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Hindu leaders condemn seer's arrest
Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi and Shobha Warrier in Chennai |
November 12, 2004 21:02 IST
Last Updated: November 12, 2004 21:41 IST
Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi's arrest following an investigation into the murder of Shankararaman, who managed the accounts of the Kanchi Mutt a few years back, has shocked his critics and devotees alike.
"Can the Pope be arrested from the Church of England?" International Secretary of Vishwa Hindu Parishad Praveen Togadia asked while talking to rediff.com.
"Why was the Shankaracharya arrested from Andhra Pradesh, a Congress-ruled state? Why was he arrested at midnight? And why was his arrest made on Diwali day, the most auspicious Hindu festival?"
Togadia alleged that for the past 15 days pressure was being built on Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to arrest the seer "as part of Congress conspiracy."
He also alleged that information about the investigation was leaked in a planned manner to R Gopal, the editor of Tamil weekly Nakkeeran, which had carried a report with the details of the investigation.
On the basis of that story, Jayalalithaa's opponents increased political pressure on her. Last week, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam announced that Jayalalithaa's 'Brahminical bias' was impeding the investigation. The DMK, known as an anti-forward caste party, declared it would launch an agitation if the investigation was stalled.
After the Nakkeeran report, the pontiff's devotees became active. According to sources, during the last four days former president R Venkataraman, who is a staunch devotee of the Shankaracharya, had been trying to contact Jayalalithaa, but could not get in touch with her.
His office refused to comment when contacted by rediff.com.
Togadia alleged that in view of the Bihar and Jharkhand elections the Congress party wanted to create an image about itself amongst Muslims of being a party under whose rule powerful Hindus could be punished. He said that the arrest of the Shankaracharya would establish Congress' credentials as an 'anti-Hindu and anti-forward caste' party, which would help it in the elections.
Togadia, a vocal supporter of neo-Hindutva, also contended "games were played" in such a way that Jayalalithaa had no option but to arrest the Shankaracharya.
"The news of his arrest is shocking. It is time we understood that religion and secular state are different entities and should remain separate. Godmen should remain above politics," former cabinet secretary T S R Subrahmaniam told rediff.com.
Subrahmaniam has criticised the Shankaracharya's active involvement in the Ayodhya issue in the past.
"I can't comment on the police case, but [Shankaracharya's] arrest is a proof of the falling standards of the great glorious tradition of Hinduism. It is a great letdown," he remarked.
Hindu Munnani leader Rama Gopalan said he felt 'sorrow' over the manner in which the Shankaracharya of the Kanchi Mutt was arrested, but refused to say comment on allegations of conspiracy and political motive behind the arrest.
"I really do not understand what is behind all this. I do not see any reason. I have absolutely no idea."
He said the Hindu Munnani was planning demonstrations throughout Chennai on Saturday. The organisation would also arrange prayer meetings in many temples, he said.
The Tamil Nadu state unit of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh condemned the arrest and appealed to the government to allow the seer to perform all rituals and poojas without hindrance. "We are scared that some anti-social elements may do some mischief, which should not be allowed."
A spontaneous conglomeration of some prominent citizens of Chennai signed a memorandum and submitted it to Governor S S Barnala in the evening. "We requested the governor to keep the Shankaracharya in a place where he will be able to perform his poojas and rituals without any hindrance," one of the signatories said.
Hindu Makkal Katchi President Ashok Sampath said the Shankaracharya was a "law-abiding citizen" and he would have been available for interrogation at any time.
There was a warrant against Imam Bukhari of Delhi in the Kerala High Court for the last 15 years, but no policeman had arrested him. A Dalit leader in Tamil Nadu had been charge sheeted in two murder cases and there were arrest warrants against him, but the Tamil Nadu police had not yet arrested him, he said. "Why then did they arrest our Shankaracharya at night, and when he was on tour?" he asked.
The arrest was politically motivated, he said, adding it was because of DMK president Karunanidhi's relentless pressure on the government. He said the case had been foisted on the Shankaracharya and the police officials had provided wrong information to Jayalalithaa
The Hindu Makkal Katchi would lodge a complaint with the Human Rights Commission as human rights were violated while arresting the Shankaracharya.
Vinayakar Murali, state coordinator of the Federation of Hindu Organisations, Tamil Nadu, said the arrest was part of a conspiracy to malign the image of the 2,500-year-old Kanchi Mutt.
He said the police had tortured many people, including devotees, to obtain false statements against the Shankaracharya. About 45 days ago, a Mutt devotee, along with his wife, was illegally detained for three days and the investigating officer forced him to make a confession that the Shankaracharya was involved in the murder. "At that time itself I alerted the Mutt to take the matter to the Human Rights Commission and also take legal steps," he claimed.
He said he had proof that the police had tortured people to make false confessions against the Shankaracharya.
Now, the state government, which has been accused by the DMK of working under the guidance of the Shankaracharya, was distancing itself from the Mutt in view of the next Assembly elections, he said.
He also claimed there was an international conspiracy. "Now, Kanchi Shankaracharya is the tallest Hindu leader in India. I very strongly feel hands from across the borders are involved in the conspiracy."