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Commentary on B. Premanand's New Book
THE SHAMBLES IN BABAS BEDROOM
Ernest C. Owen
21 October 2001
The homicides of six devotees in Babas quarters in the temple of Prashanthi Nilayam of 6-6-1993 was never officially solved, the investigations having eventually been quashed by the Indian Government in accordance with the ashrams expressed wishes. The recently published 800-page book, Murders in Sai Babas Bedroom by the skeptic B. Premanand, exposes the crimes by presenting all the known facts and their possible significance, including court petitions by Premanand himself and official depositions, plus a vast array of newspaper reports, 16 pages of color photos covering the bloody crime scene, and other relevant materials.
Many facts were left uninvestigated or covered up and prime witnesses were left unquestioned (including sb who was present but never answered any questions from the press or investigators on the episode). A fairly brief and consistent outline of the main events that emerge can be summarized, even though it is overwhelmingly evident that the police were shown to have lied and lied and the Central Trust, ashram authorities and the Sai organisation remained silent about everything.
Above all, no one who reads this with an open mind can deny the depth of compromised involvement of top Sai officials and especially of the identity of a major culprit, Sai Babas younger brother, Janaki Ramiah, who thereby demonstrated his control of his brothers chief affairs and indeed later has assumed the overall practical management of the huge assets of the Sathya Sai Central Trust, besides his own millions obtained through property speculation.
On the night in question Babas four attendants on the ground floor of the temple with four persons who possibly tried to force their way in to see Sai Baba when they were denied access (two of the four attendants were as usual to sleep in and guard the temple that night). The exact cause of the fighting, other than that it was an intrusion, and whether or not the killing of any of the defenders were planned, is not definitely established.
The outcome was that two attendants were killed in a knife battle, two seriously injured while a 14 year-old student who was with Baba in his 1st floor bedroom escaped unhurt. Bolting a door, the student boy (or Baba) set off a loud siren, both leaving the room hurriedly. How the intruders got into Babas quarters through the bolted door remains unclear, but once in, they bolted the exits to the whole apartment area and sealed themselves within, if not on the assumption that Baba was still there at least to protect themselves from the angry crowd.
One policeman was nearby at the outset, it seems, but he fearfully left the scene. No police appeared for at least half-an-hour after the alarm siren went off, but meanwhile villagers, residents, foreign visitors and about 60 of Babas students surrounded the temple. After about an hour or so of apparent stand-off, during which the police and Seva Dal servitors eventually cordoned the main crowd off from the temple and compound, some of Babas MBA students, maybe including some villagers, appear to have broken in the door of Babas apartment to get at the four intruders.
Subsequently, according to a consistent eye-witness of the whole affair, a bank official interviewed shortly thereafter by the BBC, the younger brother of Sai Baba (Janaki Ramiah) had a ten-minute discussion with Sai Baba and Col. Joga Rao in the room at the opposite end of the temple where Baba had fled. The MBA students who had tied and allegedly also beaten the four intruders, left when the police very belatedly arrived, allegedly led by an inebriated officer.
Directly after this, the bank employee eye-witness reported, Janaki Ramiah ordered the killing of the four intruders whom he claimed had tried to murder Baba, saying Vallani kattesinaru, champeyundira They are tied. Now kill them. What may we suppose was discussed between Baba, his brother, and Col. Joga Rao for 10 minutes while the four intruders lay bound and bloody in Babas bedroom? Whatever it was, not not long afterwards it became a bloody slaughterhouse shambles in Sai Babas bedroom.
Then came the total police clamp down and cover-up that turned out to be a cock-up of Keystone Cop dimensions. What emerged as the best substantiated reports from the whole confused mess of reports was that, after shooting the four alleged assailants bound bodies (which had been beaten and were either heavily injured or already dead), the police must have moved the bodies and rearranged clothing etc. This was patently to try to make it seem the shooting was done in self-defense by the police as claimed in the Inspectors First Incident Report.
