Letter of Regret to the New York Times
Document date: Sunday 8 December, 2002
Dear Senior Executives, New York Times
(Chief Editor, Please also copy to Keith Bradsher; and Barry Bearak, NYT Asia Bureau Chief)
In addition to other materials relating to Sathya Sai Baba, who your journalist Keith Bradsher totally and uncritically lauded in his article NYT, December 1, I copy below the Australian scholar Brian Steel's posting today, Sunday December 8, entitled "18 Basic Myths About Sathya Sai Baba." http://home.hetnet.nl/~ex-baba/engels/directlytonews.html.To you and your research staff, I commend the various resources he refers to by URL, as well as to Mr Steel's points.
Formerly, for two years, I lectured in English at Sathya Sai Baba's college, Whitefield, via Bangalore, Karnataka, south India, and am now an international coordinator in the effort to demonstrate the unsalutory facts about Sathya Sai Baba. I am happy to assist in arranging, on an understandably confidential basis, contact between NYT and those victims or their families prepared to share their experiences once assured of a sensitive, professional hearing. I would also have you speak with a number of highly qualified sexual abuse professionals who have close knowledge of the cases.
I wish you to contact me, so that we can find the best way forward. As I see it, NYT has simply let in a story (even though one by an award winning journalist of the caliber of Keith Bradsher) which you, incomprehensibly, did not cross-check.
This does great injustice to the many victims, and their families and supporters worldwide, of Sathya Sai Baba's serial sexual molestation of boys and young men. It does not consider substantive allegations of other grand crimes, such as complicity in a series of police killings in 1993 at Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh, south India, where Sathya Sai Baba has his main ashram, the most famous in India.
Whether you will admit error or not, I do expect the New York Times to take every decent step to listen to the dissenting voices. These include not only the victims but many, from various countries including the US, who formerly held key roles in the Sathya Sai Organisation, and who, after extensive, first hand investigation of the allegations, resigned from Sathya Sai Baba's organisation on a matter of high ethical and moral principle.
If, for one moment, you had done a search on Sathya Sai Baba's name, you would have discovered that UNESCO had serious concerns about both the sexual abuse allegations and unsatisfactory dealings with UNESCO by Sathya Sai Baba conference organisers, of which UNESCO was to be a part, and withdrew, on principal, along with Flinders University, Australia: http://www.saiguru.net/english/sai_org/11unescoconf.htm
You would have found that the US State Department posted an official warning for American tourists visiting Andhra Pradesh in South India, pointing to Sathya Sai Baba in all but his name: http://travel.state.gov/india.html.
You would have found concern expressed in the British Parliament at the prospect of its young citizens who may visit Sai Baba. Note Prime Minister Tony Blair's reassurance to Member of Parliament Tony Colman) www.saiguru.net/english/news/ukwarns.htm.
You would have seen the three articles by Dominic Kennedy and team in the London Times:
You would have found articles by the Vancouver Sun, www.saiguru.net/english/media/010227vancouver.htm, by the Ottawa Citizen www.saiguru.net/english/media/011219ottawa.htm, a cover story of several pages by India Today, India www.saiguru.net/english/media/001204india.htm, a Daily Telegraph story (UK): http://www.saiguru.net/english/media/001028divine.htm
You would have seen that, like Mick Brown of the Daily Telegraph, Michelle Goldberg of Salon.com travelled vast distances to research the story, he to the US, she to India. http://dir.salon.com/people/feature/2001/07/25/baba/index.html.
Not to mention a great deal of other testimony. You would also have found the JuST (Just Seekers After Truth) Petition, in which so many former devotees, whose integrity was never, all down the years, assailed by Sai Baba devotees, until we voiced sincere dissent and compassionate concern at the plethora of allegations from boys and young men, as well as other tragic anomalies: http://www.PetitionOnline.com/saibaba/petition.html.
Quite likely, Keith Bradsher and the New York Times had no prior knowledge of the also laudatory article on Sathya Sai Baba that appeared in the International Herald Tribune on December 3. So hard upon! Yet it seems clear to me that both newspapers have been made the plaything of Sathya Sai Baba's Puttaparthi propaganda machine, which is swinging into action to control the damage from the countless resignations from the Sathya Sai Organisation, and the exposure efforts of dedicated former devotees on many websites, and in major world media, such as the Times of London, Daily Telegraph, and radio and tv broadcasters such as the British Broadcasting Corporation: http://home.hetnet.nl/~ex-baba/engels/articles/bbc.html,
Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the Danish Broadcasting Company: www.saiguru.net/english/media/013002seduced.htm and TV Azul, Argentina www.saiguru.net/english/news/010819azultv.htm
The dissenting former followers of Sathya Sai Baba come from a great many social, cultural, and educational backgrounds. Some have been Sai Baba's close followers for up to thirty years (in my own case twenty-five). Any of our wider communities can vouchsafe for our responsible citizenship.
The action of the New York Times would obscure integrity itself by an extraordinary failure to check the bona fides of India's most controversial religious figure, who has himself publicly slandered his dissenters, saying that they are "Judases," are being bribed to speak out against him, are "cawing crows," and so on. It does not edify that the Indian Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee (along with other high profile Indian devotees) who publicly worships Sathya Sai Baba, calling him Bhagavan (God) echoes the same sentiments.
Days have now gone by since the Bradsher article, and our fast response to it in sending you considerable documentation from countries around the world. Already, many former Sathya Sai Baba followers are writing to me, saying, e.g., "the NYT remains silent." There is sadness and sometimes cynicism at this.
I and increasingly many others have done our best to alert you. Yet you have not responded. I now ask you to reply to this email, as well as to act in a publicly responsible manner.
Faithfully, Barry Pittard, Australia