Even though I am neither a devotee nor a follower of Sathya Sai Baba, I respect everyone who think of him as their guru, a spiritual figure and an educator. He is described by his devotees as an avatar, godman, spiritual teacher 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 evidence 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.
Among his millions of followers around the world is also a cricket player from India who has brought more laurels and prestige to India than anyone else in the recent history. He might even be bestowed with Bharat Ratna '“ India's ultimate civilian honour. He was getting ready to celebrate his birthday in a big way but postponed the plans because of his guru's illness and unfortunately, Sathya Sai Baba died on the morning of 24th April, the same day Sachin Tendulkar was born 38 years ago. Needless to say, he was very upset and was praying for his guru until the end.
As soon as the news of the death spread acrooss the country and Sachin was seen in a state of mourning, we started getting tweets from Taslima Nasreen, a Bangladeshi ex-doctor turned author who has been living in exile since 1994. From a modest literary profile in the late 1980s, she rose to global fame by the end of the 20th century owing to her feminist views and her criticism of Islam in particular and of religion in general. Since fleeing Bangladesh in 1994, she has lived in many countries including India when she was asked to leave the country in 2008 where she was denounced by the Muslim clergy and received death threats from Islamic fundamentalists. She is the self appointed expert on secular humanism, freedom of thought, equality for women, and human rights. Her comments about Sathya Sai Baba were so derogatory that it has upset a lot of people. She even went to the extent of telling Sachin not to pray for him.
Taslima Nasreen, who is known more for the controversies chasing her than her literary skills, has been tweeting comments poking fun at Sai Baba. Some of her tweets are:
- "why shud somebody be sad abt his death. he was 86,shud b allowed to die. i was so dissappointd with sachin praying.crazy!"
- "Satya Saibaba died. He said he would die in 2022. But he died too early."
- "Hope no one will try to conceal small pellets of ashes at the base of their fingers. Then use their fists to powder the pellets and produce the flow of ash,"
- "Rasogollas and pumkins did not come from the fists."
- "There is another baba in the making. the kid is just 5 to 6 years old his training will take some time."
- "One godman gone but a thousands others will surface what a pity the bhakti business is quite lucrative."
Taslima, I feel your radicalism is standing on very thin ice. Just because you consider yourself an atheist does not give you the right to criticize and make fun of people who believe in something '“ dead or alive. Religious freedom and religious tolerance is a way of Indian life. Some people worship a piece of stone, some of them worship the sun or the moon and some may even worship a tree. It is their faith and beliefs which motivates their actions. We do not try to act righteous and tell others what to do. Every action in life is not an exact science where we have to come up with proof to justify it. Your indecent comments about Sathya Sai Baba is blasphemy and we feel that you have attacked our Indian way of life. Your statements and comments are always very obnoxious and scandalous. You have been called so many things by so many people. A group called you "an apostate appointed by imperial forces to vilify Islam". In October 1993, an Islamic group called the Council of Islamic Soldiers offered a bounty for your death.
It is very ironical that the name of your first novel was Lajja (Shame) but you don't have an element of Lajja in your own thinking. How can you forget that the Indian government helped you and kept you in hiding around New Delhi for seven months when the Islamic clerics had issued a fatwa for you? Your lack of Lajja and your ungrateful behaviour reminds me of a member of my own family whose level of Lajja and level of ungratefulness is at par with you. What Indian government did for you...I did for my family member. Unlike you, even though I do not want to get personal, I want to say that you, during the period of 1982 '“ 1992, got married to Rudra Mohammad Shahidullah, Nayeemul Islam Khan and Minar Mahmood and all your former three husbands left you. I am sure that every time they think of you, their favourite three words are '“ InshAllah, Good Riddance!