Call For Media and Government Investigation

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

Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Rudd’

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)

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

Two Indias. Barry Pittard Reflects On India Days

Posted by Barry Pittard on October 12, 2008

During the number of years I lived in India, I was able to see across-the-board social uplift work in some of India’s poorest villages. One of my strongest observations was the manner in which, for many years, one outfit refused to accept financial input from abroad. A great emphasis was laid on challenging the consciences of the wider communities. Considering the implications, it was a tough love.

Will The India of Great Ideals Triumph?

There were outstanding inputs by those from different traditional castes and creeds. In an India often torn by communal clashes, key workers were widely respected through various communities.

One of the results might seem counter-intuitive: once programs of reclamation had gained a hold, a number of banks, cooperatives, restaurants and other places, where it had seemed that the poor classes had been forbidden on the grounds of caste, began to open their doors to the once terribly bedraggled people.

Will The Way of the Knife or of the Heart Triumph?

One overseas guest had a near personal miss to life-and-limb, when an extremely militant and highly organized Hindu outfit assumed a foreigner was a Christian missionary. Uncertainty crossed the face of its wielder when he found the foreigner singing a Sri Ganesha bhajan to the village children, very far from any Christian hymn. Social workers on duty that day were Hindu and had just managed to stop the torching of the village by the militants. They came racing to the site where the confused and scowling would-be assailant stood hovering in the doorway, and explained the nature of the foreigner’s presence. The latter afterwards said that, in the upthrust of the moment, the best thing had seemed to be to go on singing a divine song with a full heart, better than trying to use language or to argue with a knife.

Will India As A Superpower Oppress, Like Her Old Imperial Master?

Seeing the quality of the work – in which there were many examples that counter shallow notions of an India in which diverse communities cannot pull together, one felt moved to great hopes for an resurgent India that is belied by images of incredibly uneven and flashy opulence and profound squalor and violence. One saw a sweet idealism fleshed with the sweat of practicality. One could see, especially among the intelligent and energetic young workers, an India that has painfully and slowly worked to throw off her colonial experience under Britain’s lengthy, often secret and sometimes public, brutal and profoundly hypocritical  imperial rule. A rule that was far from properly traced in the standard western history books around when I studied history, and which, still further, ignored south India almost as though it did not exist.

It would take much more than one movie such as Sir Richard Attenborough’s ‘Gandhi’  to even begin to set the record straight before the rest of the world. The material wealth of Great Britain today in part still reposes on the wealth built up by the British Empire in countries such as India. At least Australia’s new government of Mr Kevin Rudd has had conscience enough to apologize to the noble and tragically long-suffering original peoples of Australia, on the top of whose cries my fellow Australians of today enjoy our flourishing material life-style. See Australia Says ‘Sorry’. A Lesson For Sai Baba And Followers.

However, like Australia, it is a moot point whether India will go the way of fine international accords but sorely breech them in reality – and realpolitik.

If signs of a widespread popular groundswell against institutionalized corruption are any indication, India has the potentiality to become a great force for international good. There is no doubting that she has begun to take on the dimensions of a future global superpower. (See my select articles cited below. A longer list is found in Sathya Sai Baba and India in-depth study

Many Volunteer Organization Do Great Work

This work among the poor was not linked with the Sathya Sai Organization, although the same ideals of service inspire many who have joined Sathya Sai Baba’s global organization. Indeed that, too, I was able to observe at close quarters, as I traveled to a number of States of India.

Those who pay tribute to the social uplift work conducted by many Sathya Sai Baba followers are right to do so, and most assuredly number former devotees, many of whom gave notable and dedicated service when they, over many decades, were a part of the international Sathya Sai Organization. This work should proceed.

However, given the highly unaccountable nature of the organized Sathya Sai Baba cult, the very worthiness of the social uplift work will be badly marred by a wide public perception informed by a series of investigative exposures in some of the world’s leading media, and elsewhere. When such serious allegations keep coming year after year, the public at large has a right to expect proper processes of accountability and transparency that relate especially to powerful organizations. It is not as though, from the top echelons down, members of Sai Baba’s worldwide organization, do other than cultivate mainstream civic, religious, political and government. See the article (and a revealing selection of photos!) ‘Secret Swami’ Cult Recruits At Prime Public Venues,in which I have written:

“Although there is a long history of Sathya Sai Baba’s utterances which forbid promoting of himself, his official worldwide Sathya Sai Organization promotes strongly, at his, of course, secret behest. This zeal to recruit (to use the proper word) tends to take place in exceptionally prestigious venues”.

But – one of the first things noticeable to investigating media – there is a virtually impregnable wall of secrecy surrounding this guru, whom the BBC have called ‘The Secret Swami’.

