VIPs get quick glimpse of Sai Baba while devotees wait hours

VIPs get quick glimpse of Sai Baba while devotees wait hours

The brazen discrimination by the Sai Trust and the high-handed policemen was not confined to VIPs entry into the hall on the sly, but also to their vehicles that were allowed till the iron gates, while devotees had to walk a few kilometres to reach the Nilayam in this pilgrim town, about 150 km from Bangalore.

Though Baba's body was brought from the Satya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences to his abode eight hours after he breathed last around 8 a.m. Sunday, humble devotees, including men, women and children, had to wait for over four hours to file past the body for a few seconds amid hymns, devotional songs and music.

When hundreds of emotional devotees expressed outrage over the delay in letting them into hall by surging menacingly to gatecrash as their patience wore thin, trust volunteers in white and men in khaki went berserk and began pushing them back by shouting and caning without mercy.

"So many VIPs are allowed to see our god so quickly without standing in queue, while we have been made to wait hours to enter the hall," bemoaned S. Anjaneyulu, 43, a school teacher who came from Kurnool to pay his last respects.

As night fell and stars twinkled between passing clouds, the two queues that were formed separately for men and women got longer stretching 1-2 km from the Nilayam's main entrance through the wee hours of Monday.

"The trust authorities and police failed to regulate the queues and control the restive crowds from breaking away. It took me two hours to reach the hall and was shoved away in a second by the volunteers that prevented me from seeing Baba's body closely and paying my homage," lamented B. Venkanna, 54, a businessman and an ardent devotee of Baba for over two decades, told an IANS correspondent.

In contrast to the chaos and unruly scenes outside the Nilayam, trust volunteers maintained a semblance of order in the illuminated hall, where Baba's body was placed on a dais surrounded in a semi-circle by several trust members, close devotees, a few VIPs and teaching faculty of Sai educational institutes in the town.

Prominent VIPs seated close to the casket were Andhra Pradesh Health Minister J. Geetha Reddy, Ratnakar, Baba's nephew and son of his younger brother Janakiramaiah and Baba's personal caregiver Satyajit.

As devotees, many sobbing, filed past the body in quick succession, an eerie atmosphere prevailed in the sprawling hall, filled with the fragrance of fresh lily and jasmine and scented sticks.

To prevent crowding the hall,  none of the ordinary devotees, except VIPs and trustees, were allowed to remain there more than a minute, while about 3,000 Sai Seva Dal volunteers sweated through Sunday night in guiding and escorting the people from entry to exit in bare feet.

"We managed to reach here by changing two buses en-route with great difficulty as there was such a rush to get into any vehicle passing through Puttaparthi. With hotels and shops shut in the town, we didn't have anything eat or sip since evening though we have not been hungry due to mourning," B. Parvathi, 48, a homemaker from Ananthapur, 70 km away, and Baba's devotee since her teens as her parents were his ardent followers, told IANS.

Amidst tight security and deployment of about 6,000 policemen on round-the-clock duty to maintain law and order and prevent any untoward incident, this sleepy town in the backward region of Rayalaseema became a beehive of activity since the passing away of its 85-year-old guru who was godman to millions of his followers in India and around the world.

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