DELHI: Old allegations of sexual abuse of boys by spiritual guru Sathya Sai Baba have created a fresh furore in Britain.
The issue snowballed after the British press reported that 200 boys would visit India on a month-long humanitarian pilgrimage starting November 13, organised by the Sai Youth Movement, a division of the Sri Sathya Sai Organisation.
These boys are to receive the Duke of Edinburgh award for their humanitarian work. According to the Guardian, the British public is irked by two issues — safety of the boys at Sathya Sai Baba’s ashram at Puttaparthi in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh and the involvement of royalty with the Sri Sathya Sai Organisation.
The newspaper quotes a former home office minister Tom Sackville, who also runs a victim support group, as saying, “It is appallingly naive for the award scheme to involve young people and the royal family with an organisation whose leader is accused of paedophilia.”
Interestingly, the United States Department of State has a travel advisory against the Sathya Sai Organisation: “US citizens should be aware that there have been unconfirmed reports of inappropriate sexual behaviour by a prominent local religious leader at an ashram or religious retreat located in Andhra Pradesh.”
The Guardian says US state officials have confirmed that this is a direct reference to Sathya Sai Baba. There have been rumours for years that the spiritual guru, who calls himself an incarnation of god, molested young devotees during interviews. Both Indian and foreign visitors to the ashram have come on record to say how he has abused them.
The public relations officer of Sathya Sai Baba’s ashram, however, told DNA: “We do not care what the advisory says. People and organisations can write whatever they want to believe. We have no more to say on this issue. Yes, the boys are coming to India in about two weeks’ time.”
The visit coincides with Sathya Sai Baba’s 80th birthday. He had apparently given a ‘divine commandment’ to the Sai Youth Movement to visit him on the occasion.