Playing with blind believers

Narisetti Innaiah

“Is Vivekananda whom we know different?” that was the title of my article published in Udayam daily. The Telugu daily managed by movie producer Dasari Narayana Rao in 1985 with A. B. K. Prasad as editor. In an accompanying note, the editor put a note to readers were welcoming response to the article. The article triggered a hue and cry and protest demonstrations. When Hindu Bajarang Dal in RSS fundamentalists armed with batons landed at Udayam, Dasari Narayana Rao did not blink. He told them point blank he was ready to carry any rebuttal but if they chose to vandalize the office, he would not keep mum. None came forward to answer me. Meanwhile, A. B. K. Prasad succumbed to pressures and published a nonsensical editorial in which he likened Vivekananda to a sun, which nobody could eclipse by stretching one’s palm. Protest demonstrations were staged in Kadapa, Gudivada, and Vijayawada. What had the article to say?

“Vivekananda was a courageous Swami who confronted his critics. He was brave enough to condemn astrology. Humanists ranging from M. N. Roy to Niranjan Dhar studied Vivekananda in depth before publishing their findings. Humanists do not make baseless allegations. Niranjan Dhar in his book Vedanta – Bengal Renaissance exposed how Vivekananda stood by Raja Ramanad, Khetri zamindars and supported their cruel repression. Agehananda Bharati pointed out that Vivekananda wrote books on Yoga depicting it as a home remedy and made money by selling them. Niranjan Dhar disclosed Vivekananda’s luxurious lifestyle in the U. S. by pointing out that zamindars had financed his visit. My article is only a summary of their findings.”

Although the article did not carry any untruths, blind believers in Vivekananda could not stomach facts. I wrote articles on Vivekananda in many magazines including Telugu Vidyarthi . Vivekananda’s sycophants do not take cognizance of his condemnation of astrology or adhere to his maxim that serving the poor is preferable to singing hymns to god. M. N. Roy had incisively studied both Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Vivekananda in 1936 itself. I wrote about Vivekananda from a Humanist perspective without concealing unpalatable facts.

Article on Mother Teresa Article on Mother Teresa Article on Mother Teresa Article on Mother Teresa As bureau chief of Andhra Jyothi in Hyderabad, I had occasion to interview Mother Teresa in 1975. She had come to Hyderabad to take part in a program at the Public Gardens. To every question I posed, her monosyllabic reply was god’s grace. I was deeply disappointed. She was just a school graduate. Most people identify Mother Teresa with the poor by referring to the orphanages and shelter homes she had maintained. In contrast, Humanists in America and Europe researched her activities impartially and exposed her with evidence. As I went through their findings, I came across many startling facts. Based on my studies, I contributed articles in Telugu and English to newspapers. Large publications ignored my criticism. K. Ramachandra Murthy, then editor of Andhra Jyothi, dared not publish my article although, he conceded, it was evidencebased. I incorporated their findings in my books. Christopher Hitchens carried out a detailed study of Mother Teresa’s activities in various countries and brought to light many shocking facts. Even the Pope invited him to hear him. None could rebut Christopher as he produced incontrovertible evidence. He revealed that Mother Teresa accepted money from tyrannical rulers and lottery operators. The editor of ‘ Lancet’ magazine was shocked to see the conditions in the orphanages she opened in Calcutta. He recorded instances of sisters counseling the sick to pray to god for relief, instead of administering medicines. He reported that syringes were being recycled after a dip in cold water. Mother Teresa, who collected crores of rupees in the name of poor children, diverted the money to the Pope instead of using it for their benefit. By the time she died, she had accumulated millions of rupees. Mother Teresa, who counseled the sick to pray for relief, but admitted herself into a top notch hospital when she was sick. Aroop Chatterjee recorded with evidence all of Mother Teresa’s questionable activities in Calcutta. Yet, the Marxists turned a blind eye to his book Final Verdict – Mother Teresa published from London. I entered into correspondence with Aroop Chatterjee. German magazine Stern exposed how Mother Teresa diverted the funds she received for charity. An American named Keating, who became filthy rich by cheating people, made a huge donation in dollars to Mother Teresa. Finally when the law caught up with him, Mother Teresa had the temerity to ask the judge to release him. She visited Haiti at the invitation of the Catholic King and Queen, accepted felicitations and cash, and praised the royal family which was notorious for its misrule. Christopher Hitchins exposed all such misdeeds of Mother Teresa. The Government of India conferred on her the highest honor of Bharat Ratna . She maintained no accounts for the funds she received and spent, let alone getting them audited. There was none to question her.

