Missing Australian woman presumed murdered in Prasanthi Nilayam

Just yesterday, November 7, news broke across India that an elderly Australian devotee, who was reported missing, has been murdered in Puttaparthi, within the confines of Prasanthi Nilayam, the ashram of guru Sathya Sai Baba, who himself died there under suspicious circumstances in April 2011.

If this turns out to be true, this latest murder in the ‘Abode of Supreme Peace’ is one in quite a few, and just goes to show that this remote place was nor is a safe haven at all. It was not so while the master was still alive, it is not so now.

What makes it doubly sad is that the victim, identified as 75 year old mrs. Ludgate, went to the ashram to do seva, voluntary work, every year, even after the premature demise of her guru. Apparently, she arrived in Puttaparthi in July and was supposed to fly back to Australia on October 27.

The case drew national attention in Australia, as Mrs. Ludgate is the mother of noted novelist Traci Harding.

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Author Traci Harding with her mother, mrs. Ludgate

The family, filled with hope even on November 6, judging by an extensive report in The Daily Mail (Family missing grandmother optimistic), now most likely has to deal with the stark reality of a mother and grandmother brutally murdered for money and possessions.

Though reports from India state the murder as a fact (Times of India: Missing Australian woman found murdered), up til this morning the body of mrs. Ludgate has not been found. The alleged killer, mr. Bhagwanth, the keeper of Sai Gauri House, her lodgings, has confessed to the murder to the local police. The victim’s remains are allegedly buried on the shore of a nearby lake. The location will be searched today.

‘Why fear when I am here? I am always guarding you’
As stated, this murder does not stand alone. It fits in a long line of similar cases in what is still considered by many as a saintly place. Though Sathya Sai Baba always boasted that no one under his protection would ever need to fear anything, he himself did not even walk his talk. Judging from all reliable reports, he fled an infamous murder scene in his own chambers in Prasanthi Nilayam ashram in 1993, and amped up his personal security to an unprecedented level afterwards.

Many other, not so powerful devotees of the late master met with a fate far worse: they either disappeared, suffered and sometimes died from terrible accidents, killed themselves or were murdered, like mrs. Ludgate.

The self-proclaimed avatar, who could not effectively protect himself without the help of hired security forces and who took near permanent shelter in a fortress-like new appartment complex for the remainder of his life, was never any good in protecting those who sought his refuge and thought he was their saviour. Poor mrs. Ludgate is to be pitied as the latest victim who paid the ultimate price based on an entirely false sense of protection, actively promoted by her late master.

Puttaparthi is not a safe place. The few Westerners who are still living there or go to visit the Abode of Supreme Peace are in fact in real danger of being taken advantage of, robbed, or worse.

More to follow.

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