Two decades of experience of Sathya Sai Baba, mostly seemingly very positive, led me to believe that he could have had no part whatever in the six murders that were committed in June 1993. So unquestioning was my faith that I accepted what little was said about it by officials in the Sai movement and in a discourse by Sathya Sai Baba himself some weeks afterwards. One answer to part of the enigma I tried to adopt was that Sathya Sai Baba has to allow human affairs to take their own course so as not to usurp their will. But this would not hold water in the long run. Now I have received information which confirms the suspicions I had but did not endorse definitively until now: Sai Baba actually ordered the murder of four persons!
One fact which was reported at the time, but which great efforts were made to conceal, was that the four who were later shot by police, had actually been caught by a mob of villagers and students, were bound up and beaten to death with sticks. They may still have been alive after that, however. The subsequent shootings (which undoubtedly indisputedly occurred) would then have been staged by the police in connivance with Sai Baba and his officials. One independent report posted in August after the murders by a co-student of one of the four murdered devotees emphasises the facts that the ashram most successfully suppressed in the aftermath of the horrendous night of 6 June, including the binding and beating to death by a mob. (see the report here)
Consider the nature of the crisis and dilemmas facing Sathya Sai Baba and his minions when the four attackers who had killed the valet and another servitor had been caught and bound. What should or could they do? They had to decide what the motive could be. The younger brother, Janaki Ramiah, was certain it was an assassination attempt on Sai Baba himself (reports from several persons claimed he had a personal motive for this view). Later, Sai Baba stated that he knew it was not so. That they had killed the most important servitor, valet Radhakrishna Menon, who controlled access to Sai Baba’s rooms, along with one of his helpers Mahajan (while wounding yet another) pointed to quarrels which were known to exist between him and the intruders.
On the other hand, there was no doubt that the intruders wanted to speak to Sai Baba – if not kill him – and their reason(s) – though not known in detail with any certainty – included questions of Sai Baba’s personal security and the corruption prevalent in the ashram. This was known about for years by the then ashram security chief Vijay Shantaram Prabhu – aged 45 – who had frequently told others of the corruption. Valet Radhakrishnan was surely one of those V. Prabhu and company saw as a main culprit. Oddly, V. Prabhu reportedly wandered off casually to borrow cigarettes and/or smoke with his accomplice (Bothapatti Ravindra Babu Venkatshwar Rao (aged 33) while the others were entering the temple, just as if no violence was expected. It is thought Prabhu entered the temple shortly thereafter but managed to flee and so escaped the fate of the other four, as did Boyapati Ravi Rao.
Knowing most of the basic facts Sai Baba and Co. then had to face, and presuming the intruders had already been beaten to death (or only nearly so?) by villagers and students who has swarmed over the temple to catch them they obviously realized that a massive scandal was likely. Even if the intruders survived the tortuous beatings, it was clear that any perception that they had been lynched with the aid of Sai students on the holy temple veranda in the Abode of Supreme Peace (i.e. Prashanthi Nilayam) would make it impossible to live down the disgraceful reputation it would bring on Sai Baba (who was supposedly in charge of the whole place and omnipotent into the bargain). If yet living, the four intruders’ death was to be desired so that their side of the story – which might be more disastrous still – would disappear. They doubtless knew a lot and – after being treated to torture – might well turn prosecutor’s evidence and bring out many hidden facts about corruption, sexual abuses etc. under cross-questioning. Yet how to get rid of them so it might appear an unavoidable upshot?
The Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad 26-6-1993 reported, “Meanwhile, Janakiramaiah and Col. Joga Rao, who is also one of the trustees, came rushing and conferred with Satya Sai Baba for 10 minutes. Coming out of the Baba’s ground floor chamber, the eyewitness said, Janakiramaiah reportedly told the students to ‘lynch them’. (“Vallani kattesinaru, champeyundira…” They are tied. Now kill them)” While Joga Rao may only have conferred with Sai Baba for 10 minutes before his declaration, the police arrived (reportedly most inebriated, as on most evenings) only at 11.30, that is one hour after the intrusion and alarm. The hail of bullets they later released was heard by most of the ashram at 1 a.m. (according to numerous witnesses). (Despite these widely reported facts, the police report falsified the time entirely). So there was at least a 1 1/2 hours while Sai Baba, the authorities and the police were at ‘panic stations’ seeking some kind of plan for damage limitation, thinking out the details of the scenario in which they would be shot by police in self-defence and then ‘negotiating’ through blackmail and probably further bribery with the police to force them to do it.
