Document date: 11-13-02
By: Robert Priddy
From: Sathya Sai Baba - Extensive information and Viewpoints
Part Four - Sai Baba and the News Media
A section of the journalistic community world-wide has been writing against SB on a variety of very serious counts. Some of what is written by over-sceptical critics is not made on the basis of first-hand observations or properly checked information and often ignores his constructive educational institutions and health projects. But he has refused to answer, as his officials also do. Unfortunately, this applies to at least as much of what is written in favour of him too. Those who ignore, suppress or try to explain away with specious arguments the many shortcomings and human failings of SB are equally culpable of untruth. These failings are an indelible blot on the whole SB enterprise.
Some journalists and critics distort otherwise normal human communication by their lack of consideration for the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but this applies with at least equal force to those devotees who block channels of information and practise secrecy in affairs that affect many people and the general public. Censorship of negative facts as stringently practised throughout SB's institutions and self-censorship has been officially accepted by Indian authorities. Worse still, most Indian journalism now seems to be enamoured of SB because of his visible projects and his talking up of Indian values etc. They do not inquire properly into the many allegations from all over the world, or how SB has become socially invulnerable in India. He has attacked journalists verbally in public on some occasions when they were only trying to do their job, especially Andhra Pradesh journalists after the murder spree at his ashram in 1993. SB's has shown his ability in getting criminal investigations quashed by police, the judiciary, and government Ministers. This sent a very powerful warning shot across the bows of any Indian investigative journalists. The Indian press is clearly cowed by his demonstrated political power, an indictment of India's press freedom. That this is so is shown by their neglect of any mention of the Public Petition for Official Investigations of SB and His Worldwide Organization Petition, of which they are well-informed. The petition is most embarrassing for SB since it is signed by ca. 150 ex-devotees and leaders of the Sai Org., many of very long standing, plus about 100 other individuals. The lack of openness and democratic accountability is still common to most Indian public life, where huge scams have been exposed at top levels only for the exposers to be out-manoeuvred and beaten down by power interests
A month after the six 1993 killings/murders, SB attacked the media scathingly in a discourse saying, "all arguments and theories carried in the newspapers for the past four weeks are nothing but flights of the imagination and are false" (quote) calling such reports 'motivated' and 'malicious'. He was then publicly asked to clear doubts by the Anantapur District Journalists' Union, who responded by asking him:
1) Where he was after the incident on June 6 till the next morning?
2) During the period, who met him and what did they discuss with him? Did SB himself press the siren button?
3) There is a widespread opinion that the four slain assailants were shot dead by the police only at the instance of some persons belonging to the Prashanti Nilayam management, how far is it correct? SB did not reply to any of these questions. Questions about the incident were brushed aside by harassed ashram officials, and written instructions were sent out from top Sai Org. officials not to question or discuss anything about it but rather to concentrate on oneself and one's own spiritual practice. SB himself was able to remain as silent as a clam about what really happened, no official in the whole of India was able to question him, except in secrecy at best.
There is still much to be said for as positive an approach as possible, for it can awaken us to good things that have been overlooked, and can be an inspiring stimulant to goodness. Yet when it becomes a virtual rule of law, as by SB's 'divine' command, the other side of the coin soon becomes dark and threatening. A self-sacrificing organisation like Amnesty International, which often risks much to bring huge injustices to the notice of an otherwise unknowing and uncaring world, and aims to influence the perpetrators, can only be said to be constructive and positive in outlook, despite the depressing nature of the 'news' it spreads. This is surely an example of seeing, hearing, speaking and doing good... even though it criticises and challenges killers, tyrants, corruption and many other oppressive and negative forces. SB is not in favour of this, he says he wants everything to be described always through rose-coloured glasses for one should 'See, hear, speak no evil' etc. He makes crystal clear how much he dislikes defence of human rights and wants instead to enforce a regime of imprinting 'human duties' instead.
'Today's newspaper is tomorrow's wastepaper', says SB (doubtless taking over yet another English phrase suggested to him by his former 'ghost writer' and spin doctor , Prof. N. Kasturi), and always advises that we concentrate on what is good, not what is bad in other people. Some of the press scavenges the rubbish bins for sensation, recycling whatever hearsay may boost circulation. On this problem, in his first newspaper interview in 25 years, SB told some journalists from Mumbai in 1999, including S. Balakrishnan, that the newspapers should be more careful and responsible, while publishing of senseless and baseless news must be avoided, especially of those at the helm of affairs of the country since it has a lot of repercussions abroad. Doubts should be cleared after free and frank discussions with the persons concerned, he said, and truth should not be compromised under any circumstances. However, concerning himself and all events around him that do not agree with what he tells, SB remains as silent as the grave, as do all his lackeys.