Further Reading

Human Rights World Report 2008. India In Sore Shape

“But the picture imparted by such a major source as the section on India in  Human Rights Watch World Report 2008 is very different to these rosy scenarios so widely touted by Sathya Sai Baba propagandists as Connie Shaw, and, indeed, by himself. The point should be made clear that many heads of the very police and military forces involved are, from time to time, seen bowing down to Sathya Sai Baba at Puttaparthi”.

Indian Media’s Reticence on Top Guru, Sathya Sai Baba, Weakens

“Breaking decades of virtual Indian media silence on comment critical of Sathya Sai Baba, a number of major Indian news organizations have run (mostly November 22, 2006) the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) report on Paul Lewis’s article in The Guardian, The Indian living god, the paedophilia claims and the Duke of Edinburgh awards’:   . Several times attempting to draw comment from the Awards representative, Shona Taylor, the IANS met with the same evasions from the Palace authorities as investigators like Paul Lewis”.

Note: Even The Times of India, one of the prime censors of news inimical to Sathya Sai Baba, ran the story.

This is, of course, not to say – courageously. For the story had broken in one of the great newspapers of the world, and available to Non-Resident Indians (NRI’s) around the world.

Sai Baba Sparks Political Furore

“Sai Baba had long consumately mastered – but is now fast losing – the art of playing all things to all politicians. A few recent headlines from Indian newspapers (see below) reveal how his latest “divine” pronouncements have produced a political storm”.

The Guru Trap. Will India Be Forever Trapped?

The Tehelka article reference to UNESCO involvement, in which it, along with the University of Flinders, Australia, backed out of a major Sai Baba led international education conference, is available HERE, and related is my article: BBC Caught UNESCO Head Bowing To Indian Government

Criticism of Sai Baba No Reflection On Hinduism

“Many Sathya Sai Baba devotees assume that any questioning of him equates to a denunciation of Hinduism. However, Hindus at large do not make this assumption in the least. A major national Hindu leader has emailed me (December 5, 2006) …”

Indian Gurus Stifle India’s Chance To Excel

“Because I lived lengthily in India, living with some wonderful Indian families, and worked beside Indians from a wide array of backgrounds and religious and non-religious affiliations, I was able to gain a sense of how deeply ashamed many thoughtful and sensible Indian people are of these gurus and the harm that they do”.

Indian Government Study of Child Abuse Is Groundbreaking

“Some commentors may find it all too easy to point a finger at India. No country must be let off the ‘hook’”.

P.N. Bhagwati, India’s Ex-Chief Justice: Wild, Reckless Claims

“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”.

The Secret Swami. BBC Docu. Review. Condensed

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

BBC Hidden Camera in ‘Secret Swami’. Ethical?

Exposure of Sathya Sai Baba. Media Source List

Posted in Opinion, Social and Politics, Spirituality, Uncategorized, World Issues, World Religions | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Dalai Lama: Forgiveness does not mean forgetfulness

Posted by Barry Pittard on June 15, 2007

dalai-lama-in-australia-june-2007.jpgAt the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Australia, July 14, 2007, the 14th Dalai Lama spoke to a capacity, 15000 audience. Several large screens throughout the auditorium meant that people were able to see him close up. I had the privilege to be there.

Someone remarked that the Dalai Lama was “radically informal”. It was true – he had a great naturalness, straightforwardness and simplicity. There were also  large crowds outside watching on a large television screen outside the Brisbane Entertainment Center.

Forgiveness does not entail forgetfulness

First, I shall single out one of the points he made, because it can throw light on the motivations of many former devotees of Sathya Sai Baba around the world. Most are not motivated by hatred against Sai Baba or leaders of his Sathya Sai Organization but believe it important to state their case as best they can, if in very difficult circumstances.

This point of the Dalai Lama’s – about forgiveness – is made, like all of his points, in many wisdom traditions, yet it seems to forever need to be raised and clarified, simple a point although it is.

Anyone who knows those individuals around the world who have dissented from Sai Baba – many of them having been deeply committed to his work for decades until they resigned or simply walked out – knows that most of those individuals speak out decidedly not because of hatred and revenge. It is a simplistic notion that speaking out about crimes and other wrong-doings has to to equate to hatred and revenge. Even if, since none of us is perfect, we err, it is important for us all to look for some better resolution of the issues. Some of the insights gained in the ‘Truth Commission’ processes may afford a guide for groups who are ready to reform themselves and seek compassionate solutions. See e.g., http://www.truthcommission.org