The police would not have gone along with that easily, but the Sai people had them in their power because they had rigged the escape of two villagers who slashed a Swiss lady devotee to death months earlier so as to get the Rs. 80,000.- they has taken and hidden. (This I was told by V.K. Narasimhan after I had asked to know what happened. As he was a close friend for years, I could not possibly doubt his veracity, nor his being deeply shocked and confused by it all. He knew that much (maybe more, though he was kept mostly in the dark by the mundane powers that administered the ashram). Probably the Sai minions added some more sweeteners… money was no object to them, of course.
Information from diverse and reliable sources show that the attackers of Radhakrishnan were not intending harm to Sathya Sai Baba. This was borne out by the chief planners of the incident, Vijay Prabhu and Bothapatti Ravindra Rao when they had surrendered to a different police district and were interrogated. (Apropos, they were never charged and were soon at liberty).
Here are some of the diverse reports asserting that no harm to Sai Baba was intended (which Sai Baba also confirmed in the first discourse he gave after the event!):-
From a mail from Eileen Weed (‘Divya’) who was living with Sai Baba’s sister Venkamma at the time and were told the above that evening by her grandsons, who were allowed into the temple during the incident.
Hari Sampath, who was a top security agent at Prashanthi Nilayam at the time, later explained: “The four persons told a strange story: They said they had received reliable information that there would be an attempt to kidnap Sai Baba and they were trying to warn and protect Sai Baba and WERE NOT INTENDING TO HARM HIM (http://www.exbaba.com/articles/murders.html)
The Hindustan Times 9-6-1993 reported that the widow of one of the killed assailants, Suresh Shantaram Prabhu, said it was Baba who arranged her marriage with Suresh, a marine engineer. Her husband was a very good man, a great disciple of Baba. ‘He would never harm Baba’. ‘We never do anything without Baba’s permission’.
‘He was so timid and kind that it is unbelievable that he tried to kill Sai Baba,’ says a shocked Saroja Krishnamurthy, mother of K. Sairam, one of the four assailants shot dead by the police. Indian Express 9-6-1993
Times of India 27-10-1993 Prabhu reportedly told the police that he and those shot dead by the police were all staunch devotees of Sai Baba
Times of India 9-6-1993 If the police version of the assailants pouncing on them and brandishing daggers necessitating the opening of fire as the only option is to be accepted as true, the ashram inmates, speaking on condition of anonymity, asked why none of the policemen suffered any serious injuries.
DECCAN HERALD 10-6-1993 reported that Mrs. Ratnamma (62), Jagannathan’s mother, said it was unbelievable that her son – a pre-university student at Whitefield who gave up his business to devote himself to the Baba – could ever attack Sai Baba as he was an ardent devotee. Mrs. Ratnamma said he had almost become an ascetic…”
“A local bank employee, who was also an eyewitness to the entire drama, told Chronicle on condition of anonymity that he heard the four saying from inside the locked room that they were only trying to save the Baba. The four were held captive for nearly an hour and thirty minutes.” (Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad 26-6-1993)
Indian Express Vijawada, 4-7-1993 Parents of Boyapati Ravindra, who is at large following the June 6 incidents at Prashanti Nilayam at Puttaparthy, have appealed to him to surrender immediately: ‘Surrender and tell the world what has been happening at Prashanthi Nilayam. Baba knows you are innocent,’ they said. Aged parents Venkateshwara Rao and Ramanamma, who have been asked to leave Puttaparthy by Baba’s personal secretary Narayana, returned to their home in the remote village Ghantasalavaripalem in Krishna District. ‘If I or my son say anything, it is only at the divine inspiration of Baba,’ Venkateswara Rao claimed.
The Hitavada 8-7-1993 Sources say that the arrested duo, talking to the cops here claimed that they were innocent and had been framed. They hinted at a larger conspiracy and said that their names had been given to the police as they had vital information about the ‘misdeeds’ of those in power at the ashram. They claimed that certain people had gained control over the activities of the Ashram and were apparently misappropriating funds. These people control the purse strings and deal in considerable amounts of money on a day-to-day basis as huge donations come to the Ashram every day, they said.
Mr. Shankar Shantaram Prabhu, a retired flight lieutenant and father of the Prabhu brothers, told Chronicle that he was informed by his elder son, Vijaya Shantaram Prabhu – who is reportedly absconding – on that fateful morning that a homan was being performed by Radhakrishna ‘with an intention to harm the Baba, at some secret place’. Vijaya also expressed that he should do something to prevent any harm befalling the Baba, but was advised to mind his own business. Mr. Shankar Prabhu… opined that ‘there are some vested interests in the ashram trying to undermine the Baba. My two sons have become victims of the vicious circle in the ashram.’