Australian SBS & Indian Students

I felt disgusted that such words would even be thought about at a time like this and brought the status of SBS down in my own mind. To me it was outright racism which leads to return karma for Australians through Indian media – as happened in the case of Indian students in Australia.

by Gaja Lakshmi Paramasivam

(April 28, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) Last night, I was eagerly watching SBS news report on Swami Sai Baba’s Maha Samadhi ceremonies. I was praying with deep respect and blessing SBS for the coverage, when I heard statements such as ‘murky financial practices and sexually abusing young male followers – allegations his opponents said were ignored by Indian authorities.’ I felt disgusted that such words would even be thought about at a time like this and brought the status of SBS down in my own mind. To me it was outright racism which leads to return karma for Australians through Indian media – as happened in the case of Indian students in Australia. I made the connection quickly. This morning I went into SBS site and found a good report entitled ‘India Guru Sai Baba laid to rest’ (Appendix 1).

To me, Swami Sai Baba is personification of Faith itself. Indian Political leaders were endorsing Swami Sai Baba who held no official positions – political or administrative – within the Government of India. Swami was honored by these leaders at the highest national level. To mention murky financial practices and sexual abuse would naturally demote that high status. It may have not been done with that purpose. But it has the effect of doing so – which would immediately diminish the self esteem of all those who have faith in Sai Baba – including hundreds of thousands of Australians. To me, it was a clear case of invasion into our privacy – which when it happens to migrants would naturally reduce the valuation of Australia by its own citizens. The fact that it was said during our mental participation in a Holy funeral ceremony confirms disrespect for the dead and low level of civilization. It’s far worse than talking ill about an ordinary soldier during Anzac ceremony. If in all its life as an ethnic medium, SBS did not do enough work to form its own assessment of Swami Sai Baba’s status – real status on the basis of Australian values derived through faith of SBS customers and co-owners – the Public – that is a weakness in SBS system. It was due to similar weakness within the University of NSW that I was labeled as a mentally ill criminal. It happened again yesterday through this flippant reporting.
To me, it was no coincidence that in yesterday’s mail which my husband brought home just as I finished watching SBS News report on Swami Sai Baba – was an Easter card from Florence VORHAUER. I had been thinking of writing to Florence for about a week now, but that is NOT the only connection. There is a deeper connection with Florence. I met Florence in Mulawa prison. On Mothers’ Day 2005, the Medical Officer of the prison arranged for me to share the room with Florence who was given enforced medication for alleged mental illness. I was threatened with enforced medication by the doctors to whom I was sent whilst in custody, but I saved myself and I believe it was by praying to Swami Sai Baba. It is my sovereign right to believe why? According to the certificate issued by the Courts - one of the reasons why I was sent for psychiatric assessment was my following of Sai Baba and Gandhi. (Appendix 2). To me, that was official practice of Racial Discrimination.

I released myself from prison and helped Florence release herself from prison. Later when looking for the real reason/s why I went through that prison experience, a big part of the answer was Florence – who is likely to have ‘given-up’ on herself and her invalid daughter. The above experience was proof to me that migrants often suffered by expecting custodians of power to ‘know’ what is known by their own group through common faith. I know I did until I found out that they did not know. This is the reason why we need devolution of powers to the extent there is lack of practice of Equal Opportunity principles in multicultural societies.

In the case of SBS above, the highest official endorsers were endorsing Swami Sai Baba as an honorable human being. Any status above the official status confirms Spiritual Value. That is an untouchable area for ‘outsiders’. SBS had the authority to read Sai Baba through their own official structures and international standards. Any reporting on that basis ought to have happened when Sai Baba was alive. To report after that and outside Due Processes – has the effect of demoting Sai Baba’s status in the minds of those who had faith in Sai Baba.

It is the sovereign right of an individual to give any form to faith s/he feels. Anyone who interferes with that faith is acting in breach of privacy laws and damages the individual’s ability to heal her/himself through common faith. In terms of migrants it has the effects of racism – due to failure on the part of the custodian of power (in this instance SBS) to give the person of another culture Equal status as her/his parallel in this person/officer’s culture. In other words, Sai Baba ought to have been allocated the same status as the Pope by a Catholic, unless merit basis says otherwise. Merit basis needs to be carried out through common structures and measures of assessment and not as per hearsay – in this instance cheap media in India. By doing so these officers bring their own standards down – whilst the victims who keep serving through their faith get blessed more and more by Truth/Love.

I conclude with the following sharing with those of common faith in Swami Sai Baba “When I read the sharing by Dr. Michael Goldstein, especially the following part - 'He reached out, took my hand, and caressed my hand gently. Then He smiled lovingly and said ever so softly, “there is fear in your heart”.' - I melted and could connect to how Dr. Goldstein would have felt. These are the very sweet ways in which Swami keeps confirming again and again that He is God. He knows our inner-selves - sometimes/often more than we do. Swami will continue to come to us - each one of us through each other. In terms of Sai Organisations - largely through Swami's devotees and disciples. In terms of other organisations and structures - through those in the respective structures. We ourselves need to be there for the needy in both groups - as Swami would have been there. Hence it is important to share our true experiences so others would know better how Swami helped us. Those of us who have shared in this experience with Dr. Goldstein would be honoring Swami when we take the hand of one who is anxious; caress the hand and smile lovingly. If that person is one whom we love very much we would know that person's fear as ours and we would say 'there is fear in your heart'. That opens the floodgates to receive Swami's Love. As with Dr. Goldstein, our children of Love would feel our sweet words and gentle caress dissolving fears and uplifting their spirits.”

I know I did this for Florence and that is the deep connection that moves ‘what happens’ to produce facts that confirm Truth. If we look deeper we know why we suffer Terrorism fears. The solution for deep problems is within and not outside.

Appendix 1

India guru Sai Baba laid to rest
Huge crowds of devotees gathered outside his ashram in the southern town of Puttaparthi as he was interred under the marble podium where he gave many teachings.

While cremation is the most common practice at Hindu funerals, he was buried in the custom accorded to Hindu holy men.

Sai Baba was given a gun salute before his body was prepared for burial by 18 priests dressed in saffron robes who anointed him with oil, flowers, cow urine and water from nine holy rivers.

As the chanting of sacred Hindu texts filled the air, his nephew performed the last rites and the body was then lowered into the ground behind a red curtain.

Christian, Islamic, Sikh and Buddhist scriptures also were read out, and a decorated cow brought in to be donated to the priests.

The scenes were broadcast live on television, with screens erected in Puttaparthi so the faithful could bid a final farewell to their charismatic guru, who died of multiple organ failure on Sunday aged 85.

Since his death, Sai Baba's body has lain inside a transparent casket on view to grieving devotees including poor villagers, foreign pilgrims, tycoons, politicians and cricket stars such as Sachin Tendulkar.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, leader of the ruling Congress party, visited the ashram to pay their last respects.

The funeral was witnessed by 15,000 invited guests -- relatives, members of the Sai Baba Trust, dignitaries and faculty members from the many educational institutions funded by the trust.

The burial spot in the hall will be marked by a gold-plated statue of Sai Baba in a standing posture with his right hand raised.

It was opened to the public on Wednesday afternoon and is likely to become a major pilgrimage site.

Sai Baba, who was credited with supernatural powers by his followers in India and abroad, used donations to build an empire of free hospitals, schools, clinics, prayer centres and other properties and assets.

Instantly recognisable by his wild curly hair, he had ashrams in 126 countries and his trust, which has often been criticised for lack of transparency, is estimated to be worth up to $9 billion.

Puttaparthi has grown from a village into a major religious town, boasting a university and even an airport as Westerners, Indian students and the destitute clamoured to be close to a man they saw as a living god.

As well as hospitals and clinics, the Sai Baba organisation operates drinking water schemes, a museum, a planetarium and an international network of prayer rooms.

At public meetings, his showman antics -- in which he would miraculously produce gold coins or watches on stage -- brought him both fame and notoriety, with critics accusing him of being a fraudster.

He also faced allegations of sexual abuse of young male followers, which his opponents said were ignored by Indian authorities due to his power and popularity.

Sai Baba, when he was 14, announced himself to be the reincarnation of a former holy man, Sai Baba of Shirdi, who died in 1918, and many of his followers believe he will also be born again.

The future of his hugely wealthy trust is uncertain and some observers predict a power struggle among his closest aides.

Appendix 2

In my notes whilst in prison I wrote as follows :
I refused to sign the Section 11 bond. Webster said to me that I was not Gandhi. He took Param to a side and said that the Police would follow and haunt us. The Registry officer said that Pat O’Shane had not recorded the sentence and if I were appealing the decision I did not have to sign the bond but to come and see the Chamber Magistrate on 04 May 2005 – my cousin Chitra’s birthday. I did and when asked by the Chamber Magistrate I said that I considered the terms of the bond to be draconian. I was sent to Mulawa prison. The prison officers were surprised that I would be sent there for that kind of offence.

Whilst in prison I got to know the inmates who freely shared their experiences with me. In the meantime, Param and our son Pradeep worked through the Legal Aid lawyer to get me out of prison.

I wrote in my notes whilst in custody and later in prison :


  1. Appeared at Central Local Court, 98, Liverpool St, Sydney at around 9.45a.m.
  2. Found out that Magistrate Pat O’ Shane was scheduled at Court 2
  3. The Court commenced around 10.15 a.m.
  4. Magistrate Pat O’ Shane took my matter up first and asked the court officer to find a Police Prosecutor
  5. When the Prosecutor arrived, Magistrate Pat O’ Shane said that since I had refused to sign the Section 11 bond, she was ordering that I be kept on remand and brought before her on 28 April 2006.

6. I was then taken to a cubicle at the back of the Courtroom and was later escorted down by Corrective Services. I was strip-searched by Corrective Services and the property I had on me was taken over.

7. I was kept in a cell with 4 other ladies – three of them facing drug related charges and one Sydney University student under fraud charges. I compared the student’s punishment with that of the Corporate offenders at the UNSW and felt depressed at the unfairness of it all.