A society in which serious allegations are not brought out will remain a terribly crippled one. It will be one of secrecy, and lack compassion. It will not address the difficulties that so sorely need to be raised. China is far from alone in this, and we each need to address our own country’s failures to be a genuinely just society. However, China, as many cults do, has a long record of severe suppression, secrecy and violation of human rights. It has strongly protested to the Australian government, attempting to get it to stop the Dalai Lama’s visit. It would like us to forget him, and forget its atrocities, including enforced colonization and genocide. It can no more say sorry for these and make amends – to name but one of many Chinese government human outrages, for its violent mass killings in Tienanmen Square in 1989 (see Wikipedia reference HERE) than my own country’s government of John Howard can say sorry to our own wonderful, but tragically decimated indigenous people. Howard and the federal Opposition Leader, a former diplomat, Kevin Rudd, who speaks fluent mandarin Chinese, have both vacilated severely about whether they would meet the Dalai Lama. Most suddenly and curiously, neither appeared to know what their diary was doing but in fact, according to various media reports, they were both locked in consulting their realpolitik options – namely the trade issue, since China is Australia’s biggest trading partner. (I have dealt with this issue, from the perspective of our own interfaces with a number of governments in relation to Sai Baba HERE.  Many so-called ‘democratic’ governments prefer narrow pragmatism over humanitarian conscience). 

What the Dalai Lama has succeeded in doing, and what a few others like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mary Robinson and so on have so powerfully sought to do is to rise above hatred and vengeful, violent retaliation. (It may be good if we all start making a list and add still many more role model names, such as the Myhero project has sought to do at this page HERE). They have struggled on the great scale just as the rest of us have to struggle on the smaller scale. Not one of these leaders failed to speak out against the evils that had been perpetrated – such as those of war, empire, colonialism – and the disgraceful and terrible means used to realize them. Remembering evils can be graceful, especially when we have community support, and personal methods of self-discipline and induction of genuine calmness – such that we do not visit them on others as doctrine.

Forgiveness: Not losing compassion for the other person

Answering a question from the audience, the Dalai Lama distinguished between forgiveness and forgetfulness. He said that forgiveness is logically not possible with the absence of forgetting. To forgive, you need to remember what it is that you are forgiving. Forgiveness means not losing compassion for the other person. Sooner or later that individual, if they have have committed an offence, has to face the consequencies. Forgiveness does not mean taking no action. The important thing is that you do not let hatred overtake you.

‘Secular Ethics’

The Dalai Lama said he had nothing to offer but common sense. His own religion was his own private matter. His thoughts expressed publically may be termed ‘secular ethics’. He had not much to offer, except commonsense.

He was now nearly 72 and since 16 years of age has had lots of difficulties, like the loss of his country. As he tours the world there is always sad news. But it is important to find a way, although recognizing the sadness for what it is, not to detain oneself with it but instead to establish a calm mind. To some, this attitude seems like being careless. But it is not, because a conflicted mind will bring still more troubles. Take problems seriously by all means, of course, but on the objective intellectual level rather than on the emotionally conflictful level. One needs to  look at things objectively, and handle things more realistically, being neither over joyful nor over sad.

Happiness is the very purpose of life

Feelings of compassion and kindness need to be implemented through action. People need to feel a part of society, and self-confident.  We are social ‘animals’. Survival depends on a sense of community. Positive emotions are very good for us, and negative emotions very bad and destructive. The more compassion the better is society’s functioning. This recognition does not belong peculiarly to any religion.

Religious answers often divide

Compassion is very commonly shared by people everywhere since we received it from our time in the mother’s womb and from her as we developed as we developed from our earliest stages as human beings. If morality and ethics were based on adhering to this or that religion, serious questions arise. For example – what religion? Many answers to this are very divisive of humankind. What? Six hundred million human beings should all follow a just one religion and no other. It is not possible. The secular teaching of values is the commonsense solution.

Force has been the typical answer

Compassion cannot be a weapon. If you try to eliminate people’s viewpoints by force the hatred will pass down the generations. Today, one Bin Laden, in ten years 10 Bin Ladens. The Dalai Lama told this in a letter of condolence to President George W. Bush on the day after 9/11. He got a strong laugh from the audience when he said that he has met George Bush and is scheduled to meet him again soon, and finds him individually a very nice man but that “his philosophy and mine are – different”.

Destroying another person is destroying yourself

External disarmament is important but the real need is for internal disarmanant. We need to make these notions familiar to children in school, so that they can confidently say to their parents – this trouble needs to be solved through dialog, not through conflict. Consider the other person as a part of yourself. Destroying another person is destroying yourself.

A questioner asked the Dalai Lama what have been the his greatest joy and and greatest sadness. He replied that there have been so many such moments that it is hard to pick but that two of those that stand out that taken together were very important revelations to him came close together. When he was sixteen he was overjoyed to have obtained his Ph.D. Even as this happened, the Chinese occupation of Tibet was proving very difficult for his people. There was terrible fear of the Chinese soldiers. Over half a million people died, many of starvation, many killed. In March 1958, many Tibetans, including himself, escaped. The experience felt very “Up. Down” but it enforced a sense of reality.

——————————————

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   

Posted in Morality, New Age, Opinion, Protest, Rationalism, Religion, Spirituality, Uncategorized, World Issues, World Religions | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »