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of Sathya Sai Baba And his worldwide cult, the Sathya Sai Organization

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A Sathya Sai Saga. Barry Pittard Recollects. Part 3

Posted by Barry Pittard on July 25, 2010

The series continues from:

A Sathya Sai Saga. Barry Pittard Recollects. Part 2. Posted by Barry Pittard on July 23, 2010.  A Sathya Sai Saga. Barry Pittard Recollects. Part 1. Posted by Barry Pittard on July 20, 2010

Apart from Terry Gallagher, the other two individuals whose articles appeared in the Nexus magazine also had respected histories as Sathya Sai Baba devotees. One of the articles related the frightening escape experiences of wife and husband Gurprit and Jens Singh (Germany), who sought the assistance of the (then) Federal West German Embassy in New Delhi. I have written of this couple here: ‘BILD’ Story. “Guru Wants Sex” (Sathya Sai Baba).

The other author was Hans de Kraker (Australia). Sathya Sai Baba appointed de Kraker Western Canteen Director, a position he held from 1989 to 1997. Nexus magazine covers many stories which the media has not run or else run extensively. There is sworn testimony in both these cases.

I emailed and spoke by phone with Terry Gallagher, Hans de Kraker  and Jens Sethi, and others in different parts of the world. A group of former followers was able to obtain investigation at a most senior level by UNESCO, the U.S. State Department, Times of London, BBC, and other reputed organs. See also:

The Case of UNESCO’s Missing Media Advisory

U.S. State Department Named Sathya Sai Baba To BBC’s ‘The Secret Swami’

Hans de Kraker told me that he took his concerns to the former head of the Australian Sathya Sai Organization, T. Sri Ramanathan (a former commercial judge in Sri Lanka) and another one of the Australian Sai organization’s most prominent leaders, Dr Sara Pavan (who has spent lengthy times living at Puttaparthi, serving as a doctor in Sai Baba’s Superspeciality Hospital and as an anaesthetist at Concord Hospital, Sydney, Australia).

Hans de Kraker said that Ramanathan, who more recently has worked with senior law students at the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales, immediately avoided the issues, and launched into a recital of how Sai Baba had done such wonders. One example was how (not in person) Sai Baba had miraculously recovered a diary. This embarrassingly contained Ramanathan’s law students’ examination details that he had lost in Malaysia in transit to visit Sai Baba. Another story was how Sai Baba had, again miraculously, in  a hotel in Bangalore, made Ramanathan’s non-functioning tape recorder work.

When Ramanathan phoned me – at first to try to use ‘sweetness and light’ and then to make his fruitless threats of litigation against me – he told me these stories as well, and I suppose he has regaled many Sai devotees with them over the years. It seemed like a sort of litany. As long as one keeps rolling the beads, all the misgivings, all the contradictions, all the dark secrets, all the discomfort can be conveniently filtered out.

Hans de Kraker said that Dr Pavan’s response was that one does not talk of these matters (which de Kraker had raised).

This terrible dereliction of duty of care and accountability has been endemic in the international Sathya Sai Organization throughout the world. History can only but be severe in its judgement on it. The organization’s much-vaunted truth, compassion, and right conduct, among the values enshrined in its so-called “all Faiths” edifice, turn out, in this respect to be, to use a Sai Baba phrase, ‘tinsel and trash’. Or Stone pillar. Stone consciences.

Among the many documents that report Sathya Sai Baba’s grossly improper practices is a letter from Hans de Kraker.  It was addressed to David and Faye Bailey, and Faye Bailey’s son. Indeed, her son, too, had been the target of Sathya Sai Baba’s advances, according to testimony. (Apart from other documentations, the present writer had the account from the son’s sister, and both have long enjoyed a close friendship). As indeed has been typical, and constant across many years, in the accounts of so may other males from around the world have reported in their own cases.  Hans de Kraker wrote: 

There was a big power shake up in the kitchen and I had no interest to participate in the whole situation any longer. I had a chat with the leader of the group because I had not been going to darshan anymore. My last day in the ashram I talked to the leader of the group. (Editor, c.f., Veronica, long an organizer of the Western canteens see here).

