The following article from ‘Eastern Eye’ tries to be balanced. However it requires some comment (see below)
MAN OF GOD OR MAGICIAN?
Debate over Sai Baba resurfaces with controversial TV documentary
Eastern Eye - June 25th 2004
CONTROVERSY has never been far from Shri Sathya Sai Baba, India’s most revered ‘God man’. The Secret Swami, a BBC2 documentary shown last week, portrayed Sai Baba as “a fake and a fraud” and the documentary also alleged that he has been abusing some of his male devotees. Eastern Eye presents two views on Sai Baba…
Mr. Ashok Bagani, a veteran Sai Baba devotee and one of the Trustees of the Shri Sathya Sai Charitable Trust, UK, which helps developing countries deal with poverty, bad education and crime. Mr Bagani has been a Trustee for 20 years.
He says: “I saw the documentary on Thursday and it made my blood boil. The BBC is a premier channel and it was irresponsible of them to show a totally one-sided, biased and unbalanced documentary that they knew may stir something amongst many members of the Asian community. I think that they have done a very bad job.
“The documentary was totally baseless. When looking specifically at the family that accuses him of child abuse, there are two important things to consider. Firstly, had the father, as he claimed, been in a similar situation with Sai Baba as his son claims, then why on earth did he let his son get so close to Sai Baba and furthermore, why did he let him step foot in India? As a father, I would not place my son in that position.
“Secondly, there seemed to be no apparent investigation into their background, credibility or proof. This makes the whole documentary completely unbalanced. I am not sure why people make such allegations but it could be that the Guru sidelined the family.
“In my own experience, Sai Baba has always conducted his interviews with ten or more people. Never have I seen him take just one devotee for an interview.
“Also, the documentary did not show any of the positive things that Sai Baba has done and although they used an Indian journalist, Tanya Dutta, it does not mean that it was fair or representative of the millions of devotees that follow him.
“We feel that we have a right to complain to OFCOM about the documentary and stress that the BBC has twisted things. I know that in the 38 years that I have been following Sai Baba, he would NOT do such a thing.”
Mr Edamuraku is the President of the Rationalist International Organisation based in India. He is a well-known investigator of claims of miracles and paranormal, and has exposed hundreds of godmen and charlatans.
He has criticised many “holy men” including Satya Sai Baba, Pilot Baba, Balti Baba, Chandra Swami, Swami Sadachari, Mata Amritanandamayi and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Hundreds of rationalist volunteers trained by Sanal Edamaruku are challenging claims of paranormal all over India and in several other countries.
He says: “In my opinion, Sai Baba is a complete fraud. For many years, we have tried to start national campaigns against Sai Baba and this has been difficult to do because he has got many politicians supporting him and he has been granted too much power. Certain politicians use him to promote their party and this invites many connections.
“On many occasions we have exposed Sai Baba as a fake by re-enacting the tricks that he claims make him superior. He has been exposed many times by us and this only makes his supporters gullible. As a group, we only ask for two things. First, Sai Baba should be thoroughly investigated by the police regarding the abuse allegations.
“This will give him the chance to show whether he is guilty or not. Secondly, we demand that he should stop showing off his so-called ‘miracles’ because he has been exposed.”
“It is a shame because in a country as powerful and respected as India, the biggest democracy in the world, a man with the power of Sai Baba has so far proved himself to be above the law.”
Comment to the above by Robert Priddy (former founder member/office-bearer/leader of the Sathya Sai Org. in Norway between 1983 and 2000):
Mr. Ashok Bhagani’s statement: “In my own experience, Sai Baba has always conducted his interviews with ten or more people. Never have I seen him take just one devotee for an interview” proves nothing but the bias of his own opinion.
He has not been and seen all that much, for I have seen young men taken in individually into the private interview room and the teak doors closed firmly for up to ten minutes on several occasions. I also have all reason now to accept that two young Swedish boys and two Indian students at least who went in alone separately on different occasions when I was there were abused sexually, though I cannot go into the matter further here due to the sensibilities of those involved.
His other biased view comes forth as “Secondly, there seemed to be no apparent investigation into their background, credibility or proof. This makes the whole documentary completely unbalanced. I am not sure why people make such allegations but it could be that the Guru sidelined the family.”
The BBC investigated the backgrounds of these persons assiduously before choosing to interview them. They also interviewed numerous other, and recorded 80 hours of film around the world to this end. They chose only what would make a consistent and continuous presentation within the limited time available. Mr. Bagani can rest assured that the BBC have full legal back-up for their filming, and he can do nothing to challenge them. he will have to take it sitting down (or kneeling and praying for enlightenment before his false and disgusting guru). I personally know one of the interviewed who was abused by oral sex, and I can assure Mr. Bagani that he is a very honest and reputable person of quality. I also know and have questioned at length another who was abused likewise, a Swedish man whose entire account is most credible and will also be published in a major book this year.
It is Mr. Bhagani’s view that is twisted, not the BBC’s. He has known Sai Baba for many years, so have I. He could not know that Sai Baba would not do such a thing any more than I could know it before it became common knowledge. The full story can be read at: