Divine Downfall: Abuse Charges Rock Guru's Followers

| November 17, 2000

Divine Downfall: Abuse Charges Rock Guru's Followers

Growing up in an Indian-American community, I was surrounded by pictures of Sai Baba, a self-proclaimed holy man whose devotees around the world are estimated at up to 50 million. Some pictures were ornately framed and others were affixed rather crudely to pieces of cardboard, but all were prominently and lovingly placed.

As a young child, I didn't know quite what to make of this strange-looking man--he was Indian with a large afro and flowing orange robes--but I did form an instant dislike, perceiving him as an unsettling and cultish figure. My adolescent instincts may have proved right.

Writing in the British newspaper The Telegraph, Mick Brown unveils charges that Sai Baba has been sexually abusing boy disciples for years. Sai Baba's followers, who tend to be drawn from the educated middle-class, are bitterly divided over the allegations--some ripping their pictures up and severing ties with a man they now view as a charlatan, others choosing to believe in the man they still see as god.

While many feel betrayed and view the Indian guru simply as a sex maniac, defenders of Sai Baba state that because he is divine, 'one cannot attribute human sexual motives to him.' In other words, Brown writes, 'Because Sai Baba is divine, whatever he does is beyond understanding and beyond accountability.'
--Anjula Razdan
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