The Pope decided to canonize her as a saint after ensuring that stories of miracles performed by her surfaced after her death. Christopher Hitchins exposed the secret after talking to Mother Teresa’s close aides. I revealed all this in a TV interview to Mrs. Ellen Johnson, President of the American Atheist Association, at Staten Island, New York. Some TV channels telecast the interview in 2000. I wrote articles exposing Mother Teresa in Telugu and English newspapers, and included them in one of my books Abhaddala Veta . Yet, there are people who blindly believe in and deify her. With the Pope anointing her a saint, Catholics will indulge in religious business centering round her for some time.

Islam: An aphorism of Humanist

Avula Gopala Krishna Murthy remains etched in my memory. He once said, “We treat all religions alike in that we reject all of them with equal vehemence.” I translated Ibn Waraq’s ‘ Why I am not a Muslim’ into Telugu. Many hesitated to publish it. When I showed the manuscript to BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu during his US visit, he evinced no interest. Finally, the Rationalist Association of Chirala brought it out. Ibn Waraq was immensely pleased learning through a review that the book had been rendered into Telugu. He disclosed about the review when I met him in Buffallo.‘ Misimi’ had carried my detailed review of the book. A person named Jagannadham translated the article into excellent English. A number of newspapers in India and the U. S. lapped up the review in English. I had no idea of the book review in English until I met Ibn Waraq. Ibn Waraq portrayed in vivid detail the life of people in Muslim countries, their gender discrimination, and violation of human rights with evidence. Ibn Waraq chose the U. S. as his home after changing his original Muslim name. Some of my Muslim Humanist friends remained exemplary in their conduct. To name a few of the innumerable: Siddhartha Baksh (Mandapeta, East Godavari), Shiekh Babu (Inkollu), Sharif Gora, and Alam Khundmiri (Professor of Philosophy). I had occasion to interact with some Muslims frequently. I studied Sufism under Prof. Valiuddin as part of my M.A. at Osmania University. Among those who helped me study Islam with a critical eye were Prof. Wahiduddin, Moghini Tabassum, and Anwar Mozam. Hamid Dalwai, author of ‘ Muslim Politics’, tried his best to reform Muslims in Maharashtra. I translated his work and published it in Prasarita , a social quarterly. I organized many seminars and workshops where Hindus and Muslims discussed problems in a friendly way. But in course of time, mullas ignited fundamentalism among Muslims and spread hatred. I stood by Taslima Nasreen’s controversial writings. I had occasion to meet and discuss many issues with her both in India and the U. S. My wife Komala translated some of Taslima’s writings including poems into Telugu. We took part in seminars together. When we invited her for the release of a translation of her book, some Muslim rowdies behaved inhumanly. We could save her from physical assault. Without my knowledge, Krantikar, a friend of mine in Khammam, gave my address for accessing a publication of his. The book had generated a lot of controversy and provoked some fundamentalist Muslims to lodge a police case. Since my name too figured in the complaint, the police arrested me. The Government had not banned Krantikar’s book, which merely carried what Tasleema Nasreen and others wrote on Muslims. The police acted arbitrarily, without looking into the book’s contents. Apparently, the unilateral action was politically motivated. Humanists around the world condemned Government action in one voice. Raju, my son, dedicated the award he received from India Abroad magazine to me, at a public function and cited my arrest to highlight the constraints on freedom of expression in India Godmen and women Godmen and women Godmen and women Godmen and women There is no dearth of self-proclaimed saints — known as babas and matas — in India. The difference between one and the other is one of degree, since all of them have enriched themselves at the expense of the gullible public. They will continue to prosper as long as people, wanting in self-confidence, blindly believe that saints are there to bail them out of all earthly and heavenly problems.

We, on behalf of the Humanist, rationalist and secularist associations, exposed several saints and promoted the scientific method of inquiry. Shirdi Sai Baba occupies the No. 1 position among such saints. The Telugu land, which once reverberated with Pandarinath hymns, turned its attention to a saint called Sai Baba from Maharashtra for veneration and deification. Sai used to beg for alms at a Shirdi dargah by preaching Sufi sermons. His antecedents are not known although there are many legends. As Sai was illiterate, one Abdul scribbled on paper whatever Sai said. The sermons ran into 100 pages. Sai died around 1920. Abdul was joined by another beggar known as Razak. Razak lived up to the year 2000. I collected copies of the Sufi sermons reportedly preached by Sai and displayed them on TV 9 in Hyderabad. Some Hindus cleverly spread through word of mouth that Sai was a Hindu saint blessed with miraculous powers. They formed a trust and built a Sai temple. It soon became a money-making machine. The Sai cult spread like contagion among Telugus. Since the Endowments Department does not control Sai temples, there has been a scramble to construct Sai temples. After all, they have proved to be cash cows. Some arrests were made following an inquiry into corruption scandals at the Shirdi Sai Trust. Yet, people could not come out of the chronic spell the Sai cult cast them. We tried our best to dispel the myths surrounding Sai. Although some condemn Sathya Sai of Puttaparthi, they still deem Shirdi Sai as the real Sai.

