Kendrapara tense over godman

Tension ran high in Kendrapara district today as a local TV channel ran a story alleging that self-styled godman Baba Srimad Sarathi had spent a few days at a posh Hyderabad hotel with a woman last month.

By Manoj Kar and Subhashish Mohanty
  • Published 5.08.15
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Baba Srimad Sarathi. Telegraph picture

Bhubaneswar/ Kendrapara, Aug. 4: Tension ran high in Kendrapara district today as a local TV channel ran a story alleging that self-styled godman Baba Srimad Sarathi had spent a few days at a posh Hyderabad hotel with a woman last month.

Police cordoned off the ashram of the godman at Barimula on the outskirts of Kendrapara town following the report of the channel that beamed pictures purported to be that of the godman with details such as the hotel room in which he checked in and the woman who accompanied him.

The godman, who boasts of some influential politicians among his disciples, has a sizeable following in Kendrapara. As the news spread, tension gripped Barimula and its adjoining villages. Authorities were on their toes, as they feared breach of law and order despite heavy police deployment.

Commenting on the TV channel's report, Sarathi Baba told The Telegraph: "It is a well-orchestrated conspiracy to tarnish my image. I am clean. My devotees would continue to adore me as they have been doing for years together."

The hotel management contacted by The Telegraph, however, refused to confirm the report saying revealing the names of its guests was against its policy. If required, they would share information only with the police.

A college dropout, Sarathi, donned the mantle of Baba in the 90s gaining popularity through his devotional concerts in the town. It didn't take long for his following to swell with people making a beeline to Sarathi Ashram at Barimula village.

The modest thatched ashram turned into a palatial building with generous flow of donations from devotees scattered across the state. "I have seen the ashram that was running in the mud-walled thatched house in 1993. But things changed with a number of devotees growing into thousands," said Paripkhit Patra, 48, a local resident.

However, this is not Baba's first brush with controversy. He was in the news in 2012 when he allegedly tried to grab government land for expansion of the Barimula ashram. The villagers vehemently opposed the forcible occupation of their land that had to be vacated following the administration's intervention.

Inspector of Kendrapara police station Pramod Kumar Lenka said: "The police had a tough time controlling vehicular traffic on Sundays when thousands of devotees throng his Ashram."

Ratnakar Mishra, a follower, said: "We are deeply hurt. Baba is a spiritual man to the core. We stand solidly behind him."