SATHYA SAI SAYS: "WHY FEAR WHEN I AM HERE?"
EVOLUTION OF JUNE 6, 1993 MURDERS EVENTS
Happy and secure in my faith in the divine goodness of Sai Baba, backed by decades of experience of him that was mostly positive, I did not find it hard to believe that he could have had no part whatever in the six murders that were committed in June 1993. So unquestioning was my faith that I accepted, in the main, the mostly irrelevant statements he made in the admittedly vague and rambling discourse some weeks later. Written instructions were sent out by leaders of the Sathya Sai Organisation (eg. Indulal Shah, Central Office and Chairman of the Western hemisphere of the Sathya Sai Organization, Dr. Michael Goldstein) not to question or discuss anything about the incident, but to ignore it and rather concentrate on oneself and one's own spiritual practice (i.e, based on the same principle as ever, namely: God does only what is good, any bad is done by us)! Even some of Goldstein's emotional outbursts and unbalanced ramblings in his letter to Sai devotees seemed to make things like a divine enigma that we could not hope to understand. The old excuse, 'only Swami knows the reason' soon clicked in with the followers. But then, I knew virtually nothing about the circumstances at that time, mostly only the carefully contrived bits of Sai Org. 'information' (disinformation, actually, whether cynical or unwitting brainwashing ). This is all very well, if you care nothing for the victims and their families, for justice or for the truth of the matter.
Devotees do just not want to know and still accept unquestioningly the clumsy and despicable cover-up by the ashram officials, the police, the Andhra Pradesh State authorities and the Indian Government (through the then Home Minister of the Indian Government, S.B. Chavan). In 1995, at the 70th birthday celebrations, I began to hear about the whole episode from a high-standing Indian Administrative Service Vigilance Officer, whose close colleague had been personally involved in the early investigations. The entire account was so shocking and so many confusing points remained unanswered that it seemed impossible to evaluate what was false witness and what genuine, and to piece together the evidence so as to see who might be responsible and what motives the various involved persons could have had. I set about getting inside information from persons whose judgement and honesty I could really trust. This I collated with the many press reports. Eventually the invaluable book by B. Premanand (Murders in Sai Baba's Bedroom') provided a mass of documentary transcripts and other evidence which helped me to understand how massive the cover-up to protect Sathya Sai Baba and his brother was.
According to V.K. Narasimhan's private confidences, the police were forced to shoot the four alleged assailants in cold blood by top officials of the ashram and the Central Trust, not least SSB's own younger brother, Janaki Ramiah, is known to me from an extremely reliable inside source, V.K. Narasimhan, who was on daily speaking terms with Sathya Sai Baba throughout the incident and until his death in March 2000. I have given detailed accounts of my long discussion and close friendship with VKN, his observations of and opinions on Sathya Sai Baba and his revelations to me in confidence about the murders.
The killings of six devotees in the private apartments of Sai Baba in the temple of Prashanthi Nilayam of 6-6-1993 were neverofficiallysolved, the investigations having eventually been quashed by the Indian Government in accordance with the >ashrams expressed wishes. The 840-page book, Murders in Sai Babas Bedroom, written and compiled by the skeptic B. Premanand, exposes the crimes by presenting publicly known facts and their possible significance, including court petitions by himself and official depositions, plus a vast array of newspaper reports, 16 pages of color photos covering the bloody crime scene, and other relevant materials.
Many facts were left uninvestigated or covered up and prime witnesses were left unquestioned, including Sai Baba, who was present close to the scene of the murders throughout, but who never later answered any questions from the press or investigators on the episode (unless he did so in strict secrecy in private to Government officials, as remarks made in public by the then Home Minister and Indian President indicate). On the contrary, Sathya Sai Baba later attacked the Andhra Pradesh journalists in the most derogatory and libelous fashion and was never held to account for this, despite their well-founded complaint to the requisite Press Council. He simply has too much money and other kinds of clout among those who determine things in India to answer to anyone at all! The press did their best but were contending with a tight criminal conspiracy of secrecy. The ppress managed to uncover many circumstances anyhow
Despite the largely very successful
cover-up within much of India
so far, which relied for
its effectiveness partly on the ashram power-brokerage but also on
the encouragement of confusion and hearsay of the typical Indian sort,
the issue refuses to lie down and die, even within the worldwide Sai
movement. There have been many indications of seriously falling
numbers of foreign visitors to functions and falloff in members, recruitment
and donations in many countries. No statistics are kept concerning
this in the Sai movement (unless secretly).