Kalki Baba Kalki Baba Kalki Baba Kalki Baba After conducting an incisive inquiry, I exposed Kalki Baba, who had grown enormously rich and powerful, in my TV 5 talk. Baba’s disciples filed a case against me seeking Rs.50 crore as damages for defaming the Baba. They shut their mouth after N. Nagendra Babu, my advocate friend, rebutted the charge in reply to a court notice. Jana Vignana Vedika, Manava Vikasa Vedika, and Rationalist Association all carried articles critical of the Baba in various magazines including Pemanand’s Skeptic . Kalki Baba has the knack for attracting people in power. They naturally stand by him whenever he runs into trouble. He has gone through many vicissitudes in his baba incarnation.

Jillellamudi Amma

Jillellamudi Amma Born as Anasuyamma, she morphed herself into an Amma (literally meaning mother) at a village near Bapatla in Guntur district. Some were drawn to her by her reported miracles. Among them were Potturi Venkateswara Rao and Dr. Sripada Gopalakrishna Murthy. They even published some books and articles on her in Telugu and English newspapers. I tried to convince Potturi and Sripada that they were mistaken in their beliefs. Far from agreeing, they countered strangely that Amma was scientific in her approach. I entrusted Humanist Malladi Rama Murthy, a friend of mine, with the task of probing the Amma phenomenon. We published his findings in Jillellamudi Amma on behalf of the State Book Club. The Amma , who carried on spiritual business, died at Osmania Hospital in 1975.

The Amma from Kerala from Kerala from Kerala from Kerala Mata Amritanandamayi, hailing from Kerala, earned world-wide reputation by claiming to transmit energy with a hug. Rolling in money collected from followers, she founded some trusts. I requested my rationalist friend Pattathanam to inquire into her activities. We carried his findings in some magazines. She has acquired a number of disciples even in the U. S. Her disciples opened a branch in Secunderabad, underlining that no spiritual business has a dearth of patrons. Where people do not bother to doubt, inquire and ascertain, there matas and babas flourish. The height of absurdity lay in Abul Kalam as President of India visiting Mata Amritanandamayi.

Sai Baba of Puttaparti

Sai Baba of Puttaparti Sai Baba of Puttaparti Sai Baba of Puttaparti Omania University Sociology Professor Chintamani Lakshmanna disclosed to me that Satyanarayana Raju, who later became Sai Baba, was senior to him in school at Uravakonda in Anantapur district. Even as a student, Satyanarayana Raju displayed his sleight of hand. Going by the account of Guttikonda Nageswara Rao of Vijayawada, who studied in the Sai Ashram School, Sai Baba used to take students to Ooty and had sex with the chosen. Asked why he did not complain to his parents, he said that he had but far from taking him seriously, they admonished him for pointing a finger at Sai Baba. Another friend of mine, Kosaraju Seetharama Rao told me that a cancer-stricken woman went to the Sai Baba ashram seeking relief. Baba assured her that she would soon recover and asked her to return home. When she died in no time, her son took her body to the ashram seeking her revival. Ashram people sent him away by trotting out some excuse. M. R. Pai, an IAS friend of mine was not a great believer in the baba. When his wife Tara was battling with end-stage cancer, he took her to the ashram rather reluctantly on friends’ advice. She died and the baba could do nothing. Many people, including Mary Naidu, a Member of Parliament, donated their properties to Sai Baba and suffered a lot. A Science Professor Suri Bhagavantam, English Professor V. K. Gokak, and poet and writer K. Amarendra retreated from the ashram after a stint following deep disillusionment with the baba. They declined to record their experiences. Sai Baba dared not set his foot on Hyderabad soil as long as N. T. Rama Rao was the Chief Minister. When some murders rocked the ashram, NTR ordered an inquiry and arrest of the culprits immediately. With people in power prostrating before Sai Baba, even people like Premanand, Narasimhaiah, and Abraham Kovoor could do little to demolish the Baba myth. TV and in newspapers gave too much importance to Sai Baba. Sai Baba, a wrecker of scientific thinking, was a disgrace to the Indian nation. His rise as an extra constitutional authority was an affront to Indian secularism. He died in 2011.

(Excerpts from Author’s Autobiography: ‘South India to North America: Journey of Journalist’)