While a section of Hindus has been questioning the Hindu credentials of Sai Baba of Shridi, with videos of religious leaders urging people to disregard the mystic surfacing on social media off and on, Delhi Police said they are trying to find out more about the man who was spotted hammering and demolishing the statue of Sai Baba in a recent video apparently shot in south Delhi’s Shahpur Jat.
Atul Kumar Thakur, the deputy commissioner of police (south), said the cops began their inquiry into the incident after receiving a complaint from a group of local devotees. “We are looking into the incident. We are yet to register a case,” said Thakur.
While the police said that the people they interrogated so far have claimed that the idol was already “khandit” or broken and was to be replaced, the a middle-aged man dressed in a pale-blue shirt captured on the video, identified as Padam Panwar, can be heard saying that he decided to get the idol removed as Sai Baba was a Muslim.
“I personally got the statue installed in 2009. But now that I got to know that Sai Baba was a Muslim, I got the statue removed. Sai Baba was no God, he was a common man,” Panwar, 55, is captured saying on the video,
Panwar said he lives in Shahpur Jat itself and has a real estate business.
In the video doing rounds on social media, Panwar first instructs a worker to uproot the idol with a crowbar. He then wields a hammer himself and hits the statue multiple time, before talking to the camera and stating that Sai Baba was no god, but a Muslim.
A second video later emerged in which Panwar is purportedly seen in the company of Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati — a priest of Dasna Devi temple in Ghaziabad — who was booked by the Delhi Police on 3 April for allegedly making inflammatory comments against the Prophet at a press conference.
Saraswati couldn’t be reached for a comment on the issue, with Delhi police stating that they were yet to ascertain if Panwar was the man seen in the other undated video with Saraswati. Contacted, Panwar, however, said it was indeed him in the video.
“This temple was constructed by my ancestors even before Sai Baba was born. But I have got to know now that he was a Muslim. He cannot share the same space that is occupied by Hindu gods,” said Panwar.
Panwar claimed that he was questioned by the police on 4 April.
About Sai Baba
While Sai Baba of Shirdi commanded a following of both Hindus and Muslims when he was alive, the temples dedicated to the mystic in due course turned so Hindu in nature — replete with idolatry, bhajans-kirtans and blowing of conch shells — that Muslims stopped venturing to these places of worship.
Whereas a conspiracy theory gained currency since one of the Shankaracharyas denounced the worship of Sai Baba, documented history about the mystic is not absolutely established.
Sri Narasimha Swamy was an ardent devotee of Sai Baba. He set up the Sai Samajam in Mylapore Chennai. He wrote multiple volumes on Sai Baba both during Baba’s life and subsequently. His book “Life of Sai Baba” Vol 1 says that Sai Baba would make references to Patri in the Nizam State and much later in life told one of his staunch devotees, Mhalsthapathy, that his parents were Brahmins of Patri, in Parvani Taluk. He also told Mhalsthapathy that at the tender age of five, his parents handed him over to a Fakir which is fairly indisputable.
Sai Baba occasionally showed greater interest in devotees from Patri and Pavani inquiring about others in the village, but that is as far as information is available, about Shri Sai Baba’s birth and origins.