On whose accounts can one really rely?
Press interviews with the families of all four victims and with various others who had known them well during their many years of service to Sathya Sai Baba were unanimous in their view that they were all deeply devoted to Sathya Sai Baba - two of them had been long-term close attendants of Sathya Sai Baba . There is abundant evidence that the four intruders, alleged by the police to be assailants wishing to kill Sathya Sai Baba (though this was denied publicly by Sathya Sai Baba himself and by sources close to them), were still devotees in full faith who had another motive in trying to reach Sathya Sai Baba that evening.
A question arises in every fair-minded devotee's mind: Was this sinister Divine Comedy of heaven and hell not also staged and presided over by the Divine Director, as most devotees who believe in Sathya Sai Baba's self-proclaimed omnipotence would assume to be so, along with all other events at the ashram? Or does this omnipotence not even extend to his own students and ashram staff (when this is not convenient)? The bemused devotees' answer to this will probably be, Swami chooses when to intervene and when not, and we cannot understand his mysterious divine motives. This mystification puts Sathya Sai Baba above the law (which he claims he always respects) and all human standards, but does it not also makes him seem not even human, without normal care and compassion or even courage?
The Central Bureau's Criminal Investigation Dept. eventually had to step in due to public unrest with the police and ashram cover-up, and their investigations began to uncover some of the many irregularities, which ashram authorities and police alike adamantly refused to comment on. Though a prime witness, Sathya Sai Baba was never officially questioned!
The brother of one of the alleged assailants, a Sai worker and former ashram security boss, Vijay Prabhu, and his co-worker B. Ravindra (earlier one of Sathya Sai Baba s closest servitors), were suspected of complicity with the intruders because of explosives and poisons found in their quarters and they were then hunted throughout India for a month and eventually gave themselves up at Nagpur so as to avoid the danger of liquidation by the already hopelessly compromised Andhra Pradesh police. According to the press, they then explained that the intention of the four who were shot by the police had been to present to Sathya Sai Baba facts about major corruption in the Central Trust and by Sathya Sai Baba s present attendants. They had no intention of harming Sathya Sai Baba , to whom all were devoted and for whom some had sacrificed excellent careers.
The whole case was at length quashed by the intervention of the highest internal authority in India , the Home Minister, S. B. Chavan, who had been called to visit SSB as soon as the police cover-up became transparent and the Central Bureau CID took over. The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh acted to close the case on a government order. Moreover, Sathya Sai Baba claimed in his Gurupurnima discourse that there had been no attempt on his life. He rambled on in a confusing way about exchanges with his attendant Radhakrishna about drinking buttermilk, visiting the village etc., avoiding giving any real explanation, instead preaching about the cardinal evil, jealousy, in all spheres of life in the world today, which he said was behind the incident. He added, as if in justification for all the murders. The final end is the only cure for it. He also defended all the members of the Central Trust against corruption allegations (though I am most reliably informed that he dismissed several of them for just that when the matter had died down sufficiently). However, Sathya Sai Baba may have inadvertently let out some of the truth behind the confrontation in telling in the same discourse that Radhakrishna had said to him, Swami has perhaps some doubts that I may go out somewhere and talk to others. Concealed facts about corruption were claimed by various others involved to have been at the core of the matter. In passing, Sathya Sai Baba also timed the death of Radhakrishna to , also at odds by several hours with the police report!