 

 

Again she insists that I tell her what happened. “So did he try to have sex with you?” was the question. Tired of it all I told her what had happened. This was the evening of the fourth or fifth of January. Immediately after she has an interview with Sai Baba, by herself this time, without the rest of the group. After she comes out of the interview room, several hours later, I am summoned to an elderly gentleman from Security, whom I knew well, with whom I had built a friendship. Several years before, when I accompanied a couple from Europe, who did not speak any English, he had spent time with this couple, their three-year-old son, who had cancer and me. This gentleman looked very awkward and asked me if he could take my photo. I said of course not knowing what was happening, understanding something had gone wrong. He was accompanied by 2 seva dal’s. One them took a picture from the front and then asked me to turn to the side. When I asked my friend what was happening he nodded uncomfortable and said I don’t know.

They then escorted me to the secretary of the Ashram who told me I was ordered to leave as soon as possible. I had behaved improperly and had to leave. When I asked what the reason was he commanded that I was not allowed to ask anything, and that I was only allowed to leave. “You are to leave the Ashram. You are strongly advised not to hang around the village, to go as soon as possible to Bangalore and catch the first flight out…

I left. All my friends of the group were absolutely amazed and destroyed when they heard that I had been expelled. Except for one person…the same person who spoke to Sai Baba a few hours before. So they got rid of a possible “loose cannon”

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For next installment, see:  A Sathya Sai Saga. Barry Pittard Recollects. Part 4

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The Public Petition

Information on the Public Petition for Official Investigations of Sathya Sai Baba and His Worldwide Organization

About the Petition For Official Investigation Into Sathya Sai Baba Cult

(Note: You may prefer to proceed straight to the Petition): Public Petition For Official Investigations of Sathya Sai Baba and His Worldwide Organization

 

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Posted in New Age, Opinion, Religion, South Asia, Uncategorized, World Religions | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

A Sathya Sai Saga. Barry Pittard Recollects. Part 2

Posted by Barry Pittard on July 23, 2010

The series continues from: A Sathya Sai Saga. Barry Pittard Recollects. Part 1. Posted by Barry Pittard on July 20, 2010

In October 1999, I read Terry Gallagher’s startling accounts, and, increasingly those of others. He was the first head of Australian Sathya Sai Organization and an agricultural scientist and businessman of Kiama, New South Wales, Australia. His brother-in-law, Neville Fredericks (a past mayor of Kiama)succeeded T.Sri Ramanathan as head of the Australian Sathya Sai Organization. Following his extensive investigation, Terry Gallagher’s revelations spoke of Sathya Sai Baba having sex with boys and young men, and being complicit in other disturbing crimes. He discovered disturbing facts about the local, state and central government cover up of police killings in Sathya Sai Baba’s bedroom at Puttaparthi on June 6, 1993. He and others in various parts of the world resigned. Many simply left the Sathya Sai Organization, without formal resignation. Sai devotees in centers around the world have heard their leaders state the allegations are made by a handful of disgruntled former devotees. Yet the Sathya Sai Organization holds aloft the value:  Truth …

The Editor of the Australian magazine Nexus (published in a number of countries), Duncan Roads, had found the Gallagher article along with two other accounts of former Sathya Sai Baba devotees on the internet. The Gallagher document was in the form of a letter to David and Faye Bailey. Duncan Roads wrote: 

 I had heard the many rumours about Sai Baba’s sexual impropriety over the years, and like many, dismissed them as disgruntled devotees.  Later on, I actually took those attacks as ‘evidence’ that Sai Baba was growing in influence, and that this was the ‘system’ attacking him … 

Unlike Sai Baba believers, I have an open mind, one which allows me to read and listen to things that Sai Baba believers refuse even to allow into their consciousness.  I read some of the more recent testimonies, and decided to investigate for once and for all to put an end to the rumours …

I ended up speaking to many victims, parents of victims, former Sai Baba centre ‘leaders’ and some respected ‘figureheads’ from the movement.  All confirmed the same pattern of abuse and sexual misconduct …

I did not want to believe any of these testimonies, but I also had to be true to what I was uncovering.  Sai Baba is, and has, been involved in sexual misconduct with boys and young men.  The effects of this misconduct has caused unestimatable damage within many many families, including suicides

Photo below: David and Faye Bailey. Authors of ‘The Findings’. An historic and lengthy indictment of Sathya Sai Baba and his charismatic cult, by two former and exceptionally close disciples.

