Sarathi Baba’s Journey From A Tea Stall Owner To Godman
“Sarathi Baba is a charlatan and must be exposed. His miracles are just magic tricks. The image of his in a jeans pant at a star hotel in Hyderabad with a girl proves the self-proclaimed Godman not just to be a fraud, but a dangerous sexual abuser,” said Umesh Chandra Singh, a lawyer of Kendrapara
Self-styled Godman Sarathi Baba alias Santosh Roul (48) of Kendrapara in Odisha, who was arrested on August 8 on the charges of cheating, theft and other offences, ran a tea stall in village Baniamala within Kendrapara town for around three years in 1980s before reawakening himself as a Godman in 1990s. The rags to riches story of the fake Godman is a goldmine for any Bollywood script-writer for making a super-hit movie.
“We used to take tea from his tea stall. He was not a good student while studying in the Kendrapara college and managed to pass Intermediary arts from the college in 1988. People, who knew him, never expected him to become a Godman. He was ambitious and wanted to get rich,” recalled Manoj Satapathy of Baniamala.
Sarathi’s father Krushna Chandra Roul worked in the electricity department in Kendrapara in1980s and used to reside in a three-room rented house in Baniamala village. In 1993, Sarathi went to Rishikesh and spent around three years in an ashram. After returning from Rishikesh, he purchased two gunths of land in Barimula in1996 and built a two-room thatched house, which was converted into Sarathi Ashram. “He is a polyglot and speaks fluently Bengali, Telugu and Hindi. He has carved his own style to deliver the religious discourse, adopts simple language and devotional songs to attract the devotees,” said Niladri Tripathy of Baniamala.
Sarathi managed to learn some magic tricks and started churning out vibhuti from his hands like Satya Sai Baba. He also used to give religious discourses in many villages while residing in his thatched ashram. Later, he built a two-storied building in his ashram in 2000 and hundreds of devotees started visiting his ashram to listen to his religious discourses. At present, the ashram stands over four acres of land with a big temple and around 50 rooms. “His devotees believe him to be an avatar or incarnation of God in human form. But the recent alleged escapades against him besmirched his image as a Godman,” said Prasanta Patra of Baniamala.
“Sarathi Baba is a charlatan and must be exposed. His miracles are just magic tricks. The image of his in a jeans pant at a star hotel in Hyderabad with a girl proves the self-proclaimed Godman not just to be a fraud, but a dangerous sexual abuser,” said Umesh Chandra Singh, a lawyer of Kendrapara.
“Sarathi Baba is nothing but a mafia man, conning the people and making himself rich. Since 2005, we have been waging a bitter battle against Sarathi Baba, who illegally acquired around two acres of grazing ground of our village by greasing the palm of some venal officials and built his ashram. Rumours about Sarathi Baba sexually abusing young female devotees had been circulating for years. But now it has been proved as some TV channels provided clinching evidence to prove that Baba stayed with one of his female devotees at a star hotel in Hyderabad. He has been exploiting his followers to get money and power,” said Babaji Pradhan of Barimula. “Leaders of sundry political parties, MLAs, officials and other influential persons often visit his ashram in Barimula village in outskirts of Kendrapara town to pay their respects,” alleged Pradhan.
“The attacks on Sarathi Baba are wild and reckless. People travel long distances and spend a lot of money to visit the ashram of Sarathi Baba every day. All the moveable and immovable properties of Sarathi Ashram are managed by Satyam Charitable Trust and the trust organise blood donation camps , free health camps and other social works regularly. We also provide free meals to around 2000 devotees every day at the Sarathi Ashram. Baba clearly stated that he had not stayed at any hotel in Hyderabad. Some persons with an ulterior motive have been spreading canards against Baba to tarnish his image,” said Sarat Patra, one of the trust members.
Kendrapara town and its nearby areas witnessed sporadic arson and group clashes recently over the alleged escapades of Sarathi Baba. Many villagers of Barimula along with large numbers of protesters celebrated the arrest of Sarathi Baba by bursting crackers after the news of his arrest spread like wildfire in the villages.
Sarathi Baba has been booked under Sections 420 (cheating), 467 (forgery), 468 (using as genuine a forged document or electronic record), 471 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 506 (criminal intimidation), 321 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 120 (b) (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC and Section 25 of the Arms Act. Police seized two swords, 15 kilograms of silver, 52 grams of gold and many incriminating documents from him. He was produced at the court in Cuttack. The court rejected his bail application and remanded him to the jail custody.
“Baba forcefully acquired two acres of our village grazing ground eight years back by greasing the palms of the government officials. It is high time the government returned our land to us”, said Arakhita Pradhan, a villager of Barimula.
Sarathi Baba had strong political links and even ministers and MLAs touch his feet. Two years back, 12 BJD MLAs including the then Kendrapara MLA Sipra Mallick and Rajnagar MLA Alekha Jena, Ramesh Chandra Chyau Patnaik, the then chairman of Ethics Committee of State Assembly kowtowed before Sarathi Baba at his ashram in Barimula. To show his strong political links, a big framed photo of MLAs sitting at the feet of Baba adored the main office of the ashram at Barimula. When contacted Alekha Jena, the former MLA of Rajnagar, said: “We met Sarathi Baba at his ashram two years back. At that time, hundreds of devotees used to throng his ashram in Barimula.”
Meanwhile, the leaders of Congress, CPM, BJP demanded before the district administration to take over the ashram and confiscate the properties of Sarathi Baba. The officials of crime branch sealed the accounts of Sarathi Baba and his Satyam Charitable Trust in the State Bank of India, Allahabad Bank, Punjab National Bank, United Bank and Urban Cooperative Bank at Kendrapara. However, sources said that Baba managed to withdraw huge amounts from his accounts within a week.
By Ashis Senapati from Kendrapara