Sathya Sai Baba refused to be interviewed by any police or CID officials! The Indian press repeatedly described events, as best they were able to investigate them through eyewitnesses who were too frightened to stand forth with their names. Literally hundreds of articles were written in all as the press tried to do its duty to society. Sathya Sai Baba rubbished the entire press coverage and the journalists involved in his highly evasive 1993 Guru Purnima discourse, without explaining a single thing. However, he stated that the whole incident would only serve to increase his fame throughout the world! (Perhaps he was thinking of 'notoriety'). The complaint to the Press Council by the AP journalists' union had not appreciable effect. Sathya Sai Baba explained nothing. In the light of official documents alone, no one can seriously contest that the killing spree by police was followed by a totally botched police cover-up. It would have made truly divine comedy directed by a humorous God from on high... were it not for the fact that two valets were murdered and four servants of Sathya Sai Baba , who had been most devoted for many years, were executed one by one in cold blood in "the holy of holies", Sathya Sai Baba 's bedroom. Considering that he was present when his attendants were murdered, and stood by without lifting a finger while the assailants were killed, Sathya Sai Baba proved he is not reliable as a witness, and certainly not as an omnipotent God defending non-violence. Under British law he would certainly have been condemned for aiding and abetting the covering-up of a crime, at the very least. In India he has such political power as to be beyond the reach of the law. He also says he is entirely above any human laws since he claims to be the creator and dispenser of Divine Law!
Home Minister Chavan revisited Sathya Sai Baba five times more in the following months before they could rid themselves of the matter through a confidential government order, administered by the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh to close the murder case and suppress over 100 photographs (impounded by K.V. Reddy of the police) and also the CB-Criminal Investigation Dept. report. That this could not even be made public speaks volumes and indicates what astonishing levels of corrupt power brokerage were involved to stop the truth and save Sathya Sai Baba s reputation. The Secretary of the Sathya Sai Trust had asked Chavan to drop the issue as it might harm Sathya Sai Baba s image, which certainly makes honest persons wonder what truths existed that would hurt Sathya Sai Baba s image.
The awful turning point for me first started when my very good friend, V.K. Narasimhan, told me that ashram and Trust authorities plus Janaki Ramiah,id a terrible thing. He told me that they knew and could prove that the police had allowed two murderers of a German devotee lady (in her new room within the ashram some time previous to 1993) to escape in return for revealing where the money they murdered her for was concealed (about Rs. 80,000.-). Narasimhan said that the police took the money themselves and this was the ashram's lever on them. This is known in civilized countries as criminal blackmail. The case of the German lady devotee was never cleared up, her only crime having been not properly to conceal while returning through the village the money she had withdrawn from the State Bank in Puttaparthi to pay for improvements to her new room. Sathya Sai Baba had left the ashram the day previously, and the ashram authorities cleared the place of all foreign visitors and residents within a very short time in an attempt to conceal the incident, as is their usual practice after murders and such crimes in the ashram.
The present writer has been involved with Sathya Sai Baba for decades and has spent much time with him at his ashrams, which is why it took me so many years since 1993 to come to accept and adjust to the otherwise wholly unbelievable facts of the incident described above. I swear by all the scriptures one cares to name that in my account of this I am speaking the truth as I know it. Those facts I could not - for the sake of his own security - make known until after his decease. The top officials and various MBA students who are more or less in the know are still surely prisoners of their circumstances, often fearing to break faith with such a socially and psychically powerful and imperious godman. Few of them may so far be free of the bewitchment and fear of possible retribution to dare to speak out, but it is hoped that they will do so eventually. I know that most regular devotees are in much the same boat, afraid to speak freely about many facts and their doubts, and are, for many personal reasons, unwilling to look beyond Sathya Sai Baba s good words and works, of which there admittedly also have been and still are many.
Meanwhile, let us offer our sincere condolences to all those sorely bereaved and maltreated in this matter, who have been allowed no recourse to justice or compensation of any kind, and not least to the countless followers of Sathya Sai Baba who have sacrificed so much time, energy as well as money with such good intentions and trusting faith (not forgetting that the good social services and works are actually financed and carried out by them). The grieving process and self-liberation from the person and symbol of Sathya Sai Baba as the Godhead made unavoidable by the major conflict between his words and his actions - may be long and painful. However, greater self esteem, confidence and further realization can be achieved through realizing the known facts and what they imply about Sathya Sai Baba s dishonesty, deceit and despicable behaviour.