David and Faye Bailey. Authors of 'The Findings'. An historic and lengthy indictment of Sathya Sai Baba, by two former and very close disciples

See my articles: 

Truth In Action: David and Faye Bailey Vs Sathya Sai Baba, and

Reply to a Sathya Sai Devotee’s Note re: David and Faye Bailey

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For next in series, see:  A Sathya Sai Saga. Barry Pittard Recollects. Part 3

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The Public Petition

Information on the Public Petition for Official Investigations of Sathya Sai Baba and His Worldwide Organization

About the Petition For Official Investigation Into Sathya Sai Baba Cult

(Note: You may prefer to proceed straight to the Petition): Public Petition For Official Investigations of Sathya Sai Baba and His Worldwide Organization

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U.S. State Department Named Sathya Sai Baba To BBC’s ‘The Secret Swami’

Posted by Barry Pittard on January 31, 2010

(The late) Glen Meloy and U.S. Citizens from an array of professions, and others including myself, made very carefully documented disclosures about allegations confronting Sathya Sai Baba. After former devotees, both in the U.S. and internationally, had spent a great deal of time and effort, the U.S. Department of State issued a Travel Warning to U.S. citizens traveling in Sai Baba’s State, Andhra Pradesh, in South India. This was reflected in the ‘Travel warning page and Consular information sheet, November 23, 2000’.

(Note on Glen Meloy, loved and honored by many Sai devotees during his 26 years of service and devotion to Sai Baba, and by hundreds of former devotees whom he magnificently supported in the aftermath of Sathya Sai Baba’s profound betrayal of faith, see: Glen Meloy (“Standing up for truth and goodness”) – In Memoriam )

I also made a number of supporting written submissions, and spoke by phone to, the then head of Interpol in Australia. I was in regular contact, written and spoken, with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia. Those from various countries who submitted testimony to the U.S. State Department presented credentials attesting to their integrity in their various professions, trades, communities, etc. There was some sworn testimony, along with ample readiness to provide still more. We made ourselves available for purposes of any FBI or Interpol investigation into the allegations, particularly those concerning evidence of Sai Baba’s serial and wide-scale sexual abuse of boys and young men.

The first stumbling block was that the accounts of sexual abuse all stated that abuse occurred in India.  Another was that the U.S., for legal reasons, was not ready (a fact late changed in response to BBC contact with the State Department) to name Sathya Sai Baba. There were no cases, successful or otherwise, brought against him in India. (Nor were those of us with long experience of living and working in India, in which corruption is so rife, convinced that there ever would be, given the sheer extent of his power and influence. See: Why Has Sathya Sai Baba Not Faced The Indian Justice System?).

These presentations, which were made to very senior State Department officials, were more than vindicated when the BBC checked with the U.S. Department of State confirmed that the “noted Godman who reportedly indulges in inappropriate sexual behaviour with young male devotees” was, in fact, Sathya Sai Baba. See Robert Priddy’s article ‘The Secret Swami’ & U.S. State Department Warning against Sai Baba , in which he exposes the flawed and hostile attempts of Sathya Sai Baba’s leading protagonist on the internet to misportray the facts.

For a detailed look issues surrounding the BBC documentary, See: 

The BBC’s ‘The Secret Swami’ – A Revision

BBC Hidden Camera in ‘Secret Swami’. Ethical?

BBC’s ‘The Secret Swami’ and British Press Praise

Excerpt from Transcript of ‘The Secret Swami’ – one-hour BBC documentary (first aired June 2004, and subsequently seen in some 200 countries. Below, BBC presenter Tanya Datta reports on investigations at the U.S. Embassy, Delhi.

To view and hear BBC’s Tanya Datta On Sathya Sai Baba – ‘The Secret Swami’ – see the short video clip (1.5 Mb). She notes the following:

 “The American Government is also concerned. On the web site of the American Embassy in Delhi there’s a warning to U.S. citizens visiting the State of Andhra Pradesh. It draws attention to a noted Godman who reportedly indulges in inappropriate sexual behaviour with young male devotees.We contacted the U.S. Embassy in Delhi and they confirmed to us, and for the first time, that they are directly referring to Sai Baba”.

