bulwarks against physical and verbal attacks
Since 1994, not long after the cold-blooded police murders of four devotees in Sathya Sai Baba's bedroom, a government-run system of security checks using metal detector gates and body scans and searches has been in operation at all the ashrams - (but only when Sathya Sai Baba is in residence) Security checks are made on every person, and how every smallest item (however private) is checked. Even the smallest items - things that are inconceivable as weapons (such as computer diskettes, soft cushions etc!) must be deposited elsewhere before one is allowed into 'the compound' where Sai Baba will give darshan. Armed guards with Kalashnikov or Uzi machine guns can often be seen ready to deploy.
Few visitors to Sai ashrams are aware that they are under constant surveillance by numerous paid undercover agents, employed by the ashram and paid from the huge funds donated money available through the Sathya Sai Central Trust. In 1996 V.K. Narasimhan - Sai Baba's closest servitor at that time - confided in me that Baba had employed foreign security experts. In my diary/notebook covering my visit to Puttaparthi in 1995/6, I recorded what V.K. Narasimhan told me on 1/1/1996 exactly as follows: "Sai is spending 50 lakhs a month on his own protection, with 50 private security men in plain clothes in the ashram and within his building, says Narasimhan. Why, if nothing can harm him? Sathya Sai said it was for the benefit of devotees. Why did Sai announce in an interview that he would be killed during an attempt in October 1995?"
Almost anything one says anywhere in the ashram (or even outside it) that can be picked up will - if at all suspicious will be reported by snoopers. Not only suspicious talk, but information which can be used by Sathya Sai to convince interviewees that he knows things about them no one could apparently know. On average throughout the 1990s, at any time 500 unpaid volunteers for the Seva Dal - selected on a rota between the states of India - partook in surveillance activities. They came in groups for a one or two week tour of guard duties, usually working shifts of up to 12 hours of each day, They function as a backup to the whole ashram security system, whether they quite realise their role or not. One must as, what then is the 'Supreme Peace' (i.e. 'Prashanthi') from which this ashram has its name?
A Danish ex-follower who read the original version of this article informed me already in 2002: "I read your article about the security systems in the Ashram. I can add to the story that last year when I was staying in Sai Village (near the airport in Puttaparthi), I talked to an Indian man, who told me (proudly) about that he was chosen to set up cameras around the ashrams, so that everything could be monitored and recorded. I actually saw some of the equipment. I don't know if this is public knowledge, or maybe it was an accident that he told me about it."
Who is the target of the feared attacks and why assume that there is reason to attack anyone? Sathya Sai has many times proclaimed that no one and nothing can harm him. This seems extraordinary...when the precautions proclaim it to be obviously untrue! Sathya Sai has boasted in a discourse that everyone loves him and no one hates him (Sanathana Sarathi September 2002, page 257f and p. 262). One is prompted to ask: "Why should he fear while he is here then?" V.K. Narasimhan asked him the reason for using so much money on security and he told him it was for the protection of the devotees. Now that is both chutzpah and bold hypocrisy! The official line parrots this line... a convenient rebuff to those who begin to ask why the invincible Avatar of the Kali Age might need such excessive protection. Oddly, however, few believers actually deny that it is for protecting Sathya Sai himself, at least since the supposed 'assassination attempt' on him (which he has firmly denied in public was an assassination attempt).
Sathya Sai Baba it was who named his ashram 'The Abode of Supreme Peace' (Prashanthi Nilayam) implying that it is some kind of earthly paradise refuge. In numerous books blessed by Baba it is stated that visitors to Prashanthi are under the protection of Sai Baba, no harm can befall them etc. The Sathya Sai Organization encourages its members to visit the ashrams, often arranging group visits and making their travel arrangements. The information given in advance to newcomers is, in all permitted literature and in talks given about conditions there is seriously lacking in frankness as to certain dangers that can be met, even within the ashrams.
All information about deaths therein, murders, suicides, fatal accidents and other untoward incidents is suppressed. Those who have found out, usually by chance or private contacts about such events, have had to rationalize hard to sustain belief in all that Sai promises about his protection and with his much publicized motto 'Why fear when I am here?'. The armed guards and massive police protection at festivals and during politicians' visits speak another story... it is hardly a reason not to fear when they are needed (and they are famously incompetent at crowd management too). A very costly array of Black Beret commandos take over at functions which the P.M. and President of India attend, often causing crowd crushes, such as at the bi-decennial birthday celebrations (i.e. 65th, 70th etc,) Bomb threats received by the ashrams are never made known (except by independent sources in the press), and devotees are left in the belief that there are no threats of such dangers. A bomb threat from Tamil Eelam was received prior to the 75th birthday, which was quietly reduced in size by the ashram authorities without giving the reason as reported in the Indian press. Most recently, in 2007, the birthday celebrations were again under threat from bombers and the security presence was immense, newspaper reports stated.