This report was contradicted by later official investigations, and on some points even by Sai Baba in a later discourse. According to the analyses of independent lawyers (notably New Zealand barrister Warren C. Pyke) and Indian criminal investigators, the report was certainly faked on many points and the scene of the crime had been rearranged. Some of the evidence remains uncertain or inexact, also because the results of further investigations were eventually kept largely secret through direct governmental intervention.
Contradictory to the local police Inspectors statements is that of V. Jagadish, who observed the broken door before the police arrived and further that of D. Peddireddy, who said that he broke the wooden plank that was holding the door and saw the deceased in the room after he did so. The absence of injury to the Inspector and the minor nature of injuries to the other policemen does not fit with their story of a struggle and their need to open fire. The position of the deceased after death and the very close range gunshot wounds do not fit the police version.
The nature of the gunshot wounds to the deceased are entirely consistent with a very close range discharge. Nor do the number of rounds discharged and position of bullets fit with the police account of shooting in self-defence at specific close-range targets. Independent and reputable witnesses, Balachandra, Sahani, Vatsava all say the shots were heard at 1 a.m., which fits with the post mortem report as to time of death, but contradicts the police evidence of 11.30 p.m. by a full 1½ hours. Further, the photographs of the corpses taken in Babas room show many details that cannot be explained if the police account were true.
One photo shows a bloody police lathi (baton), an unexplained length of heavy hosepipe on the floor and two heavy bloody poles on Babas sofa (probably used for stretchers to bear some of the corpses to their arranged positions in a different room), for which there is no police explanation. The distribution of blood in the rooms and on the bodies is often at odds with the police version of where and how the victims died. Remains of rope (allegedly used to tie the victims, then cut away after shooting) are seen in another room! And so on the police seriously bungled the remainder of the investigations, avoided interviewing witnesses, gathering obvious evidence etc., most likely so as to try to cover their own tracks. In this they were signally unsuccessful.
Read on On whom can one really rely? Press interviews with the families of all four victims and with various others who had known them well during their many years of service of Sai Baba were unanimous in their view that they were all deeply devoted to Sai Baba - two of them had been long-term close attendants of Sai Baba. There is abundant evidence that the four intruders, alleged by the police to be assailants wishing to kill Sai Baba (but this was denied publicly by Baba himself and by sources close to them), that they were still devotees in full faith who had another motive in trying to reach Sai Baba that evening. A question arises in every good devotees mind: Was this sinister Divine Comedy of heaven and hell not also staged and presided over by the Divine Director, as most devotees who believe in Babas self-proclaimed omnipotence to be so with all other events at the ashram?
Or does this omnipotence not even extend to his own students and ashram staff (when this is not convenient)? The bemused devotees answer to this will probably be, Swami chooses when to intervene and when not, and we cannot understand his mysterious divine motives. This mystification puts Sai Baba above the law (which he claims he always respects) and all human standards, but does it not also makes him seem not even human, but without normal care and compassion or even courage?
The Central Bureaus Criminal Investigation Dept. eventually had to take over due to public unrest with the police and ashram cover-up, and their investigations began to uncover some of the many irregularities, which ashram authorities and police alike adamantly refused to comment on. Though a prime witness, Sai Baba was never officially questioned! The brother of one of the alleged assailants, a Sai worker and former ashram security boss, Vijay Prabhu, and his co-worker Ravindra (earlier one of Babas closest servitors), were suspected of complicity with the intruders because of explosives and poisons found in their quarters and they were then hunted throughout India for a month and eventually gave themselves up at Nagpur so as to avoid the danger of liquidation by the already hopelessly compromised Andhra Pradesh police.
According to the press, they then explained that the intention of the four who were shot by the police had been to present to Baba facts about major corruption in the Central Trust and by Babas present attendants. They had no intention of harming Sai Baba, to whom all were devoted and for whom some had sacrificed excellent careers. The whole case was at length quashed by the intervention of the highest internal authority in India, the Home Minister, S. B. Chavan, who had been called to visit by Sai Baba as soon as the police cover-up became transparent so that the Central Bureau CID took over.