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U.S. State Department Travel Warning. BBC confirms Sathya Sai Baba is the subject

U.S. Department of State warning to travelers

CRIME IN ANDHRA PRADESH – Americans traveling to or residing in Andhra Pradesh should also be aware that there have been media and other reports of inappropriate sexual behavior by a prominent local religious leader. Most of the reports indicate that the subjects of these approaches have been young male devotees, including a number of Americans. Although these reports are unconfirmed, American citizens should be aware of this information.

Some Resources
Quote from this page editor’s (Robert Priddy’s) commentary on the State Department warning: 
“The U.S. State Department does not issue warnings without having investigated the reasons most thoroughly. The State Department NEVER issued any formal withdrawal of the warning against Sai Baba, which would have also required them to make an apology for promoting false information … The chief argument of pro-Sai Baba defenders is that the warning was withdrawn. However, ‘withdrawal’ of a web page is not the same as withdrawal of the allegations already made by such responsible bodies, for no mention is made of refutation of the warnings, far from it … The warning was made, did refer to him, as he was nevertheless named by US officials who were contactable”.
 
 
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Posted in New Age, Opinion, Protest, Rationalism, Religion, South Asia, Spirituality, Uncategorized, World Religions | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Attacks By Hooligans Against Foreign Students In Australia

Posted by Barry Pittard on June 5, 2009

In relation to attacks against foreign students in Australia, there are some tough questions. A number of reasons exist why the majority of these attacks have occurred on Indian students, and the issue is complex. The situations are not as portrayed, with a dangerous, irresponsible oversimplification, either by certain sections of the Indian media that are clearly committed to jingoism, hysteria, sensationalism and burgeoning of sales, who gravely misrepresent the view of a great many Indians who live in Australia (See e.g., statement by Federation of Indian Associations of Victoria president Vasan Srinivasan) or by an isolated but powerful and  disgraceful class of radio talk-back hosts who are biggots and their poorly-educated audiences we alarmingly still have in Australia, known as ‘shock jocks’.

No amount of misrepresentation can alter the facts that most Australians do not engage in or approve of racism. Many from some 200 countries who have migrated to this country attest to this fact. The situation is not assisted by those who, whether out of sensationalism or simple-mindedness or agendas of hatred resort to the fallacy of confusing part with whole, branding the behaviour of a few a whole group, who do not think, or feel or act out that for which they are being assailed.

However, the question of whether we in Australia are in danger of being selfish, cocooned, complacent and far too unquestioning of our ‘authorities’ and ourselves is quite another question. It was communities in the suburbs, far more than forces within governments, which won Australia’s great achievements in  forging a multicultural society. Sometimes the word ‘multiculturalism’ has been used but it can be a confusing and systematically misleading term.  The Australian experience – or experiment –  needs to be carefully distinguished from the performances of other countries, and discussed with proper regard for the facts.  One starting-point for those who wish to survey the area is the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council, which has many resources both practical and academic. The Council’s website is HERE.

But there is a work undone: those communities especially in the outer suburbs to which many foreign students are driven by their economic constraints will have to do some of it. They will need to rise to an occasion. Or will they expect the police and other authorities to do it for them? To stand by when bones are being broken and lives destroyed does not add up to self-respect and a sense of justice within those in whose midsts violence is happening.

I offer some questions – very preliminary – that I think my fellow Australians will need to consider:

Why have not messages got through to increasingly bold urban hooligans that attacks on anyone are not to be tolerated?

Why are these uneducated hooligans being permitted to sway Australia’s standing in the fellowship of nations?

What is there about our education, justice and parental support systems that allow for the existence of hooliganism?

What, if any, community-based, imaginative, proactive steps are being taken to make foreign students, migrants and refugees to feel welcome, valued and safe in Australia?

If the police are engaged in a losing battle, as in other areas such as drugs, are the Federal, State and Local governments failing in being upfront and in ensuring the widest public awareness and debate?

Why have attacks escalated to such a point where it has taken organized protests by Indian students studying in this country – and giving up their valuable time in which to raise their voices – before there is strong action directed to remediation?

Are outer and working class suburbs embraced by the powerful ethos  in this country which has generated so many distinguished achievements in bringing about Australia’s in many ways successful multicultural society?

What, if anything, has been the responsiveness by police, the three tiers of government, welfare, civic, religious, cultural, sporting organizations, especially in the outer suburbs to the conditions in which many overseas students are economically forced to study, travel back and forth, and reside?

