Unless the case is reinvestigated, justice will not be done

Publication: The New Indian Express

Date: November 22, 2004

The case against the Sankaracharya of Kanchi appears to be on slippery ground. Who are the witnesses against him? Two of the several professional killers, habitual criminals, yes, criminals, confessing to the crime as being at the instance of the Acharya. It is no secret that these people say what the police want them to say. Still it is the confession of these criminals which constitutes the “shocking evidence” against the Acharya. The confessions were not before the court, but before the police officers. After one of them confessed before the police on November 10 and the Acharya arrested on that basis, he was presented in the court nine days later on November 19, the coaching to him to fix the Acharya being complete meanwhile. Another criminal whose confession has been relied upon is still to confess before the magistrate.

But look at the story of the confessors. They are not the main actors in the killing, but just sidekicks, with whom the Acharya would never have dealt with as, even if had had to, he would deal only through their leaders. Insiders in the police say that the main characters are two: one Appu and the other Chinna. Both are still at large. Chinna, who has another name, Rajni, seems to be the principal executor. He has many murders to his credit. But insiders say that the police seem to have got not this Rajni alias Chinna, but some other Rajni and got him to confess to the crime. The real Rajni alias Chinna is still untraced. The real Rajni is well known in the underworld in Chennai. But the Rajni arrested is a small-time offender, who is not skilled enough to kill. Not a figure in the underworld at all. This, if proved, could dynamite the prosecution. The public prosecutor called the Acharya “the worst criminal” on the basis of the confession one of who may be a fake Rajni.

The other charges are that the main offender had spoken to the Acharya over phone. This is no surprise as Jayendra Saraswathi is known to be open to all. Deviating from the Mutt traditions, he entertained the worst offenders, met and blessed them. This used to offend his more conservative disciples. So receiving calls from Appu, a person charged with offence in this case, is no surprise. He must have received calls from many Appus. That cannot link the Acharya to the offender in the case.

The police have alleged that money was paid to the contract killers from the Mutt accounts. This story told in the open court on Saturday got changed in the affidavit on Monday. The police had earlier asserted that it was from the ICICI bank accounts of the Mutt. The Mutt denied that it had ICICI accounts. Now the police are searching for the bank accounts of persons other than the Mutt to fix the payments. This shows how anxious the authorities are to get at the Acharya. Yet, such is the obsession to declare the Acharya guilty that not a single newspaper highlighted this volte-face by the police.

The prosecution is shaky. The police insiders admit that this prosecution will not succeed. But that does not matter. The prosecution has already succeeded in convicting the Acharya through the media. So, proof is irrelevant, why, even court proceedings and eventually the judgment itself may be irrelevant. One can recall how a case against the Ananda Marg was perverted in the investigation to fix the chief of the organisation on similar facts, similar witnesses and similar events, because of lack of public vigil and scrutiny during the 1970s. There is every possibility that using the lack of public scrutiny here too the same thing would happen. How can the Acharya get justice in this atmosphere in the state? Here the advice of `Cho’ Ramaswamy that the investigation and prosecution should be shifted to another state seems to be the only way to ensure justice to the Acharya.

Undeniably, the investigation is moving single-mindedly to fix the Acharya. This ignores another perspective, that the offenders have fixed the Acharya himself. Instead of killing the victim, fixing the Acharya could well be the motive of the killers. So it calls for a thorough re-investigation. Applying all possibilities, including that the organisers of the crime might have fixed the Acharya and the police could well have become a victim to the fix. Without a thorough re-investigation justice will derail.

Politically, this could happen only to a Hindu religious leader. It is unthinkable that an Imam could ever be arrested in this country, and never on Ramzan Day. An Archbishop could never be arrested on Christmas Day. But a Sankaracharya could be arrested on Deepavali Day. This sums up the content of secularism in India. Someone said on television the other day, “There were no disturbances following the arrest.” Does this not imply that it is a disqualification for the Acharya that he has peaceful followers? Is the model for religious leadership that of Shahi Imam who dared the government to arrest him and face the consequences?

If this be the correct model for success, may be over a period of time the Hindus too will acquire that trait so that no one gloats after arresting a Sankaracharya that there is no law and order problem. So if the Hindu religious leaders find peaceful disciples useless, they will also build a following that will qualitatively match the following of a Shahi Imam.


Writer’s email: comment@gurumurthy.net 

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