THE BBC DOCUMENTARY 'SECRET SWAMI'
First-hand summary report on the contents of the programme watched by millions on BBC TV2, June 17th.
By: Sanjay Dadlani
- This one-hour documentary covered the major aspects of SB's alleged crimes, such as sexual abuse, murder, and fake miracles. The following is a resumé written by a viewer in UK from memory after the programme. Some of the details may therefore be inaccurate.
- It started by introducing SB as "India's biggest guru" and so on. The first major "scandal" to be discussed was the story of Al Rahm and Alaya. They were intro'd nicely, explaining how Al had set up a "model Sai Baba commune", built a large house for bhajan sessions, plans to build a school, etc.
- The documentary was interspersed with the Rahms' story while showing clips of SB at Sivarathri (early 2004), interview with B Premanand, discussing SB's charity works (water project and hospital) as well as members of the Rationalist Association showing the residents of an Indian village how SB performs his tricks, much to their amusement. The main reporter is Tanya Datta, who appears frequently as an interviewer, etc.
- The Rahm's story is told like a common thread throughout the documentary. It is a surprising thing indeed to discover that SB had molested Al as well as Alaya. Mention is made of SB rubbing oil on Alaya's genitalia and attempting to have sex with him as well as kiss him on mouth. A little hilarity there as Alaya mentions that SB is "about 5 feet" and that he is 6"6', conjuring up a rather comical image of a short perverted man. The Rahm's collection of trinkets is shown as well as orange robes, and Al Rahm clearly tells Tanya that he thinks all those trinkets were a "bribe."
The story of Alaya Rahm is indeed tragic; Alaya's mother is reduced to tears and sobs as she relates how she felt when Alaya told the family of his abuse at SB's hands.
- The other molestee mentioned is Mark Roche of USA, who tells a similar story of genital oiling and SB's attempts to engage him in oral sex already in 1976. Tanya asks him: "Why would God want to put his penis in your mouth?" Roche replies something like, "You've got me!"
Footage of a meeting and subsequent discussion between Roche and the Rahms is shown as an example of how abused devotees need to move on with their lives.
- Interviews in India were conducted. Basava Premanand relates how he has been investigating SB since 1968 and going public since 1976. He is an elderly man, in his 70s. Footage of a town meeting is shown where Premanand and his colleagues explain how typical miracles such as the vibhuti materializations and lingam-ejections can be easily faked.
- Interview with Dr. Murali Manohar Joshi (formerly India's Minister for Science & Technology, Government of India, then Union Minister for Human Resource Development, but now out of power). This is one of the "funniest" parts of the whole documentary. The background info about Vajpayee's letter is told to give context to Joshi's interview. Tanya asks Joshi what he thinks about the allegations and is he aware of them? Joshi gives the TYPICAL evasive replies that SB Org officials always give and reiterated that whatever Vajpayee wrote in the letter was correct, his own statement being that the allegations were totally baseless.
- When asked by Tanya Datta if he or anyone representative of the Indian Govt had investigated the allegations into SB, Joshi gave more evasive replies before finally losing his temper and exploding into arguing with Tanya: "You are just trying to malign Sai Baba! Yes you are! Don't argue with me, you are! Do you think you can ask these sort of questions with me, a minister of my stature?" Total ego-trip.
- An interview with Isaac Tigrett is shown. Background info is given about Tigrett's experiences, founding the Hard Rock Café chain, donating money to build the Sai super-speciality hospital, and so on. Later on, Tigrett says some pretty astounding things which have the possibility to make people seriously doubt his sanity. As also reported in Time Out magazine, Tigrett sample comments: "Even if he [SB] went out and murdered someone tomorrow, that would not stop my evolution. He is my guru absolutely. I believe that the allegations are true, they probably are."
- Dr. Michael Goldstein, international head Sathya Sai Organisation, is interviewed. At the beginning he is "officially" interviewed wherein he states that SB is on an equal par with Jesus, Buddha and all, and the founder of all the world's religions. He expressed a reluctance to be interviewed regarding the allegations so the BBC team entered his home with a hidden camera and questioned him about the allegations. I'm happy to say that he also came off as a ranting maniac. He gave his side of the story of when the Rahms' reported Alaya's abuse to him and generally acknowledges his past comments to be true. He also told the whole story of how he went to SB and questioned him on the Rahm's behalf, even including SB's statement "Swami is pure." Goldstein relates that SB told him, "If you want to fight gutter people, you have to go into the gutter. Forget it."
- Goldstein rants about how he is a physician and that qualifies him to automatically "know" who has been abused judging on their appearance alone, since he has been associating with students since the 70s or so. When questioned incisively by Tanya Datta and another interviewer about why he never made a more thorough questioning of SB on the Rahm's behalf bar that one question, Goldstein says "it is against my faith and conscience to do so," because apparently "there is no way he could ever do such things." (!)
The genius part is how the documentary shows Al Rahm relating how SB praised Goldstein in that famous discourse we all know about, and a clip of this discourse is shown as well. Goldstein can be seen holding his head in his hands in pride at having beeen "blessed" so much by SB. Al Rahm bemusedly relates his feelings that Goldstein was "played" by SB.
- The story of the murders is told next. It is told interspersed with dramatic reconstructions of the incident which are instructive, and good graphically speaking. The ex-Home Minister for Andhra Pradesh state is interviewed to tell the story of the murders. He tells the official police version and states quite clearly that it is "riddled with lies and inconsistencies." He also states that there was "no way that knives are a match for roaring guns" and that any statement by the police officers that they shot the four "assailants" in self-defence is hogwash. Nayadjelu clearly states that it was "absolute, cold-blooded murder." An interesting thing that he also remarks is that he plans on RE-OPENING that 1993 murder case. Hooray! He clearly points to a cover-up, saying how it is "convenient" that the assailants were murdered, since if they had been arrested and taken to court, all sorts of details of details would have come out such as why they were there in the first place. Premanand is shown clearly stating what would likely have come out: "economic offences, sex offences, and the like." Graphic pictures of the murder scene are displayed, which work very well to give the viewer a good picture of how brutal the murders were.
- In between all of the above segments, a trip to Puttaparthi at the Sivaratri celebrations is shown. SB is expected to 'give birth' to a lingam from stomach via his mouth. Back in March, one could see how ridiculous of SB it was to simply vomit liquid and pretend to produce a lingam that was so obviously hidden in a towel. This could be viewed on an UNCLEAR clip from the kingdomofsai.org website posted. Not so with this BBC documentary; the Sivaratri footage can be viewed in brilliant detail, SB simply regurgitates the water he just drank and maybe a little vomit but it is obviously clear that no lingam ever came out of his mouth in 2004.
- After this lingam "no-show," SB is clearly shown collapsing due to the exertions of the cosmic miracle, poor thing. It is noted how the members of his coterie "swung into action" to help him. After apparently producing two more lingams (not mentioned or shown in the documentary) SB is shown being brought back to the stage with assistance. Really, he is a poor sick frail old man who is NOW in a wheelchair. It is absolutely amazing how anyone could believe that this is God. God collapses in full view of BBC TV?