What, if any steps, have been taken to raise public awareness about the enormity of contribution foreign students make to Australia, both in immediate economic terms but in many, and often intangible ways, in regard to the quality of lasting ties of friendship and cooperation internationally?

What, if any steps, have been taken to raise public awareness of the difficulties many overseas students face in regard to finance, language, culture, cuisine, arduous travel times back and forth between residence and place of study, the perils of landlordism, their being forced to take part-time jobs and somehow coping with demanding courses of study, and so on?

Have the police forces examined their own assumptions? For example, how could police possibly know whether many UNreported attacks were racist or not? The notion is absurd.

Are some police authorities refusing to see that a crime can be BOTH opportunistic AND racial?

Many Indian students, supported by their government and by leaders in the Australian Indian community, attest that the police have not been – qualitatively – listening. Why are the police listening now, and why, in certain ways, too late? Young students at this very moment lie bloodied and broken.

What is the accountability of those policemen police who manhandled parts of the crowd, in attendance at what the responsible media has reported as, except for rare exceptions, a peaceful protest by thousands?

Why are the State and Federal Governments and the education institutions at which foreign students study suddenly galvanized? Why not before this?

A question for those who cry racism at every turning: Has it been noticed that extremely few along the path of the march have been reported, on any side, as having been racist or insulting in any way?

A Helpline for Indian students who are victims of crime is available: 1800342800. From 10am to 5pm, and 7pm to 11pm, Monday to Friday.  Hellplines for ALL foreign students need to be provided and made extensively-known through the student fraternity.

Further Reading

Indian Students Attacked In Melbourne Australia: Cricket Star Brett Lee Voices Concerns

Posted by Barry Pittard on June 4, 2009

Attacks Against Indian Students in Melbourne, Australia

Posted by Barry Pittard on June 2, 2009

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UPDATE

From ‘Hindustan Times’ – which shows a sanity lacking in the sensationalists sections of the Indian media

See article details at this Blog:

Posted in News and Politics, Opinion, Politics, Protest, Sikhism, Social and Politics, Uncategorized, World Issues, World Religions | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Indian Students Attacked In Melbourne Australia: Cricket Star Brett Lee Voices Concerns

Posted by Barry Pittard on June 4, 2009

Brett Lee is a prominent example of strong ties between India and Australia. It is good that someone with his credibility has stepped forward to bring calm to the situation following recent attacks on Indian students in Melbourne.

Australia is in for a test of another kind than cricket. Our country will be tested for whether democracy and muticulturalism truly flourish, as well as respect for the well-being and physical safety of all citizens of, and guests to, our country. Along with implementing changes to policing, law, education and greater public awareness of the issues, the Federal Government and State Governments in Australia face tests in how truthful and responsive they are when there is review of their performance in approaching urban crime.

Many have left the Sathya Sai Organization because of its pronounced lack of democracy, transparency and accountability. There has been monumental failure to address issues raised (often not publicly, and in many countries and Sai centers, by those quite other than prominent critics) such as sexual abuse of boys and young men from India and other countries by Sathya Sai Baba and certain leading members who work in his service, profound cover up of the circumstances surrounding the killings in his bedroom, massive misappropriation of donations for around the world utilized for lavish displays, property scams, and other scandals. Successive Indian Central, State and Local governments and large sections of the media have been involved in these cover ups. See below for some readings (which contain video footage from the BBC’s hour-long documentary which has been seen by millions worldwide, The Secret Swami)

Aside from sad incidents such as “sledging” (badmouthing on the sporting field), India and Australia share a great love of cricket, and many players on both sides have done their countries proud in the spirit in which they conduct themselves both on and off the field. Many friendships have been forged. It also means that forces from the community, apart from political figures are standing forth. Unless leaders with credibility in both countries make their voices heard, discussions about the relative roles played by racism and sheer, opportunistic street thuggery looking for “soft targets” will not have a proper chance to be heard.

I observed in my previous blog:

‘Racism thrives on ignorance, and on unreal social structures where persons and groups cannot get to interact with and appreciate persons and groups who are different. The locus of Australia’s achievements in multi-culturalism were not the politicians, but were staged in the Australian suburbs. They belong to the people, both older Australians and migrants, and they must not let political elites obsure or attempt top down solutions’.

