project `Vidya Vahini’ aimed at providing quality education to rural children was launched in Chandranagar in Nandigama mandal in Krishna district on Friday.
The project, to which industrialist Ratan Tata came forward to fund, was announced by Saibaba on his birthday last year, for improving rural education.
The project was formally launched by Vidya Vahini state incharge PRK Prasad, in the school run by Saibaba devotee Tirupathaiah, in Chandranagar.
Meanwhile, Ratan Tata, came to Puttaparthy by a special helicopter on Friday afternoon. He drove straight to Santhi Bhavan and later had the darshan of Baba’s Mahasamadhi at Sai Kulwant hall.
Before leaving Puttaparthy, Ratan went to Yajur mandir where he spent some time with the trust members.
Several eyebrows were raised over Ratan Tata visiting Yajur mandir while counting of currency and gold ornaments was on.
It may noted that the trust member Ratnakar declared the details of the cash, gold and silver ornaments in the Yajur mandir, just after Ratan Tata left.
Several questions have been raised whether Ratan Tata’s visit to Yajur mandir now is accidental or preplanned.
Excerpt From Public Petition (and introduction)