Hyderabad, Puttaparthi: As millions of devotees of Sathya Sai Baba await with bated breath to know who succeeds him and controls the powerful Sathya Sai Trust, the Andhra Pradesh government is learnt to have hinted to the members that it would be forced to interfere if there is a power struggle.
Prompted by Governor ESL Narasimhan, Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy told the trust members to ensure there was no power struggle or misuse of funds, which would not only upset millions of devotees but also force the government to intervene.
The CM is learnt to have cited the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Act, 1959, which can be invoked to take over the trust.
Minister for Major Irrigation Dr J Geeta Reddy, who is coordinating with the trust members daily on behalf of the state government, said they would wait and watch for now. After the final rites of Sai Baba were performed on Wednesday morning, Governor Narasimhan and the CM discussed the issue. Later, the CM met a few important members of the trust.
“The government will be compelled to act if anything goes wrong in the trust,” the CM is said to have told the members.
“The government is hoping that the transition – with Sathya Sai Baba’s nephew J Ratnakar expected to take over the trust’s affairs – is smooth and without any interference from any claimants. We hope if Ratnakar is not chosen by the members to head the trust, whoever is nominated by them is acceptable to everyone concerned, including devotees,” an official accompanying the CM said.
Government officials fear a power struggle if the extended family members of Sai Baba lay claim to his legacy.
Meanwhile, a former student and close aide of the godman who had not been seen in the public since the announcement of his death made an appearance at his funeral. Aged around 30 years, Satyajit, who emerged in recent years as the one person closest to the Sai Baba, has been facing allegations of delaying treatment to the godman after he fell ill on March 28.
Local police officials in Puttaparthi said Satyajit was being protected by the ashram’s Seva Dal and not the police. “Satyajit is not a VIP for him to be given protection. He is a member of the Seva Dal and they are protecting him,” Puttaparthi Circle Inspector Naga Subbanna said.
There are allegations of a divide between the Andhra and Tamil members of the Sai Baba Trust. Satyajit hails from Tamil Nadu, like the secretary of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust former IAS officer K Chakravarthi.
Tearful farewell to Sathya Sai Baba
Sathya Sai Baba was laid to rest amid vedic chants at the Sai Kulwant hall in Puttaparthi with full state honours on Wednesday. His nephew RJ Ratnakar performed the last rites three days after Sathya Sai Baba died.
The Samadhi of Sathya Sai Baba is at the same spot from where he used to meet and address his disciples for years.
Once the last rites were performed by vedic pandits, red curtains were drawn around 9:45 AM and the process started for laying the body in a pit created at the spot in Sai Kulwant where the spiritual leader used to make his preachings for his followers for a number of years. It lasted about 25 minutes.
The curtains were removed after 40 minutes for the people to have a glimpse of the Samadhi where the body was laid to rest in line with the practice adopted for Hindu spiritual leaders. Normally, Hindus cremate their bodies.
Earlier, a little before 9 AM, the glass casket in which Sai Baba’s body was lying in state from Sunday night was removed and the body was wrapped in national flag for a brief while.
Men of the Andhra Pradesh Armed Police sounded the last post and fired 21 shots in the air as a mark of respect.
Then the Tricolour was removed and verses from Hindu, Christian, Islamic, Sikh, Judaism and Buddhist scriptures were read out by leaders from these sects.
Later, they joined in sprinkling the sacred ash at the samadhi spot as ‘mangal aarti’ was performed.
The spot where he was buried is now now expected to become an eternal memorial for Sai Baba, who at the age of 14 announced himself as a reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba.
He made his mark initially with miracles but later founded institutions of excellence in education and medical facilities besides undertaking development work and philanthropy.
Leaders from across the political spectrum were among the many thousands who attended the ceremony. The Darshan for devotees will start at 12 noon on Wednesday.
Just family and trust members, and a few VVIPs were allowed to attend the funeral at Prashanti Nilayam. Many senior political from all the major parties attended the last rites of the Baba.
The political leaders included Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka chief ministers N Kiran Kumar Reddy and BS Yeddyurappa, governors ESL Narasimhan and Shivraj V Patil, BJP leaders LK Advani, M Venkiah Naidu, Bandaru Dattatreya, former Andhra chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu and former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan.
Governor Narasimhan, Chief Minister Reddy, Advani, Chandra Babu Naidu and other leaders went to the samadhi had a word with Ratnakar and sprinkled sacred ash at the spot.
The past few days have seen some prominent and important personalities join over 5 lakh devotees at Puttaparthi, including cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
About Sathya Sai Baba
Sathya Sai Baba born as Sathyanarayana Raju (23 November 1926 – 24 April 2011) was an Indian guru, spiritual figure, philanthropist and educator. In 2011, he was listed by the Watkins Review as one of the 100 most spiritually influential people in the world. He was described by his devotees as a human incarnation of Shiridi Sai Baba, spiritual saint and miracle worker. The apparent materialising of vibhuti (holy ash) and other small objects such as rings, necklaces and watches by Baba has been a source of both fame and controversy – skeptics consider these simple conjuring tricks while devotees consider them as signs of divinity. Sathya Sai Baba claimed to be the reincarnation of the spiritual guru, Sai Baba of Shirdi, whose teachings were an eclectic blend of Hindu and Muslim beliefs.
Sathya Sai Baba established schools and colleges, hospitals, and other charitable institutions in India and abroad. The number of active Sathya Sai Baba followers was estimated in 1999 to be around 6 million, though adherents’ estimates are far higher. Since there are no formal ties of membership, the actual figure may never be known. The Sathya Sai Organisation reports that there are an estimated 1,200 Sathya Sai Baba Centers in 114 countries worldwide. In India itself, Sai Baba drew followers from predominantly upper-middle-class, urban sections of society who have the “most wealth, education and exposure to Western ideas.” He was a cultural icon in India and drew an audience with presidents and prime ministers from India and beyond who have become his devotees; in 2002, he claimed to have followers in 178 countries.