Quite apart from policing aspects, areas such as student welfare infrastructure in learning institutes where students from India and many other countries study need urgently to be looked at. There are reports that some arrangements fall far short. Not to have excellence in an area such as this amounts to false pretences, given the importance those institutions place on overseas student study. The fees are large and the duties of care enormous. There must not be a single shortfall.

Because of the events in Melbourne, reports now surface that there have been widespread attacks in Sydney. Australia’s re-think will need to be far-reaching, and embrace all aspects of student wholistic welfare, and extend to foreign students from all countries – many of whose parents must at the moment be beside themselves with anxiety.

In the last days, Brett Lee was involved in arrangements to have a street cricket match with Indian students. This had to be called off because of still further violence perpetrated against an Indian student. Indian students who were in favour of the match were, however, uset by the renewed outbreak and naturally in no shape, emotionally, to play.

Unless all the facts are made plain, it will be very difficult to reconcile continuing reports of lack of foreign student safety and general wellbeing  with the statement, widely reported in the Indian media, issued via the Australian High Commission in India:  “We know through surveys of the many thousands of enrolled and graduating students that the overwhelming experience of international students is positive. This should be the outcome for every student”.

A Helpline for Indian students who are victims of crime is available: 1800342800. From 10am to 5pm, and 7pm to 11pm, Monday to Friday.  Hellplines for ALL foreign students need to be provided and made extensively-known through the student fraternity.

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Excerpt from The Age, Melbourne – For full article, click on story title

Cricket star Brett Lee voices concerns over Indian student attacks

Vance Mikin-Laurie. June 3, 2009 – 3:56PM

Cricket star Brett Lee voices concerns over Indian student attacks Vance Mikin-Laurie

Cricketer Brett Lee has voiced his concerns over the attacks on Indian students in Melbourne. As the Australian team prepares for the Ashes tour of England, Lee – an ambassador for Deakin University – has moved to calm growing anger in India over the violence

…. (Brett Lee said) “The university is doing everything it can to ensure the safety of students. Deakin will be providing advice on how to keep out of harm’s way, and also counselling for anyone who feels unsure at this time” …

…. Both Lee and Deakin University have long-standing ties with India – Deakin was the first foreign university to open an office in India and Lee is is involved in charitable work through the Deakin India Research Institute.

…. The cricketer’s popularity has continued to grow in India recently through the Indian Premier League and he appears heavily in Indian media through his numerous endorsement deals .

…. A popular figure on the subcontinent, he even reached number two on the Indian singles chart in 2006 with the self-penned You’re the One For Me, a duet he performed with Bollywood star Asha Bhosle. ……………………………………………….

See my other articles of the violence against students in Australia:

Attacks By Hooligans Against Foreign Students In Australia

by Barry Pittard on June 5, 2009

Attacks Against Indian Students in Melbourne, Australia

Posted by Barry Pittard on June 2, 2009

Former articles with a cricket theme at: https://barrypittard.wordpress.com

International Cricket And The Secret Swami

Sai Baba Vs Kerry Packer

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BBC Exposes Cover Ups By Sathya Sai Baba and his international Sathya Sai Organization

Indian Minister Shields Sai Baba on BBC Telivision

BBC’s ‘The Secret Swami’ and British Press Praise

Probed On Male Sex Abuse, Sai Baba Evicts BBC TV Team

The BBC’s ‘The Secret Swami’ – A Revision

BBC Footage Exposes Fake Sathya Sai Baba Miracle

BBC Cameras Catch Sai Baba Cheating With Gold Sivalingam. (Film Clip)

Posted in News, News and Politics, Opinion, Sikhism, Social and Politics, South Asia, Uncategorized, World Issues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Attacks Against Indian Students in Melbourne, Australia

Posted by Barry Pittard on June 2, 2009

There have been most shocking physical attacks against Indian students in Melbourne, Australia. Some 90, 000 Indian students now study here, second to China in the number of foreign nationals studying.  Australia intends to attract many more. They need to feel safe and respected. Yesterday’s news reported what is alleged to have been a peaceful demonstration waylaid by a small number of anti-social elements.

