Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Aug 24:
Contrary to the common belief that arrested self-styled Odisha godman Sarathi Baba had acquired much of his extraordinary clout only in the last few years, it has now emerged that he wielded tremendous influence as early as 1998.
Former Chairperson of the State Commission for Women (SCW) Lopamudra Mohanty on Sunday made the startling revelation that allegations of land grab and a role in the missing of a girl had been levelled against the Baba in 1998 when she headed the body, but there was nothing she could in the face of the clout the Baba wielded.
“A woman had lodged a complaint against Sarathi Baba in the Commission back in 1998 accusing him of grabbing her land. She had also complained about her daughter, who had gone missing from the ashram. Though it was not strictly within the purview of the Commission, I decided to conduct a probe since the complaint had been made by a woman. Accordingly, I, with the Commission’s legal advisor Arabinda Mohanty and a lady police officer Bijaylaxmi Acharya, went to the Barimula ashram of Sarathi Baba to investigate the case. But I did not get any cooperation from the Baba or the others in the ashram. It took me two and a half hours just to get into ashram,” Mohanty told Kanak TV in an interview.
When she did get inside, the followers of Sarathi Baba started singing paeans to the super natural powers of the Baba and described the woman in question as a ‘mentally deranged’ person.
“After quite some time, I got to meet Sarathi Baba. He was sitting on a swing with two young women fanning him with chamara on either side. The Baba too started giving me sermons. After some time, he oozed honey from his feet which the followers slurped with great relish,” Mohanty said.
The former SCW Chairperson said it was obvious to her that the Baba enjoyed the full backing of the local political leaders and the administration. “The then SP knew about the case I had gone to investigate, but did not do anything about it,” she said.
Mohanty said Sarathi Baba had built his evil empire with the patronage of the political class. “Political leaders used to rush to him for a ticket,” she said.