Brushed under the carpet

The murder attempt on the life of Sai Baba on 6 June, 1993, made international news. Six people died in the skirmish - -two killed by the assailants and four shot dead at point-blank range by the local police.

The godman's valet, Radhakrishna Menon, and Sai Kumar Mahajan, a seva dal volunteer, were killed while trying to prevent the armed miscreants from entering the godman's chamber. The attackers - commerce students E.K. Suresh Kumar and K. Sai Kumar, Suresh Shantaram Pra-bhu, a marine engineer, and N. Jagan-nadh- were killed in cold blood by the police inside the godman's ornate bedroom. And Vijay Shantaram Prabhu and B. Ravindra, who had masterminded the attack and managed to flee, were caught near Nagpur after a month-long manhunt.
Today, that shocking incident, which shook the Baba's devotees in India and 137 other countries, is totally forgotten. Nobody wants to talk about it and the police have dropped the investigations. Those charged with the crime have been set free on bail.

Even when the probe was on, the administration and the investigating agencies took extraordinary care to see that the Sai Baba's name did not crop up in connection with the case. "There was no murder bid on my life," the godman said later, enabling the sleuths to wind up the case. It is believed that the Baba's devotees in the police, the judiciary and in the state and central governments moved heaven and earth to hush up the incident.

But even the inconclusive probe had brought to light some gross irregularities at Prashanti Nilayam, the Baba's central headquarters. Rampant groupism, mafia-style operations to browbeat dissenters, land deals all over the country entered into in the name of the Baba, infighting amongst the members of the central trust, monetary transactions from more than 150 accounts of the trust and allied educational and other organisations, and the tyrannical rule of the godman's brother Janakiramaiah were revealed.

Even as the preliminary reports were being prepared, influential officials in the Andhra Pradesh Police and the home ministry began to meddle with the investigations. Ramachandraiah and Gopalakrishna Raju, the two senior police officials probing the case, were taken off the job and posted elsewhere.

Assailants Prabhu and Ravindra maintain that their intentions were to inform the godman about the "goings-on in the Prashanti Nilayam". "We wanted to take over the administration of the ashram from the clutches of these operators and hand it back to the Sathya Sai Baba," is how they have been quoted in the police records.

The attempt on Sai Baba's life is believed to have been a fallout of the infighting among the trustees over the control of the assets. But since the case is no longer a priority, the actual conspiracy remains shrouded in a mystery.

G.S. Radhakrishna/Puttaparthi
The probe into the attempt on Sai Baba 's life has been abandoned

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