In March 2009, this blog reported Channel NineMSN’s exposure of security personnel violence against protesting staff and disabled clients at SWARA (run by one of the superluminaries of the Sathya Sai sect, Moyia O’Brien) in Brisbane. Reports that suggest the Melbourne protest was derailed by over-reaction of authorities, brought back eerie reminders of those accounts which a number of those involved (including those who remain Sathya Sai Baba devotees) have given.

In both the Brisbane case (security personnel) and the Melbourne case (police, including mounted police), violence by authorities has been seen. Irresponsible commentators see no reason why the actions of security and police should be examined. They fail to ask whether proactive, peaceful methods could have been used, instead of the violent handling of what had been organized as a peaceful protest. It is an old theme – and authorities in modern democracies cannot hide, though they try to, violent propensities. 

(For the SWARA case, see under Reading and Viewing, below)

As a nation, we need to decide whether we wish small numbers of louts to shopfront us to the world. More fundamentally, we have to find solutions to  danger posed by those marginalizing forces which create unemployed, dispossessed angry  young people who lurk by day and night on street corners unleashing their contempt for human life and property. Boldness and imagination can address these problems. We cannot depend on politicians to be bold and imaginative; we have to be bold and imaginative ourselves.

Melbourne newspaper The Age yesterday reported (May 31, 2009)  Gautam Gupta, a spokesman for the Federation of Indian Students of Australia (FISA) as saying:

“We want a multicultural police section and we want crime statistics made public so that we know the extent of the problem,” he said.

The protesters also wanted on-site accommodation for Indian students at all universities and colleges.

“We want blanket cover for all international students, covering them for accidents and assaults and the government should run an ad campaign highlighting positive influence that migrants and international students have made to this country.”

           Mr Gupta blamed outsiders for the trouble outside the station, saying it was always meant to be a peaceful rally.

“People have been angry over the past few weeks, especially the young people, but it was supposed to be a peaceful rally. Unfortunately there were some agitators there, stirring things up … They had their own agenda,” he said.

Many Australians with experience of Indian students know of their characteristic politeness and hard-working qualities. They do credit to their country. Let me give a small, though I think iconic, example of an arrangement that could, badly handled, have gone terribly awry. Because of huge outsourcing by Australia to India of telecom handling of public enquiries and complaints, the extraordinary politeness and patience of the Indian operators have become a byword among millions in Australia.

But something nasty is astir, though it should not deflect attention away from the fact that a great many Australians support multi-culturalism, a fact that has been strongly shown in poll after poll, including at the height of the Mrs Pauline Hanson’s deplorably simplistic political presence in the nineties. However, support is more than sentiments stated to pollsters. The real fairness and justice require that we do not pass by, and turn blind eyes, and cocoon ourselves or fail to inform ourselves. It is not by our deploring racism that our humanity will be guaged.

At the same time, heated debate over whether the attacks were based on racism or opportunistic, soft-targeting should not be allowed to obscure the fact that all citizens and visitors alike have every right to feel safe. Politicians in Australia of all complexions have been characteristically unbold in looking for solutions to poverty.

One question that has to be driven is this:  Are tougher sentences and proposed clauses such as ‘hatred for or prejudice against a particular group of people’, remedies that are anywhere near sufficient? The question about the extent of racism in a country may not, in the present context, be the most pressing or relevant one. Pressures in a changing society can make an issue that may be relatively isolated grow much larger. Emphasis on tough policing and judicial solutions, without a far wider suite of remedies, can ensure. counter-productively, that the hateful violent are increasingly sent to one of the best-known ‘colleges’ of hatred – the prison system, itself in grave need of reform. Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s prompt assurances to India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must be accompanied with sophisticated action. The raw-nerve (sometimes knee-jerk, sometimes cynical) reaction evinced by many politicians about finding and punishing the culprits will not do. The problem is far more complex.

Radically, we need to ensure that a false sense of ‘justice’ having been done is not engendered. Especially in dealing with aftermaths of crime (and for preventive capacity over time), I would point to far wider notions of ‘Restorative Justice’ – which some institutions, including police, have had success with. See, Restorative justice: An Australian perspective.

Racism thrives on ignorance, and on unreal social structures where persons and groups cannot get to interact with and appreciate persons and groups who are different. The locus of Australia’s achievements in multi-culturalism were not the politicians, but were staged in the Australian suburbs. They belong to the people, both older Australians and migrants, and they must not let political elites obsure or attempt top down solutions.

