Debating India

Kanchi Shankaracharya held in murder case

Friday 12 November 2004

CHENNAI/HYDERABAD: In a sensational development, Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati was arrested late Thursday night as the prime accused in the murder of an official of a Kanchipuram temple.

The 70-year-old senior pontiff of the Kanchi Matth, whom the opposition parties in Tamil Nadu accused of having considerable clout over the AIADMK, was arrested at 10 pm in Mehboobnagar in Andhra Pradesh by a special team from Tamil Nadu armed with an arrest warrant.

The seer has been remanded to judicial custody till November 26 by a court here.

Soon after he was brought to Kancheepuram, about 70 km from here, the Shankaracharya was produced before First Class Judicial Magistrate G Uttamaraj at 6.30 am on Friday.

The magistrate, after over an hour-long proceeding, remanded him to judicial custody till November 26.

He was later taken to Vellore Central Prison in a police convoy and lodged there.

Earlier, the seer was brought here by the state police in a government aircraft early Friday morning.

A large number of police personnel, media persons and some devotees were also present at the old Meenambakkam airport.

Cuddalore Superintendent of Police C Premkumar, told reporters that the Shankaracharya was arrested as he had "played a significant" role in the murder of Sankararaman, Manager of Varadharaja Perumal Temple at Kancheepuram. The murder took place on September 3, 2004.

The Kanchi Shankaracharya, who has considerable influence with political leaders cutting across party lines, was in the limelight in the last two years of the NDA rule, acting as a go-between with Muslim leaders and Hindu organisations in the Ayodhya issue.

The murder issue had become a political controversy with the main opposition party DMK announcing an agitation while accusing the state government of inaction despite information about the persons involved in the murder.

In the politics of Tamil Nadu, dominated by Dravidian parties espousing rationalist policies, Jayalalithaa was accused by the Opposition of running the government on the advice of the Kanchi Shankaracharya.

The arrest of Shankaracharya in Mehboobnagar, 90 kms from Hyderabad, was preceded by high drama. A police team, comprising fully armed commandos and led by Superintendent of Police Elan Govan, first went in an Cessna aircraft to Bangalore on information that he was there but later left for Hyderabad and went to Mehboobnagar by road to arrest him.

The Shankaracharya was at that time performing a ’Trikal Puja’.

Accompanied by an Andhra Pradesh police team, the Tamil Nadu team explained to Shankaracharya the case and took him to custody.

There were reports that Shankaracharya’s brother and another person have also been arrested. However, there was no confirmation yet.

Jayendra Saraswati had created a controversy over 10 years back by disappearing suddenly from the Matth. He was later traced to Tala Cauvery in Coorg district in Karnataka.

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