SB claimed in his Gurupurnima discourse that there had been no attempt on his life. He rambled on in a confusing way about exchanges with his attendant Radhakrishna about drinking buttermilk, visiting the village etc., avoiding giving any real explanation by preaching about the cardinal evil jealousy in all spheres of life in the world today, which he said was behind the incident. He added, as if in justification for all the murders, The final end is the only cure for it. He also defended all the members of the Central Trust against corruption allegations (though I am most reliably informed that he dismissed several of them for just that when the matter had died down sufficiently).
However, Baba may have inadvertently let out some of the truth behind the confrontation in telling in the same discourse that Radhakrishna had said to him, Swami has perhaps some doubts that I may go out somewhere and talk to others. Concealed facts about corruption were claimed by various others involved to have been at the core of the matter. In passing, Baba also timed the death of Radhakrishnan to 10.00 p.m., at odds by several hours with the police report. Home Minister Chavan revisited Baba five times more in the following months before they could rid themselves of the matter through a confidential government order, administered by the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh to close the murder case and suppress over 100 photographs (impounded by K.V. Reddy of the police) and also the CB-Criminal Investigation Dept. report.
That this could not even be made public speaks volumes and indicates what astonishing levels of corrupt power brokerage were involved to stop the truth and save Sai Babas reputation. The Secretary of the Sathya Sai Trust had asked Chavan to drop the issue as it might harm Babas image, which certainly makes honest persons wonder how the truth about it all could hurt Babas image? Dramatic new information That the police were pressurized into shooting the four alleged assailants in cold blood by top officials of the ashram and the Central Trust, not least Sai Babas own younger brother, Janaki Ramiah, is known to the present author from an extremely reliable inside source, on daily speaking terms with Sai Baba.
That source informed me that ashram authorities knew and could prove that the police had allowed two murderers of a German devotee lady in her new room within the ashram some time previous to 1993 to escape in return for revealing where the money they murdered her for was concealed (about Rs. 80,000.-). The police took the money themselves and this was the ashrams lever on them. This is known as criminal blackmail. The case of the German lady devotee was never cleared up, her only crime having been not properly to conceal while returning through the village the money she had withdrawn from the State Bank in Puttaparthi to pay for improvements to her new room.
SB had left the day previously, and the ashram authorities cleared the place of all foreign visitors and residents within a very short time in an attempt to conceal the incident, as is their usual practice after murders. The present writer has been involved with sb for decades and has spent much time with him at his ashrams, which is why it took me so many years since 1993 to come to accept and adjust to the otherwise wholly unbelievable facts of the incident described above. At some later date, when it proves convenient, the inside ashram source from which the central facts of this information comes, plus further details, will be made public.
Those top officials and even those MBA students who are more or less in the know are still mostly prisoners of their circumstances, often fearing to break faith with such a socially and psychically powerful and imperious godman. Few of them may so far be free of the bewitchment and fear of possible retribution to dare to speak out, but it is hoped that they will do so eventually. I know that most regular devotees are in much the same boat as to not speaking freely about many facts and their doubts and are, for many personal reasons, unwilling to look beyond sbs good words and works, of which there admittedly also have been and still are many.
Meanwhile, let us offer our condolences to all those sorely bereaved and maltreated in this matter, who have been allowed no recourse to justice or compensation of any kind, and not least to the countless followers of sb who have sacrificed so much time, energy and not least money with such good intentions and trusting faith (not forgetting that the good social services and works are actually financed and carried out by them). The grieving process and self-liberation from the person and symbol of sb as the Godhead made unavoidable by the major conflict between his words and his actions in all this - may be long and painful. However, greater self esteem, confidence and further realization can be achieved .
Murders in Sai Babas Bedroom by B. Premanand. Price India Rs. 400/-, Overseas US $40/- (free postage). Publ. by B. Premanand. 11/7 Chettipalayam Road, Podnadur. 641 023 Tamil Nadu, India. Send money order or bank draft for copies.