Sathya Sai Saga: Points Lost Among Big Sathya Sai Trust Reassurances of Transparency
Posted by Barry Pittard on June 30, 2011
Some random points:
There is glaring contradiction between statements of Srinivasan, who has admitted Trust involvement in extraordinary movements of cash, and of R.J. Ratnakar, who says that the money is actually from 12 donors. And can be explained.
But how does one explain Trust workers clandestinely moving – in a van and in a bus – such vast amounts? In fact, right on the heels of the discovery of multi millions of cash, gemstones and other valuables secreted in walls and ceiling spaces and wherever else in Sai Baba’s bedroom? One may smile at the sheer gall, if not the dark arts of it all. Who are these donors? If the donations were genuine, what sort of security did they get for all their no doubt hard-earned money? An armoured vehicle? Nothing of the sort. Just the two Trust agents, the brothers Shetty, one in a Qalis van, the other, at a different time, in a passenger bus.
Where, too, has gone any semblance of the Sathya Sai Central Trust’s duty of care for the safety of life and limb of its workers on a money transportation assignment fraught with danger? This, in an area with trained eyes not only of individual criminals, criminal gangs, and private armies of feudal landlords but of ubiquitous, highly organized, armed political struggle groups such as the Naxalites (with countless splinter groups), the so-called Peoples’ War Group or PWG, etc. Many police and security authorities complain of the emasculation by Andhra Pradesh state politicians of state security and police cadres capable of action, and the pipe dream of thinking that negotiation and accommodation are going to work.
Why the earlier Trust assertions that donations are dealt with by cheque? Why such vast amounts of loose cash? Where is the accountability and transparency in all this?
Can we trust a Trust that doesn’t know about vast funds being transported in the dead of night, or carted in a passenger bus in gunny sacks of cash as if it were mere chaff or ragi? When proper practice by a Trust is upheld, who will dare to hump huge fortunes around the countryside like this? Such a Trust lacks due diligence, and is incompetent. What suppose wicked chaff or ragi robbers assail the van or bus and snatch the sacks?
Although Sai Baba once famously wrote a letter in which he renounced his family – as large numbers of renunciates in time-honored Indian tradition do – his nephew R.J. Ratnakar is at centre stage.
Will our private sources prove correct that the powerful government Minister Chidambaram and his son are supporting Ratnakar, who is politically ambitious and wants to control the Sathya Sai Central Trust?
In one moment, we are told that ex Chief Justice of India P.N. Bhagwati is head of the Sai Central Trust. Next thing, we learn that he has resigned, and that Ratnakar is at the helm. Now Bhagwati has resigned. In fact, many Sai devotees see Ratnakar as having usurped what many viewed as Sai Baba’s most trusted aide, Satyajit. Just as is the case of largely attended anti-corruption protest rallies around India, perhaps it is only the sudden upsurge – blinkers off now – questioning Sathya Sai devotees at large who stand any chance of breaking the nexus of the very worldly Trust members. As many Sai devotees know, Sai centers round the world have often been places of quiet whispers regarding the distinctive non-spirituality of many leaders Sai Baba hand-picked. Remember, dear devotees – your perturbed conversations? E.G., “It must be Baba’s test for our sadhana”. “After all, Baba knows all our past lives, and this must be a working out of our Karma”…. Others have had enough and either resign or quietly fade out of the Sai Organization. That researchers such as some journalists and academics avoid contact with those who leave a cult is professionally disgraceful to them. Worse than being overly cautious, they are not doing their job, and are cowards and lickspittles. They bow to the forces blowing along their system’s narrowest tunnels.
The Andhra Pradesh government, ostensibly chartered to investigate and report properly to parliament and public, is riddled in practically all quarters by longtime Sathya Sai Baba devotees, and still others who wheeled and dealed to their own political or pecuniary advantage. (Indications from my conversations with good sources in India are that already a combination of threats, bribes, calling in of favours, etc., endanger the hunt for facts by the media, devotee groups who suspect foul play among those they had formerly trusted, and other investigators.
Some media seem in a too much of a rush for hard facts, such as would stand up in a properly run court. They need to be far more proactive in approaching those with understanding and insight into Sathya Sai Organization, and other such organizations. They should realize that it is often not just hard-boiled facts they need to hunt out, but also clues. And, still more a broader interpretive framework, which can lead to understanding and insight with which to deal with the facts when, at last, they start to disclose themselves.