Janakiramiah, Sai's younger brother, contradicted Sai Baba and got his way
Sathya Sai's younger brother, multi-millionaire Puttaparthi property mogul Janakiramiah (now deceased) was adamant that an attempt of Sathya Sai Baba's life was intended, while Sathya Sai himself was equally adamant that this was not so. Convenient confusion for those who have most to cover up like the brother and Central Trust officials. No one has claimed that Sathya Sai was ever actually attacked. Claims set forth by some parties that one of the intruders' motives was to stop him sexually abusing his students or that the intruders wished to stop widespread financial irregularities and other injustices could not be examined by independent investigators, no more than could the actual killings. Janakiramiah had been excluded from the ashram and all its institutions until then, but his elder brother took him in from the cold and gave him a seat on the powerful Sathya Sai Central Trust. (Finally, Janakiramiah is now deceased)
Here are demonstrable 'vested interests' of a large order and several kinds. Whatever the reasons for the intrusion of June 1993, the fact is that the self-proclaimed 'pure Divine Soul' himself was close by while his two servitors were (allegedly) being knifed in the interview room and entrances and remained nearby consulting with his officials in the garage complex attached to the temple. He was most definitely involved in the cover-up afterwards, which raised a major judicial and human rights issue, but he was never formally questioned and, with the aid of the police which his officials control and the authorities which are led by devotees of his, he stopped any charges being brought against anyone.
From this and many other facts, the safety of devotees today is seen most clearly to be a most secondary consideration at the ashrams. Armed guards protect only Sai Baba's personal quarters. It is well-known too that he had constructed for himself at the Poornachandra Hall,a veritably invulnerable abode with balconies that cannot be scaled from the ground and with rooms that are sealed off from the ground floor by a lift, which was deactivated when Sai so desired, such as at night. Moreover, as anyone can observe, there are two sets of identical-looking apartments and balconies etc., one on either side of the Poornachandra Hall. Since 2006, however, he has built a couple of regular small palaces in addition, into one of which he has moved. The other is used by his chosen students. One may ask why he has had to move once again? Last time it was because he could no longer occupy rooms which had been tainted by the killing of human beings... and this time?
Faith-shaking Events Exposed
Followers hold that everything Sathya Sai Baba says and does
has a meaning, as he has himself imprinted on their minds, The meaning, he holds, is often
hidden to us or most people, sometimes temporarily and sometimes permanently. Indeed it is withheld on purpose and covered-up in layers of misdirection and deceit. But devotees prefer to believe "the
meaning is only known to Him", implying that poor you or I cannot understand
it, so don't ask, but implying that it is for the best of everyone. I contend it is primarily for the best of Sathya Sai Baba himself - his name and fame (which he pretends he does not care about - despite the glee with which he promotes himself and loves those who do praise him to the skies. The bottom line is that secrecy is the chief method of Sathya Sai Baba... anyone who has been at all close to him knows this full well, and his servitors and 'form boy' students are all too aware of the penalties for letting cats out of bags and spilling beans... one can sometimes literally see the fear in their eyes when they are confronted with questions they cannot answer.
Unknown dangers of visiting Prashanthi Nilayam.
No one can be certain of the exact (but considerable) number of foreign devotees who have died there in accidents, taken their own lives there or have literally been murdered (within the ashram itself). Tightest secrecy and cover-up of facts is exercised both by the staff and all Sathya Sai Baba's foreign officials in the Sai Org. as well as most devotees. No records are made public about those who commit suicide (dozens at least), or who die of natural causes or illnesses contracted there. There are various serious hazards that are never explained to visitors. Pickpockets are mentioned for obvious reasons, but threats to security are never explained and none are told that mingling with ordinary visitors there are numerous armed plainclothes guards (some bearing hidden weapons - as became known during the 70th birthday when one drew a revolver). These are additional to the highly visible armed military guards and official security people who are there to protect Sai Baba (by Indian Government order).
One most malignant cult tried to infiltrate Sai ashrams
Undercover envoys of the Japanese ‘guru’ Shoko Asahara of the Aum Shinrikyo cult (aka Aum Shinri Ko, Aleph and Aum Supreme Truth) tried to force entrance to the Prashanthi Nilayam ashram. [The Aum Shinrikyo cult is that one which poisoned Japanese subways with lethal sarin gas was also believed to have godlike paranormal abilities as well.] Sometime in the 1990s a group of Japanese were sent by Shoko Asahara to Puttaparthi, where they bought some premises and set up an Aum Shinrikyo office there (with fax machines etc.). They then contacted Sai officials with a view to meeting Sai Baba, who Shoko claimed to be one with. They were given the 'bum's rush' and so later a gang of several of them tried to force their way in to the enclosure for ‘darshan’ using martial arts... but these were eventually fought down by many servitors of Sai Baba (Seva Dals). They packed up and left. It was over within a couple of weeks and the whole episode was hushed up completely by the ashram and Organization, of course.