Since Sathya Sai Baba’s death and after the emergence of counter evidence in the last seven years that absolve him of any such allegations, this entirely negative and therefore non-objective portrayal has, instead of being discontinued, only been enhanced by the litany of obituaries which almost in unison denounce India ’s most revered guru and humanitarian as a sinister con-man. The BBC by making and promoting such a documentary has thus displayed lack of professionalism and balanced perspective taking that would fairly examine all sides of a debate, as any other objective investigative journalism would provide. Instead we have a rather odd collection of neo-intellectuals who seem to lack even balance in the mental sphere as they seem unable to distinguish between opinion and fact, between rational documentary making and sensational cinema creation.
What we were not told however was that Mr Singh, acknowledged in India for the often implicit sexual innuendoes in his writings has been known for basing all his so-called expert reviews of Sathya Sai Baba on his American friend Tal Brooke who is further well-known as a Christian fundamentalist and fanatic author, who believes that ‘enlightenment is an evil path to Satan and that God-Men and Gurus are in a state of perfect demonic possession’. Moreover, Tal Brooke has also been known to claim “out of body experiences”, hearing the voices of “spirit guides”, seeing spiritual entities and having “demonic encounters” on the astral realm and has also personally admitted to experimenting with LSD and being involved with a pro-LSD organization (i.e., Neo-American Church).
What was then glaringly missing from this assembled cast of highly questionable characters was any practicing and respected Hindu scholar (which Khushwant Singh and Premananda were clearly not) who might have been able to give an informed opinion on the matter. Instead Ms Datta chose to portray this as a government conspiracy in a country of a billion-strong democracy. One would wonder why the BBC felt itself well endorsed to make so-called serious programmes which revolve around the Hindu world and its adherents without a single inside view.
Satya Sai Baba had been tried and found guilty on the basis of allegations alone and on the basis of trial by camera. (One would wonder if the BBC would also have gone so far as to apply for a government charter to sentence this man?) More importantly, India with its own vast internal security, intelligence agencies and its judicial system would have enforced its own laws (in the last seventy years when Baba started his social work) of investigating and even convicting Sathya Sai Baba had they found any shred of evidence that implicated him for such alleged crimes. Instead, the then Prime Minister of India released a letter that officially reinstated the innocence and honour of Sathya Sai Baba:
(Excerpt from the letter released by A.B Vajpayee, former Prime Minister of India, 1st December, 2001, signed by former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India and the National Human Rights Commissioner)
Even today the same level of respect and honour is still meted out to Sathya Sai Baba by other eminent political figures of India. Former President of India, A.P.J Abdul Kalam wrote a tribute to Sathya Sai Baba in the Hindustan Times on April 22nd, called ‘Sathya Sai Baba: The Divine Legend’, honouring Baba for all the philanthropic work he has done. Current Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, also said during the funeral ceremony of Sai Baba that “Sri Sathya Sai Baba as a preacher of the highest human values was an iconic figure for over five decades”.
One would basically have expected the international media to have much higher standards of objectivity, sophistication and investigation in such sensitive matters but it stands to reason that such irresponsible and partial reporting exposes not only BBC’s keen flair for the dramatic but also its concealed potential for deception. Such irresponsibility and conscious misleading has the power to cause trauma to devotees all over the world as this documentary is still being used and promoted as leverage and ammunition to target devotees and attack them on their religious beliefs rendering them as objects of ridicule.
Such overt bias cannot but deepen the prejudice with which Hindus are perceived in the west, in manner not meted out to any other community, religion, culture and civilisation where the media is always very careful not to cause any controversy which may be deemed offensive, even if it means compromising objective analysis. On the other hand where Hindus are concerned almost any Hindu perspective even if it is brought in, has always been deemed as insignificant. Terms such as extremist, right-wing and fascist are still the favourite swear words used to deny Hindus even legitimacy in issues which concerns them.