While SB clams up about his own involvements, he is vociferously outspoken against anybody writing anything untoward concerning him. This was seen particularly in his discourse in July 1993 about the press' role in reporting on the murders that took place under his nose, and more recently in a public discourse at Christmas, 2000, where he condemned his accusers and critics the strongest possible terms, threatening anyone who does so with what amounts to eternal damnation! Yet he impudently claims to be the One God of Love, the Father who sent Jesus Christ on his mission of forgiveness! SB tries constantly to erase all traces of any unfortunate events. That he dislikes unnecessary talk, loose gossip, and spreading rumour - and has even called this 'evil' or 'a great sin' - is positive, but it also backs up the culture of silence and secrecy concerning the darker sides of himself.
To put on the rose-coloured glasses, as SB recommends, may well reduce some potential conflicts, yet it is used by his followers as an excuse for ignoring many wrongs done, by SB and at his ashrams etc. The mere envisioning of rosiness alone, however, will never keep out or remove problems that exist. Instead, they have a way of festering and growing the more when denied. Not to speak of ill-doing if so doing can be thought to harm anyone, is a blind policy if ever there was one. Besides, it would make most human communication impossible, for there is always someone who will feel harmed by almost any truth. Indeed, SB himself constantly describes and condemns ills and ill-doers in general and sweeping terms, both of Indian and world society... and in words very far from rosy... His public attacks are not usually made against named persons, but they are increasingly made against persons who can easily be identified nevertheless.
In a discourse full of contradictions and complaints on 19 January 2002, SB discussed the press as follows: "Whatever paper one is from, write exactly what has happened. It is not wrong. They bring in what has not happened at all and put that in the paper. Only when non-existent and amazing things are put in, they will get more money. Just write exactly what happens. If it is a wrong, write it as a wrong. If there is good, write it as good. Only that; but don't mix in what isn't there." (Comment: What happens to his own recommendation to say only what is good?)
"I am 76 years old. Up till now I have not met with any newspaperman or TV people. (Applause) I don't have any relationship with papers at all. For, if good is spoken, without fail friendship can be made with them. But they write contradictory things." (Comment: There are several well-known interviews SB gave to press people, including Mr. Karanjia of 'Blitz Magazine'. And SB constantly speaks in a very contradictory way. Also he previously mentioned specifically two newspapers which wrote "exactly what has happened)".
"He came with a pistol near Me. They saw it."(Swami's voice imitates in a taunting way the sound of people gossiping:) What lies, just tell! (Laughter) (Swami's voice turns louder, accusing and strong:) Was there even one newspaperman there? Who saw? (Swami pounds the table saying:) Why should anyone tell such untruths? No one came at all! Finally, we see that pistol is a gas (air) pistol, used only to shoot birds. When all of it is like this, why such big publicity? This is a BIG mistake." (Comment: Why was it such a big mistake if - as mentioned before - "nothing happened". If that was so, why such a strong reaction?)
"Let the paper men think anything. I don't get anything out of the newspaper. My paper - my heart only is My paper. From My heart, there is so much Love only: only Love, only Love. (Applause) So I am sharing that Love. Let it be anyone at all: I will share it with all. All are Mine. I belong to all. I don't have hatred for anyone. All have only Love for Me. I have Love for everybody. Therefore, Love is the close relationship between both of us." (Comment: Is SB sharing his "love" with the newspapermen?)
"Suffering was given to the hearts of how many people? The journalists have succumbed to so much sin! From so many places - America, Germany, Japan, England, telegrams came from all directions. Therefore, none should succumb to so much jealousy." (Does this suggest that so many people do not really believe in SB's "infallibility"? Why does he make such a fuss when a simple clarification is all that was needed, rather than a whole public discourse to be widely published? Does SB really think that journalists whose job it is to follow up news for clarification all suffer from jealousy?)
There is despite all a clear dislike evident in SB for any report, however neutral, that anything untoward that occurs at his ashrams to be reported. The incident in this case was a bagatelle, but it is far from being this innocent always!