Two of Sathya Sai Baba’s attendants, his valet Radhakrishna Menon and a young male servitor, were allegedly killed by five intruders in a knife struggle (though that the intruders killed anyone is contested from study of the official evidence by B. Premanand). Four intruders were trapped, and – after some hours and ashram and negotiations with the police – were gunned down inside Sai Baba’s rooms.
Among the more questionable events surrounding the murders issue are the following:-
1 ) The refusal of the ashram and Sathya Sai Central Trust authorities to lodge any complaint on the six murders in Baba’s quarters.
2 ) Suppression of the news of the murders by the police for 12 hours, of the post mortem reports until after burial/cremation, and of trying to refuse access to the press to the FIR (First Incident Report), which later proved to be wholly uncorroborated and obviously false on many specific counts.
3 ) The secrecy of the Sathya Sai Central Trust in keeping photographers and journalists out of the ashram after the murders and in refusing to answer any questions of import concerning them either to the press or the various investigating authorities. (Was not the BBC’s title for its 2004 documentary, ‘The Secret Swami’ appropriate indeed?)
4 ) The mandatory magisterial probe and the CBI (Criminal Bureau of Investigation) reports were not completed and nothing of substance was made public, while the entire murder investigation was closed down by a confidential Government order, the remaining evidence of which is that no charges have been registered and no official report has ever appeared.
5 ) Many illegal irregularities during the investigation occurred. There were: very inadequate search of the scene of the crime; failure to question many eye-witnesses of events (hundreds of local inhabitants, ashram residents and visitors, many MBA students who entered Baba’s quarters while the 4 alleged assailants were still alive, whoever it was who took the injured attendants to the hospital, and others, including Sai Baba); the Central Bureau-CID permitting the Puttaparthi police to search the ashram after expiry of their authority to do so; totally conflicting reports of where poison was found.
6 ) Refusal by Prashanti Nilayam, Puttaparthi, ashram authorities to allow the two injured attendants (A. Patley and V. Bhatt) whom they kept under heavy security to give evidence (except in secret to the CID) and attempt – by removal to a secret location – to cover up the inexplicable and unexplained existence of a boy student in his early teens (Subbappaypa) in Sai Baba’s room who opened the door and gave him the alarm. The CID interrogated Subbappayya twice, despite the ashram authorities demanding they present a valid authority to do so. Was this because sexual abuse was involved?
7 ) Failure to secure material evidence such as large sums of money in notes, bullets fired by the police, and the concealment of material evidence like photos of actual and alleged injuries, the bedding of the four assailants who were to sleep on guard at the Puttaparthi mandir (Sai Baba’s temple where the events occurred) that night.
8 ) No explanation as to why the bodies of the guards killed were found on the ground floor, when the assailants had reportedly crept up to the 1st floor and knocked at Sai Baba’s door to deliver a supposed telegram. Nor would the investigators explain how the alleged assailants entered Sai Baba’s quarters when the door had already been bolted from inside (by either Subbappayya or by Sai Baba?).
9 ) Why were the video film and colour photo negatives and positives of the bodies and crimes scene asked for by the Puttaparthi police later impounded by them? (However, despite this, colour prints have survived and have been published). The photos show a blood-stained lathi (police baton), pieces of rope in blood pools around two of the bodies, while the other two bodies have no blood around them, gloves lying neatly beside bodies of two who would have had no time to take them off having been shot through the head and heart at close range.
To be continued…