Sai Baba could be put on UK blacklist


Vijay Dutt

Date: London, August 27, 2001


Followers of the Sai Baba may think him divine. However, the British Foreign Office is reportedly taking a less kind view of the Andhra holy man.

According to a report in The Times, the Foreign Office is believed to be studying Sai Baba's "activities and considering issuing an unprecedented warning against the guru to travellers".

The article claims a former Home Office Minister and chairman of an anti-cult group, Tom Sackville, has urged the British government to take action to warn young Britons about getting involved with the guru. A spokesperson of the British High Commission in New Delhi said his office had received no such report or advice from London.

The Times claims "three Britons have apparently taken their lives after placing hope in India's most popular holy man". It alleges the three men "died mysteriously" after becoming the Sai Baba's followers. The report said one Briton had complained of sexual assaults by the guru at his ashram in Puttaparthi near Bangalore.

One of the three was Michael Pender, an HIV-positive student who was found dead at a hostel for the homeless in north London after taking alcohol and painkillers. Reportedly, he had earlier tried to commit suicide at the ashram.

Another one was Aran Edwards, a classical guitarist and a post-graduate theology student, who hanged himself at home in Cardiff after joining a Sai Baba support group.

The third person, Andrew Richardson, 33, allegedly jumped off a building shortly after visiting the ashram.

Sai Baba followers in the UK have complained about the report. Dee Puri at the London headquarters of the Sai Baba charities denied claims of sexual harassment. "As far as I am concerned Baba is a great, great guru," she says.