Re "THE SECRET SWAMI" BBC DOCUMENTARY AND ITS MAKING
By: Barry Pittard
NOTE 1. ON BBC DOCUMENTARY - 'The Secret Swami'. First screening, BBC Two,
Thursday June 17, 2004. This World. 9-10 pm.
The BBC made it clear to us as former devotee global coordinators that, according to strict Corporation policy, equal opportunity would be given to both sides to provide information and interviewees.
The BBC has said that at first, the Sathya Sai Central Trust welcomed the BBC television team, giving them permission to shoot within the Puttaparthi ashram.
However, the moment the producer Eamon Hardy posed questions about the allegations, the BBC team was, he reports, abruptly asked to leave.
By contrast, during the many months of intensive BBC research, former devotees were at pains to be open and accountable to the utmost.
In December 1997, Indulal Shah, then World Convenor, told me that the SS Central Trust had refused many television broadcasters permission to shoot in Puttaparthi. In fact, the permission granted to a world broadcaster like the BBC - and any broadcaster - was unique.
Since the Sathya Sai Organization's response to the damage inflicted by the allegations is to embark on a programme of costly, professionally-produced 'positive' film documentaries, the BBC interest represented a unexpected chance to showcase positive images of guru and ashram to the world.
This entirely ruled out probing or questioning, as is typical of authoritarian cults.
Here is a stimulus question, especially to that growing number of more questioning Sathya Sai devotees who are accessing former devotee websites:
Could a college teacher of critical thinking who is at the same time a Sai devotee teach - without hypocrisy - a questioning attitude to his or her students?