The obvious tactic of the ashram in conspiracy with the police and of Sai Baba himself has been obfuscation. This has been extremely successful in India, even deluding several of its Prime Ministers and Presidents, though the facts are all officially unaccounted for and all investigations were cut off before they were conclusive! Nonetheless, a fairly brief and consistent outline of the main events can be given, even though it is overwhelmingly evident that the police were shown to have lied, falsified evidence, seriously neglected their duty as investigators, and lied again. The Sathya Sai Central Trust, ashram authorities and the Sai organization remained as silent as the grave about everything! Above all, no one who reads this with an open mind can deny the depth of compromised involvement of top Sai officials and especially one major culprit, Sathya Sai Baba s younger brother, Janaki Ramiah, who insisted that there had been an attempt on Sathya Sai Baba s life! After handling the police and the executions, he soon took over the effective running of Sathya Sai Baba s chief affairs through his management (with his brother Sais consent) of the huge assets of the Sathya Sai Central Trust, apart from his own many millions obtained through property speculation.
Reconstruction of the Course of Events from Available Evidence
On the night in question Sathya Sai Baba's four attendants on the ground floor of the temple fought with four persons who possibly tried to force their way in to see Sathya Sai Baba when they were denied access (two of the four attendants were as usual to sleep in and guard the temple that night). The exact cause of the fighting, other than that it was an intrusion, and whether or not the killing of any of the defenders was planned, is not definitely established. The outcome was that two attendants were killed in a knife battle, two seriously injured, while a 14-year-old student who was with Sathya Sai Baba in his first floor bedroom - Subbappayya, who was however reportedly struck by a dagger but escaped unhurt. Bolting a door, Subbappayya (or Baba) set off a loud siren, both leaving the room hurriedly. How the intruders got into Sathya Sai Baba s quarters through the bolted door remains unclear, but once in they bolted the exits to the whole apartment area and sealed themselves within, if not on the assumption that Sathya Sai Baba was still there at least to protect themselves from the angry crowd. (Why a 14-year old minor Subbappayya was in Sathya Sai Baba's bedroom so late is a question well worth answering too! The boy was reportedly spirited away from investigators and has never been questioned BY ANY AUTHORITY.)
One policeman was nearby at the outset, it was reported (also by himself initially), but he fearfully left the scene. No police appeared for at least half-an-hour after the alarm siren went off, but meanwhile villagers, residents, foreign visitors and about 60 of Sathya Sai Baba s students surrounded the temple. After about an hour or so of apparent standoff, during which the police and Seva Dal servitors eventually cordoned the main crowd off from the temple and compound, some of Sathya Sai Baba s MBA students, maybe including some villagers, apparently broke in the door of Sathya Sai Baba s apartment to get at the four intruders. It was alleged by many that some villagers assisted some of Sathya Sai Baba s MBA students to tie up the four with rope and beat them brutally. The photographic evidence (see below) tends to bear this out, but the intense atmosphere of fear among villagers and residents has precluded public statements on this matter.
In Brindavan in 1994 I was casually informed by an elderly and devoted Bangalore businessman, a contractor who worked on the hall at Brindavan (whose name I withhold for his sake) and whose close relative he claimed was there at the time, that Sathya Sai Baba was standing for some time behind the Prashanti temple where some women devotees and a number of students who had heard the alarm bells in the police station arrived. He thought Sai Baba may have told the crowd (who by at least one inside account tied up the intruders and beat them to death), 'Do not harm them'. The police staggered drunkenly onto the scene only after a very long time. However, almost all other reports state that Baba went along the first floor balcony to a room near or within the garage annex, where he remained until the whole incident was over.
Subsequently, according to a consistent eyewitness of the whole affair (a bank official interviewed shortly thereafter by the BBC), the younger brother of Sathya Sai Baba (Janaki Ramiah) had a ten-minute discussion with Sathya Sai Baba and Col. Joga Rao in the room at the opposite end of the temple where Baba had fled (the garage annex). The MBA students who had tied and allegedly also beaten the four intruders, left when the police very belatedly arrived, allegedly led by an inebriated officer. Directly after this, the bank employee eyewitness reported, Janaki Ramiah ordered the killing of the four intruders whom he claimed had tried to murder Baba, saying:- Vallani kattesinaru, champeyundira.. ("They are tied. Now kill them").
