NSUI Goons Beat Up AISA National President For Asking HRD Minister a
On 24 June, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal addressed a Press Conference, asserting his government’s and Ministry’s commitment to privatization of higher education, and pleading ‘fund crunch’ for expanding publicly-funded colleges and universities. AISA and RYA held a protest outside the venue of the Press Conference.
Sandeep Singh, National President of AISA and a research scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), entered the Press Conference room and raised a question about the huge drain on public funds in the shape of mega scams and black money; funds which could otherwise be used for ensuring quality education for each young Indian. He pointed out that the HRD Minister had defended the 2G scam publicly, denying that any malpractice had taken place. Immediately, NSUI strongmen manhandled him and pushed him out of the room.
After that, they physically assaulted Sandeep as well as other AISA and RYA activists gathered in protest against Sibal. Press photographs of this assault (accompanying this report) show how vicious this attack was.
Kapil Sibal had described the Ramlila Maidan crackdown as a ‘lesson to everybody.’ His meaning becomes clear from the Ranchi incident. The HRD Minister is accompanied by muscle-men who physically suppress and assault any student who dares to question the HRD Minister!
This assault is reminiscent of the terror of the ‘Sanjay brigade’ of the Emergency days, and strengthens the feeling that an undeclared Emergency is in place.
On 25 June, AISA-RYA held a march to the Raj Bhavan, Ranchi, in protest against privatization of education, the abysmal state of education in Jharkhand, and the attack on Sandeep and AISA-RYA activists.
Such attacks have only intensified the determination of India’s students and youth to resist corruption and defy repression.
Ali Baba’s Cave?
No – Just Sai Baba’s Chambers!
Hundreds of kilos of gold and silver ornaments. Six crowns studded with gems. 100 suitcases full of bejewelled watches, suitcases full of cameras, artefacts, wall clocks. Pouches full of diamonds. Hundreds of shoes, entire closets dedicated to imported perfume, hairspray, nail polish and shampoos. Necklaces, rings, gold bowls, a silver chair, silver plates, cups and glasses. Closets full of hundreds of silk robes and other silk garments. Hidden vaults fitted into a huge bed. Hundreds of envelopes, bags, suitcases full of cash.
Is this the Gringotts vault in the latest Harry Potter movie? Or the fabled wealth of the forty thieves, discovered by Ali Baba?
Neither. It’s not even the wealth accumulated by the Travancore kings in the Padmanabhaswamy temple of Tiruvanthapuram.
It’s merely what was found in an initial survey of a part of the Sathya Sai Baba’s personal chambers at Puttaparthi. In fact, after that survey, a car was stopped and searched by the police as it was leaving Puttaparthi – with Sathya Sai Trust members attempting to smuggle out around $1 million in cash.
Several rooms in that chamber (styled the ‘Yajur Mandir’) are yet to be opened, because they require ‘biometric identification’ – the fingerprint of the Baba’s personal attendant. It is being suspected that the chambers contain false ceilings and secret vaults with more untold wealth.
Why did a self-proclaimed man of God, an avatar, a spiritual leader have to live a lifestyle – of the crudest concealed wealth and conspicuous consumption - that puts even Imelda Marcos and her 3000 shoes in the shade?
Even the blindest of devotees cannot persuade themselves that this secret hoard of wealth was, after all, for public use – for the hospitals and schools and so on run by the Sathya Sai Trust. Or even that the dubious wealth can all be blamed on the Trust members alone and not on the Sai Baba himself. Why did that staggering hoard of gold and silver and diamonds lie in the Baba’s personal chamber rather than being deposited in the Trust account and properly audited? Why was it not being already used for charitable work? And why, anyway, would the Trust or the charities have any use for hundreds of silk robes, shoes, necklaces, rings, imported watches, perfumes, hairspray, and gold and silver furniture and cutlery?! Clearly, the man who claimed to have renounced the material world for the spiritual life, lived a secret personal life of unimaginably lavish luxury. Not only that, this immense wealth was acquired and stored in dubious ways, without any scrutiny or accountability.
The ‘god’ business is like none other. You can mint money. But the larger ‘spiritual’ empire you command, the less keen the political powers will be to ask you any questions about your wealth. You can play God to your devotees – no questions asked. There are a very large number of young boys, mostly sons of staunch devotees of the Sathya Sai Baba, who accuse him of having sexually molested them. But these accusations of paedophilia were never investigated. A wolf in saffron clothing can prey on people far more easily than most others!
The Sathya Sai Baba’s claims of ‘miracles’ – such as producing sacred ash for poor devotees, and imported Rolex watches for celebrities, from thin air – have been challenged by rationalists before. P C Sorcar, the famous magician, declared that all such acts were sleights of hand and needed no divine power.
The Prime Minister himself termed the Sathya Sai Baba’s death an “irreparable loss.” A phalanx of Congress and BJP leaders, Union Ministers and Chief Ministers, attended the funeral, as did cricket stars and film stars. Ratan Tata paid a personal visit to Puttaparthi after the funeral. With all these big shots saying Om Sai Ram, the Sai Scam is in danger of being buried deep.
Nor was the Sathya Sai Baba the only one. The ED enquiry into Baba Ramdev’s assets might reek of the UPA Government’s vindictiveness, but it is true that huge proliferation of businesses run by Ramdev and his close aides has many questions to answer. Godmen/conmen cannot enjoy impunity from scrutiny. Religious trusts must be properly audited and taxed. The Baba businesses must be regulated and ‘black sheep’ brought to book.
The Godmen exploit a crisis-ridden world where people are desperate for some sort of solace. Marx had, indeed, observed that “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.” The ‘sigh of the oppressed creature’ is one thing; but there is need to be vigilant against the ‘Sai’ who mints wealth by conning oppressed creatures!