Notes made from conversations with IAS official V. Ramnath in Yelahanka, Bangalore, December 1996-January 1997
Here is a brief record of some part of the hours of conversations with Ramnath ('Ramu' for short) about the murders, those involved and allied episodes at Prashanti Nilayam. This first raised doubts in my mind about the murder episode, on the basis of which I later questioned V.K. Narasimhan as to their veracity. (Incidentally, I am still also in possession of a very thick bundle of correspondence with Mr. V. Ramnath - about 30 long letters - which may be published from, as and if further cause should arise.)
At the time of making these notes, I had not really begun to investigate the murders issue properly, but was just following up on what strange and partly distorted news I had been told by the IAS office, V. Ramnath, who had claimed to know so much from a close IAS colleague (a former 'batchmate' at Elphinstone college) who investigated the scene shortly after the murders. Only when the pressure of facts grew so strong and I could not rid my mind of the questions that constantly arose, did I take the bull by the horns and begin to seek the recorded facts and read the damning and very informative newspaper reports.
Having believed in Sathya Sai as a true and pure holy man and avatar for 16 years, and having made service to him and his teachings my main occupation for all that time, I was still psychologically unable to make the otherwise obvious connection myself - that Sai Baba must have been aware of what was going on and condoned the killings. In supporting his own younger brother - and subsequently giving him a seat on the board of the Sathya Sai Central Trust - he was virtually admitting in actions his support for the blackmail and executions! In his rambling discourse some weeks after the murders, he avoided all the issues but tried to confuse thethings. This had just seemed another divine enigma to me... he could not be involved, he must have just observed it all from on high and let people have the freedom to act. I could or would not accept that he could be so involved. I had very largely thrown my common sense on matters concerning him out of the window - which is actually a sine qua non for being a Sai follower, I now realise to the full.
It is clear from their police witness report that Vijay Shantaram Prabhu and B. Ravindra did plan the intrusion, which clearly went wrong when the knife fight arose with the two servitors who were killed. They were not 'caught near Nagpur' but turned themselves in to the police in Nagpur after getting guarantees that they would not be handed over or questioned by the Puttaparthi police murderers.
Sai Baba did claim there was no murder attempt, and this concurred with the testimony of the two 'masterminds'. However, Baba's younger brother, Janakiramiah, insisted in public that it was an assasination attempt until the last.
Among the five attackers (one escaped) who were killed were former students selected by Sai Baba. One of them was still usually sleeping nightly in the holy mandir, which is close to Sai Baba's room (but without direct access). Vijay Prabhu wasinvolved in planning the intrusion which turned into a knife fight and killing disaster, had long been living in the ashram with his parents and had a job there in maintaining its security. Having surrendered to police elsewhere, he and B. Ravindra
According to their later deposition to the police they eventually chose to surrender to (not the corrupt and murderous Puttaparthi police, of course), the planned intrusion had been intended so as to get to see Sai Baba and obtain a hearing for what they alleged was corruption in the ashram. Their aim was to change the ashram administration and conduct it according to the values that Sai Baba proclaims. They were kept in custody for some weeks for questioning about an attempted assassination of Sai Baba, but they were eventually freed, no charges whatever being brought against them. Sai Baba made very clear that this was not an assassination attempt directed at him, yet note that any charge he might have made would have led to major publicity and could have blown the whole matter up yet more. Since Sathya Sai has claimed that he has not a single enemy in the whole world (Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 18 New Ed., p. 159), to admit someone would want to kill him would make his claim look extremely foolish, as indeed it does nonetheless.
That Sai Baba 'confirmed' that it was not an attempt to assassinate him may or may not be true. However, seeing the way Sai Baba has often boasted that 'everyone' loves him, he would hardly want to admit that four of his devotees actually wanted to murder him! Yet that is exactly what his younger brother, Janakiramiah, did state openly and repeatedly to the press and many others at the time and later.
There is evidence to back up the idea that the four intruders - or at least their leaders - aimed to remove a clique from power in the ashram (in which Sai's personal valet Radhakrishnan was a central figure, largely controlling access to Swami as he did). This 'theory' is backed by the police who questioned the supposed 'master mind' Vijay Prabhu after he gave himself up to them (on condition that the corrupt and murderous Puttaparthi police under Sai Baba's thumb would not be allowed to interview him). V. Prabhu, and educated man and a very active service worker, had been made ashram security chief by Sai Baba and had long know of corruption and many other practices (alcohol and sex misuses) which he abhorred... so he was concerned to 'clean things up'. He firmly believed that Sai had indicated to him that he should take the action he planned - to take over power in the ashram until the miscreants were removed.
The case was indeed "interfered with by influential oficers" and "hushed up at the level of state and central government", as Ramnath said. This is proven by the fact that the murders and exeutions were never once taken to any court or pronounced on by any official investigation, after the police report was rejected as falsified and a Central Bureau Investigation instituted (which was abruptly terminated before it could deliver a final report).Scan of notes made at the time of hearing Ramu's accounts:-