What may we suppose was discussed
between Sathya Sai Baba, his brother, and Col. Joga
Rao for 10 minutes, while the four intruders lay bound and bloody either on the veranda or in Sathya Sai Baba's apartment to which they were moved?
Whatever it was, not long afterwards it became the bloody slaughterhouse
shambles appeared in Sathya Sai Baba s bedroom suite.
Then came the total police clampdown and cover-up that would have been a Keystone Cop satire had it not been so sinister. What emerged as the best substantiated reports from the whole confused mess was that, after shooting the four alleged assailants' bound bodies (either heavily injured or already dead), the police must have moved the bodies and rearranged clothing etc. This was patently to try to make it seem the shooting was done in self-defense by them as claimed in the Inspector's First Incident Report. This report was contradicted by later official investigations, and on some points even by Sathya Sai Baba in a later discourse. According to the analyses of independent lawyers (notably New Zealand barrister Warren C. Pyke) and Indian criminal investigators, the report was certainly faked on many points and the scene of the crime had been rearranged. Some of the evidence remains uncertain or inexact, also because the results of further investigations were eventually kept largely secret through direct governmental intervention by the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister (almost certainly on direct instructions from the Home Minister, S.B. Chavan).
Contradictory to the local police Inspector's statements is that of V. Jagadish, who observed the broken door before the police arrived, and further that of D. Peddireddy, who said that he broke the wooden plank that was holding the door and saw the deceased in the room after he did so. The absence of injury to the Inspector and the minor nature of injuries to the other policemen does not fit with their story of a struggle and their need to open fire. From photographs made the morning after, one can see that the policemen who shot the four in a long hail of dozens of bullets (heard by many devotees at the time) had no visible injuries from the alleged struggle with knife-armed young men (just a small plaster on the forehead of one). The position of the deceased after death and the very close-range gunshot wounds do not fit the police version. The nature of the gunshot wounds to the deceased is entirely consistent with a very close range discharge. Nor do the number of rounds discharged and position of bullets fit with the police account of shooting in self-defense at specific close-range targets. Independent and reputable witnesses, Balachandra, Sahani, Vatsava, all say the shots were heard at , which fits with the post mortem report as to time of death, but contradicts the police evidence of 11:30 p.m. by a full 1½ hours. Further, the photographs of the corpses taken in Sathya Sai Baba s room show many details that cannot be explained if the police account were true. One photo shows a bloody police lathi (baton), an unexplained length of heavy hosepipe on the floor and two heavy bloody poles on Sathya Sai Baba s sofa (probably used for stretchers to bear some of the corpses to their arranged positions in a different room), for which there is no police explanation. The distribution of blood in the rooms and on the bodies is often at odds with the police version of where and how the victims died. Remains of rope (allegedly used to tie the victims, then cut away after shooting) are seen in another room! And so on the police seriously bungled the remainder of the investigations, avoided interviewing witnesses, gathering obvious evidence etc., most likely so as to try to cover their own tracks. In this they were signally unsuccessful.
One answer to part of the enigma I tried to adopt was that Sathya Sai Baba has to allow human affairs to take their own course so as not to usurp their will. However, Sathya Sai Baba has repeatedly denied that human beings have any kind of 'free will' and that 'only God (he means himself) has free will'. I do not accept this wholly indefensible primitive doctrine. I know that Sathya Sai Baba delegates responsibility to his workers, which can involve a considerable degree of own judgement and will power, which they may sometimes use wrongly. One person alleges that Baba, while avoiding the mob in the garage attached to the temple, was asked by officials what to do and told them to do as they liked. This is unconfirmed, but could well be correct. It has not been refuted - by any officials or Sathya Sai Baba himself. They keep as silent (like any Sicilian muerta ) as the grave of their victims and hope all will eventually blow over.
Not until around Eileen Weed's dramatic new eyewitness evidence emerged did such very significant new facts emerge. These can be read here
See also TRANSCRIPT OF BBC INTERVIEW WITH THE FORMER HOME MINISTER OF ANDHRA PRADESH
- V.P. NAIR
- ON THE MURDERS EPISODE, WITH SHORT VIDEO CLIP! (Click here)
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