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The Rediff Interview/Senior Supreme Court lawyer M N Krishanmani
December 17, 2004
Senior Supreme Court lawyer M N Krishanmani is a deeply religious man. Author of a book called Shankara, a treatise on Adi Sankara and the institution of the Shankaracharya, spirituality for Krishanmani is a way of life.
At the same time, he is a very practical person, who shuns orthodoxy. When the late Shankaracharya of Kanchi, Chandrasekharendra Saraswati, refused to acknowledge Krishanmani's mother because she was a widow, he protested and refused to worship the Parmacharya.
Krishanmani, who represents the current Shankaracharya of Kanchi, Jayendra Saraswati, in the Sankararaman murder case, believes the seer is being victimised by people who may not be in agreement with his unorthodox ways, including his involvement in areas like health and education.
He even believes Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa got the Shankaracharya arrested on the advice of her astrologer, who has asked her to keep Jayendra Saraswati in prison till December 23.
An exclusive interview with Senior Editor Sheela Bhatt:
How do you see the case against the Shankaracharya?
As far as the case is concerned, I sincerely feel that all the allegations are foisted on him. He is completely innocent. So far, there is no material (evidence) to prove his involvement. There is only one truth in the whole episode, there was some conflict between Sankararaman and the Kanchi Mutt. That is all. Everything else in the Shankaracharya matter is totally untrue -- lies to implicate him in the matter out of vindictiveness.
Who is being vindictive and why?
There are 20 to 25 murders taking place in Tamil Nadu (every day), but Chief Minister Jayalalithaa doesn't give a suo motu statement in the assembly nor does she give Rs 5 lakh to the victim's family in every case. Why has she done it in Sankararaman's case? It is not that Sankararaman was known to the CM very well. Why was this money not paid the very next day after Sankararaman was killed?
Why should she be vindictive? She is a devotee of the Shankaracharya.
That is a different question. There was some bickering. The Shankaracharya once commented that she lost the last (general) election because of her ego. Her vindictiveness started after that statement. They were waiting for an opportunity to punish him. They came to know that Sankararaman had some conflict with the Mutt and later he was murdered. They took advantage. It is an act of victimisation. There is no doubt about it.
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So you mean to say that political power is mightier than the Shankaracharya's spiritual power?
Spiritual power works differently. Political power can prevail (in the short term). So many other great people have been charged -- even Lord Krishna was charged and Jesus Christ was charged and crucified.
The conspiracy charge is a serious one. The seer met Appu, the prime accused, inside the Mutt.
But he (the Shankaracharya) absolutely denies it. I met him last week in Vellore jail. He never met Appu in the mutt. He never said anything to him. He never had any intention to kill Sankararaman.
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But he did say that Sankararaman was harassing him.
Yes, yes. I am also saying that point is the only truth in the matter. He (Sankararaman) was troubling him. He was writing letters. When somebody is disgruntled and when someone has got a grudge against you, he will come out with false allegations. Those allegations don't become truth.
What about Sankararaman's allegations of sexual misconduct?
Hundred per cent untrue. I have been going to the mutt for a long time now. Nobody can meet the Shankaracharya alone. All the time his disciples are with him. Always, more than 100 people are standing outside his room. Always, he is surrounded by five, six people. That is the practice. It Is just not possible to meet him alone. He is not that type at all. These are false allegations. They wanted Usha to say things against him. She refused. They could only manage one woman to say things against him.
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Women have alleged in the Tamil press that he had a glad eye.
No, no. Who are these 'women'? Except one, nobody has said anything against him. Secondly, these women's business has nothing to do with the murder case. Why is the police churning out these allegations? Is it because they have no evidence, whatsoever, in the murder case to implicate the seer? That could be the reason to malign his image.
What about the alleged financial irregularities in the mutt?
All this is wrong. The mutt accounts are perfectly audited by two, three reputed firms. No one will be able to find anything to suggest irregularities.
But Sankararaman's letters give a vivid account of it.
They were all false allegations. When I met the Shankaracharya in jail, he told me he has been saying all along that Sankararaman's allegations are false. But he advised people to just ignore the charges and he will stop making them. Eventually, he stopped making allegations.
In that case, why was he murdered?
We don't know. Simply because we have some enmity with somebody and if he is murdered, why should we be held responsible for it? He was removed from the mutt because of something he did in the mutt. The Tamil press has written that there were also problems at the temple he joined. I don't know if these allegations are correct or not. There was a controversy regarding the mortgage deal too. He had mortgaged temple property. Just an hour before his arrest, the Shankaracharya told one journalist that if these things were inquired into, the murderer could be traced easily. The police is not interested in investigating the case. They just want to harass the mutt.
Was the Shankaracharya aware that he was being arrested?
No, he was not aware of his arrest. He thought the police was taking him away to interrogate him. He knew he would be interrogated in this matter. He was ready for any kind of interrogation. Only when he arrived in Kanchi was he told that he was under arrest. When they were travelling from Chennai airport to Kanchi, he was shown a slip of paper. He could not understand that notice. The police claim it was an arrest warrant.
He is such a powerful seer. Nobody warned him about the arrest?
Nobody expected his arrest because he was not involved (in the murder of Sankararaman). Where is the question of his arrest? The arrest was a well-planned game. They kept an aircraft ready. Every detail was pre-conceived. He could not have been arrested without the help of the Andhra Pradesh government.
Why is the police helping Jayalalithaa build a case against the Shankaracharya?
Who told you that the entire Tamil Nadu police is involved? Only one officer, who is the investigating officer, is doing all these things. He is vindictive too. He is satisfying the CM's ego. He has forced Kandiraman and other accused to give statements against the Shankaracharya. He is responsible for creating false evidence.
Why have the protests against the Shankaracharya's arrest not picked up?
Because his millions of devotees are tolerant. Hindus are feeling sad, but they are not the type who will burn buses or resort to street violence.
What could possibly be Jayalalithaa's motive?
Dravidian votes could be one of the motive. But the prime motive is personal vendetta.
Do you have any evidence to support this theory?
There is no other logic. How can you implicate him when he has not done anything? The seer said that Jayalalithaa's defeat is attributable to her ego. If one can be so atrocious in her approach, one can also be so unreasonable in responding to such a small comment.
What is the truth of this case?
There were many small flashpoints between Jayalalithaa and the mutt. Like when the Kumbhabhishekam was fixed in a temple in Chennai, her astrologer told her that the time fixed was not auspicious for her. They (Jayalalithaa's advisors) suspected that the mutt had done it intentionally. In Madurai's Palani temple, an idol of Lord Kartikeya was changed. Somebody told her that that too would go against her. There were many such rumours. To fix the timing of replacement of the idol Acharya Jayendra Saraswati was consulted. Now he is being blamed because she thinks the time was not right. This is speculation. He is completely without a clue why she is being so vindictive!
How is he keeping up in Vellore jail?
He is slightly shattered, but still smiling. He has not lost his spiritual strength. When I asked him how he was feeling? He said, 'I am a sanyasi and I am used to sleeping on the floor. I am not suffering at a personal level.' But he is shocked. He is asking only one question -- why these allegations against him? He does not know the real reason. He too thinks it is a case of Jayalalithaa's personal vendetta.
Photographs: AFP/Getty Images | Design: Rahil Shaikh