Racism and urban crime and violence greatly worsen in times of economic hardship and unemployment. India’s High Commissioner to Australia, Sujatha Singh, has said that she thinks Australia is not a racist society, but that there were are elements in Australia that hold “racist attitudes”. Referring to the Victoria Police, she spoke of a “lack of sensitivity” towards Indian student victims of crime. Mrs Singh has very rightly criticised the suggestion from the Victoria Police, with whom she has had an urgently-called meeting, that Indian students should move to safer suburbs. This police reaction the students’ realities lacks aliveness to the situation of many students. For many Indian and other foreign students, since they have to use their money extremely judiciously, live in lower rent suburbs, at a sacrifice of long periods of travel to and from their places of study. This fact lends futher strength to the call by the Federation of Indian Students of Australia (FISA) for a multi-cultural police section. I recently had the pleasure of meeting a busload of young Indian students who were visiting Steve Irwin’s famous Australia Zoo, and had a great chat. They studied Catering here.  They were by no means all from well-to-do sectors.

A very real question is: why is some given suburb unsafe? If it is unsafe, then the situation is not only a policing matter but also a matter that needs to be addressed by the whole community, with inputs from all the civic, religious, cultural, sporting, political and social welfare groups. 

It is to be hoped that other countries will not be shy of demanding strong accountability of Australia for the most proactive welfare of their students who study in this country.

The Age reports that The Deputy Commissioner of the Victorian Police Walshe believes ‘some Indian students were being attacked because they were by nature quiet and passive people, they travelled late at night, often alone and carried expensive gadgets’.

But if the situation is not fast and well-addressed (and one of the criticisms of the police and Victorian Government is that they have not acted sensitively or properly), India will not be too quiet and passive, and nor should she be.

We in Australia cannot forever, and unchallenged, pose ourselves as the great and successful multicultural undertaking on which many of us have felt a pride. Though there is truth and remarkable accomplishment, there is a point at which the resting on laurels, lazy assumptions and government propaganda have to be ground to a halt by our strong effort.

Among other authorities, Australian educators are going to have to address these issues very seriously and proactively. No ethnic group, or individual, should have to suffer any slight. A few years ago, I learnt that my former Indian yoga teacher, a woman, one of the most gracious and loved people one could ever meet, had been spat on. The disturbingness of this act dealt to one person is serious, but what to speak when reports of horrible actions are wider-spread.  

Having been a University student at the time of the great moratoriam marches against the war in Vietnam, and close enough to some of the events to know the facts, it was easy to see how very small but vicious agitator elements posed a danger to triggering off trouble. Key dangers were a minority of rabble, and the governments of the day and their police forces. Over the years, there have been reforms to police practice, including raising the educational qualifications, greatly increasing the presence of women, breaking down cultures of sectarianism, nepotism, and so forth. The Victorian government will need to probe whether any of the police acted outside proper professional guidelines.

It is no use Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd simply “deploring” to India and “assurring” her of urgent action. The problem lies far deeper than political accommodations can reach. All of us need to be engaged in the peaceful solution.

A Helpline for Indian students who are victims of crime is available: 1800342800. From 10am to 5pm, and 7pm to 11pm, Monday to Friday.

Reading and Viewing  – with link to the Channel NineMSN Australian Current Affairs program. This shows the sickening conduct of security personnel, seen by millions of Australians. The security detail was called by SWARA, when, to judge from the wide and separate questioning of those who had been involved, and from careful examination of the footage, the position appears to be clearly this: that social work professionals, volunteers and disabled clients were assailed without SWARA’s recourse to those pillars of Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings which SWARA professes to hold: Truth, Right Conduct, Love, Peace and Non-violence. There are those close to the issues who still regard themselves as Sathya Sai Baba devotees who have used such terms as “disgusted” when they describe the conduct of SWARA committee personnel.

On The Attacks on Students

Indian Students Attacked In Melbourne Australia: Cricket Star Brett Lee Voices Concerns

Australia’s Channel NineMSN Exposes Security Violence At SWARA

Sathya Sai Baba Cult Exposure By Major TV Channel In Australia

Sathya Sai Cult Under Media Scutiny In Australia

Australian Current Affair: ‘Infiltrating A Cult’ (Sathya Sai Baba)

(see the original video and report here)

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