I doubt the Sai Central Trust or Sathya Sai Organization will be able to sue any in the media. Robert Priddy‘s, Exbaba.com’s and my personal experience is that they are all threat and no action.They are forever blaming someone else for their woes – “a handful of disgruntled former devotees”, the BBC, the Times of London, etc., etc. See:
The Sai Trust is going to have to decide how much money it has to pay to the Andhra Pradesh Revenue Department. And then, if the wishes of vast numbers of rank-and-file devotees are respected – not to mention the huge national Indian upsurge of opinion about the scandal that is Puttaparthi – how much of their donated money is going to be directed to the properly intended efforts like the poor and needy, and education programs, etc.
As those of us whom Sai Baba’s officials and other devotees have threatened with litigation know too well, the Sathya Sai Organization and the Central Trust fear that if strong legal discovery processes unfold, decades of their dark dealing will perforce come out.
A cautious media is fine, but the often gutless one in India is a major threat to democracy. Indeed, one wonders whether some Indian journalists or their editors really understand or have looked at the difference between judicial levels of proof and prima facie indicators of crime. They need carefully to read the Indian Evidence Act). In the case of a PIL (Public Information Litigation), like the one Hari Sampath advanced on 8 May 2001, they should be vigilant, especially when we have gone to such lengths to let them know the circumstance in which the case was de-railed by abundantly obvious hijacking by Sai Baba-disposed judges. They should also have cognized that such a senior Indian Supreme Court advocate as Kamini Jaiswal is not going to lead her client, Sampath, by the nose and let him embark on a court action likely to frivolous, vexatious, and perilous. However, the Judges assigned to hear the case were of the worst kind.
My distinguished legal friends from a number of countries, including the Commonwealth of which India is a member, have all seen this. I don’t believe Indian journalists don’t see this. Rather, they jump to the nervous reflexes of their editors and publishers. Therefore, they are to be held accountable for their professional dereliction. See documentation and further links: Sathya Sai Trust In Vast Treasure Scandals: Secret Temple, Van, and Bus Stashes
As I have said elsewhere, the Indian media, except India Today, was sorely derelict in failing to heed our evidence both in regard to the large-scale serial sexual abuses, and to the financial criminality and corruption which Hari Sampath was among the first to reveal publicly.
Sai Baba’s ‘treasure island’ newsblitz was soon eclipsed by news of great but far less cash being spirited out of the ashram by van and by bus. Trust spokesmen now reassure the media that all is well, and say the media has distorted matters. But many rank-and-file devotees are not reassured, and one reads that some are consulting their own lawyers. I predict Sai Central Trust lawyers will use delaying tactics, allowing Ratnakar and others, publicly, to bluff their way through, as though the blatant dereliction of spiritual principles and purposes had never occurred.
I predict that, IF the Andhra Pradesh government properly probes the circumstances of Sathya Sai Baba’s death, and the circumstances of his well-reputed hospital director A.N. Dr Safaya’s resignation, and of numbers of his other medical and nursing staff at the Sai hospital, will show that individuals round Sai Baba earlier to his hospitalization, have either been negligent or criminal. Did any earlier aide withhold vital medications? Did the medical team fill with alarm to discover prior shortfalls of proper attention? Did any Trust member of associate refuse salient details about medical treatment prior to this time? Did any Trust or any other figure attempt to direct when Sai Baba’s life support system should be turned off, and at a later date than what would be reasonably be deemed proper?
India has a long tradition of genuine, humble saints. Not one of them would have conceived of corporatized or industrialized spirituality. Many Indians, broadly, are joining large rallies against government and corporate corruption. Humble saints are not all that newsworthy.
Who except Sai Baba devotees will turn a blind eye to all the late Sai Baba’s parading about in the Hillview Stadium imperially mounted on a huge gold throne, his flashy self-glorifying buildings like his opulent twin palaces and his so-called ‘Spiritual Museum’, and much other extreme pomp and circumstance?
Unfortunately mostly forgotten are the powerful suppression by successive governments of facts about the police executions in his bedroom in 1993, and evidence from many countries of his wide-scale serial sexual molestation of boys and young men, and many other forms of reliably reported abuse, such as apartments scams involving the Puttaparthi front office …..
With the notable exception of India Today (December 4 2000) the Indian media has, in past decades, suppressed reports inimical to Sathya Sai Baba, and has long ignored major investigations by reputed media such as the BBC. NRI’s (Non Resident Indians) get to read what the Indian press has, in craven or incompetent fashion, blatantly ignored.
The countless victims still profoundly hurt, but who will hear their voice? Those who question, no matter how respectfully, are cast out from the international Sathya Sai Organisation.
Barry Pittard, Australia. Former lecturer in English at Sathya Sai College, Whitefield, via Bangalore (1978-79)
Excerpt From Public Petition (and introduction)