Sathya Sai Baba is reported by Kasturi as having fetched the one-time dacoit, Kumar, from a group of bandits who he surprised in the hills in his younger days. He made Kumar his main gate watchman at Prashanthi Nilayam. Kumar was known as a very offensive person towards all poor Indian visitors, and also to foreigners – for he once locked an American girl in his concrete hut for over 24 hours for infringing some petty rule of the ashram. Kumar was killed in early 1987. Two different accounts of this have circulated.
One account holds that his big toe was bitten off by an enemy who pretended to make up with him, a Shiva priest who asked to take padnamaskaar of him (i.e. touch his feet) while sitting on the bench before the accommodation office. It was said that he was refused entry to the small Sai hospital and died, allegedly of shock, within three days in Bangalore. This is the more credible account, which I heard personally from a Malaysian resident and an Anglo-Indian friend at the time, Alfred Brinnand in Prashanthi just a day or so after the event.
The other account – told me much later – in 1996 – by Mr. V. Ramnath of the Indian Administrative Service, was that Kumar was killed by a cook in the Prashanthi Nilayam Indian canteen who Kumar had been harassing very badly, supposedly with a large kitchen knife in self-defence – Kumar had reportedly assaulted him in the grounds of Baba’s parents’ mausoleum in Puttaparthi.
In both reports, however, the guilty party went straight to Sathya Sai Baba to beg forgiveness. He was given money (either by Sathya Sai Baba himself or by the ashram staff?) and told to leave the ashram and to stay in some village until further notice. The person later returned to the ashram as usual. No one was arrested or charged with the killing. Which account is true, or whether both incidents occurred (perhaps in sequence), is not known to me.
Subsequently, when Kumar’s rooms in the small watchman building just inside the ‘gopuram’ gate was cleared, 50,000 rupees in small denominations were found behind the picture of Baba. This money had been extorted from visitors to the ashram, mostly poor Indians. Kumar was known for aggressive behaviour, using his stick on defenceless visitors and also on beggars etc. and had become a general tyrant, having made a lot of enemies within the ashram and outside.
After this discovery, Baba was visibly furious with the then head of ashram (Kutumb Rao) and his assistant (Chiranjia Rao) when they approached him on the veranda.
Such is life at Sathya Sai Baba’s ‘Abode of Supreme Peace’ (“Prashanthi Nilayam”) – not forgetting the infamous murders in Sathya Sai Baba’s bedroom on June 6th 1993!