8.I helped fellow inmates as much as I could by advising them to face themselves and be their own judges – so they would not go up and down with the court’s positive and negative outcomes which are not necessarily as per the law but are largely as per the discretion of the magistrate / judge. Later, I found the following words on the walls of my cell here at Mulawa:


9. Michelle from Legal Aid spoke to me and tried to persuade me to sign the Bond and later fight the charges from the outside. Michelle said also that as per the Inclosed Lands Protection Act, the penalty was only a cash fine. I asked her what the provisions of Bail Act were – explaining that I had NOT asked for Bail and that this was being imposed on me. I said to sign would be to cover up the Truth I knew – which is what UNSW Vice Chancellor wanted and was trying to get it through the Police and the Courts. Michelle spoke to me again, after meeting my husband Param who came to court in-between his classes at UTS (University of Technology, Sydney). Michelle said that Param had said he knew his wife and she would dig her heels in and uphold her Truth. Michelle said she could not get a listing for 04 May but would try for 05 May and that I would remain under remand overnight. Michelle said that Magistrate Pat O’ Shane had her heart in the right place. I thought then I must be the exception. Michelle said that I have been remanded for one year and said she had asked the court staff how they could allow that.

10. I was brought to Mulawa with two other girls. I was asked to step out first and was informed as per the papers they had, I was here for one year. The staff said that there was no warrant for me to go back to Court on 05 /05/05. I said the Legal Aid lady had advised me that I would. I was told that they would try what could be done.

11. I went through the medical and welfare processes. Jade, another inmate saw my Sai Baba book and said she knew of Him and had seen Holy Powder materialize out of the picture of Sai Baba in her uncle’s friend’s house. Jade said she saw it happen with her own eyes and believed that like Jesus, Sai Baba was God on earth. I felt that Swami Sai Baba was comforting me through Jade. I shared with Jade my own experience with Swami Sai Baba, in relation to UNSW when on 05/11/98 Holy Powder materialized on my picture of Swami.

Dr. Conor O’Neil, the forensic psychiatrist was ‘nice’ to me personally as an individual. But when they reported to Pat O’Shane in the chair of Judge they came out different.

Dr.O’Neil wrote in his report:

Referred by Legal Aid, mental health concerns.


Mrs. Paramasivam is a 55 year old lady originally from Sri Lanka and currently resident in Coogee. She has been resident in Australia since 1985.

She states she was previously employed as an accountant with the University of New South Wales until 1998. Following a disagreement with her employers she resigned, although she subsequently returned on a casual basis. She feels that she was dismissed on racial grounds and that her former employers should be jailed. (instead of her). She has appealed her case to a number of organizations but has not been reinstated.

She has not worked with this organization since 1998, she states, (Gaja’s thoughts - I did not because I did do consulting work thereafter – but Dr. O’Neil was speaking to someone on the phone and hence wrote his own imagined version) but nonetheless stats she writes to her former employers on a daily basis for the past seven years to advise them on policy matters. She feels the Police, University and Judiciary are colluding against her. She states that eventually the truth will be revealed and likens her predicament to that of Mahatma Gandhi. (Dr. O’Neil asked me specifically whether I thought I was reincarnation of Gandhi and I said ‘NO – but I identify with some of Gandhi’s work’).

She denies any previous contact with psychiatric services other than a recent assessment at Prince of Wales Hospital (1/11/2004) in which no evidence of mental illness was discovered. She denies any history of self harm.

At interview today, Ms Paramasivam was courteous, pleasant and appropriate. She was neatly dressed. She denied depressed mood and there were no biological correlates of affective disorder.

Speech was normal in rate and volume. She described a number of unusual religious experiences in recent years.

She described a number of “visions” of a Hindu deity, Sai Baba. He has appeared to her in the sky. “He had an orange glow and He showed me the gap in His teeth”. She states that red dust miraculously appeared on the hand of an image of Sai Baba in a picture in her house in 1998. She states that as recently as yesterday she saw Sai Baba and that He spoke to her calling her “daughter”. She states she was able to touch His Feet.

There was no evidence of formal thought disorder or cognitive impairment. She feels strongly that she must continue her current course of action in the name of a “higher truth” and that her religious experiences are not unusual. (Gaja’s thoughts - They are not to millions of Hindus or even to Christians who celebrate Easter).

She denies any thought of harming herself or others, in particular University staff members.

Based on my interview with Mrs. Paramasivam and perusal of a lengthy letter addressed to the Registrar and Prosecutor of Waverley Local Court dated 18-11-2004, I believe it likely that Mrs. Paramasivam meets criteria as a mentally ill person within the meaning of the Mental Health Act. She describes a range of beliefs meeting the definition of delusions and hallucinatory experiences.


For non custodial disposition:
· That Mrs. Paramasivam be transferred for assessment and possible admission under Section 33(1)(a) of the Mental Health (Criminal Procedures) Act 1990

For custodial disposition
· She will be referred to the prison mental health services.

Dr. Conor O’Neil MB DPM MRCPsy
Senior Registrar in Forensic Psychiatry
Statewide Community and Court Liaison Service

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