So what about Sankararaman and the Sri Shankaracharyas then? – T.S.V. Hari

T.S.V. HariAny rookie criminal lawyer would laugh at those depending on the outcome of a high-profile murder case if it hinges on the deposition of an approver who turned one while being under police custody. Prisons are not air tight, water-proof containers beyond the earth. Approvers in politically volatile cases sing like canaries when vested interests in cases are in power but will sound harshly cacophonic when such political arrangements lose string-pulling advantages. Subramanian, Padma, Sharma and Maitreyi obviously lied earlier — or their actions imply that now. — T.S.V. Hari

Kanchi Acharya Elections are due in Tamil Nadu on the eve of yet another Tamil New Year in April.

Will the yet-to-be-decided matter concerning the Shankaracharyas of Kancheepuram have any bearing on the outcome?

It is a matter of public knowledge that the Kancheepuram Shankaracharyas are politically very influential.

Recently, Sri Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal supervised the marriage of Feroze Varun Gandhi, a scion of the Nehru-Gandhi clan and now a member of parliament belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party — an outfit that has become a bit wary of his angry pronouncements against the religious minorities.

In the past, His Holiness tried solving the Ayodhya tangle.

Tamil Nadu is agog with hushed whispers that the two Acharyas had a say in the outcome of the 2006 assembly elections.

Now, as the high profile murder case against them being tried in the neighbouring Union Territory of Puducherry is about to be completed, some serious questions are crying out for logical answers on the eve of the next elections.

The world has almost forgotten that the two of the most revered saints of modern day India — the Sri Shankaracharyas of the highly respected 2500-year-old Kancheepuram monastery — had been arrested on murder charges a little under 6 years ago.

ShankararamanThey had been accused of having masterminded the killing of one Shankararaman, the manager of a temple in Kancheepuram whose wooden icon surfaces once every 12 years from a rather unkempt water tank.

Tamil Nadu had silently watched the queer spectacle of 2 saints revered by heads of state, cabinet ministers and more being reviled by the acts of one policeman of dubious antecedents, Prem Kumar.

The elder Shankaracharya, Sri Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal, was arrested November 11, 2004 from Mahboob Nagar, a little known town of Andhra Pradesh in the outskirts of its capital Hyderabad, ferried on a plane meant only for the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, and produced before an unsmiling magistrate to be remanded to judicial custody.

Vijayendra Saraswati SwamigalThe younger pontiff, Sri Shankara Vijayendra Saraswati Swamigal, was arrested on the same charges a few weeks later and also sent to prison.

The Fourth Estate in Tamil Nadu carried all sorts of articles against the Acharyas alleging despicable misconduct without any shred of evidence.

Slowly, the din died down.

The dust settled.

The seers got bail thanks to the Supreme Court which also ordered the shifting of the trial to the Union Territory of Puducherry.

Around 50% of the 170 odd witnesses examined so far, including Ravi Subramanian, Padma, Anand Sharma and Uma Maitreyi – the case’s approver, widow, son and daughter of the deceased respectively — have turned hostile.

The acquittal of the pontiffs, therefore, is more or less foregone.

Without going into the polemics of who could have been guilty and who was not, here are some of the matter’s highlights (or should one say low lights?):

1. The depositions of Padma, Anand and Uma were of zero value to the case since they had openly accepted a huge ‘purse’ from the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, J. Jayalalithaa, who had been one of the main tormentors of the seers.

2. The entire case hinged on the evidence of Ravi Subramanian who had turned approver. Any rookie criminal lawyer would laugh at those depending on the outcome of a high-profile murder case if it hinges on the deposition of an approver who turned one while being under police custody. Prisons are not air tight, water-proof containers beyond the earth. Approvers in politically volatile cases sing like canaries when vested interests in cases are in power but will sound harshly cacophonic when such political arrangements lose string-pulling advantages. Subramanian, Padma, Sharma and Maitreyi obviously lied earlier … or their actions imply that now.

3. The man whose supervision of the arrests of the Acharyas, the notorious man called Prem Kumar, is dead of natural causes. A few years ago, Kumar had been dismissed on various charges totally unrelated to the Shankararaman murder case. Among other things, Kumar had tortured several persons in return for money and found unworthy of being appointed a deputy superintendent of police while charges of horrible misconduct were pending against him. He was sacked and remained so till dropping dead. No earthly use will be served by digging into charges of Kumar having unduly benefited out of the Shankararaman case by allegedly blackmailing top industrialists and the accused themselves for various omissions and commissions.

4. Virtually nobody seems to be interested in the case now.

5. The lady who pursued the matter, J. Jayalalithaa, needs to be — and perhaps deserves to be –anointed Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister again shortly and hence may not commit political hara-kiri by touching the pontiffs with a bargepole.

6. The present incumbent Karunanidhi isn’t going to do anything about it either. After all, the dilution of the case against the Acharyas began with the political equation changing in Tamil Nadu in 2006. So the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam patriarch will not do anything to ruffle the feathers of the Hindus either – at least on this count.

7. The trial is underway in Puducherry, a Union Territory that is in the poll fray itself. From Chief Minister Vaidyalingam downwards everyone who is someone in that neck of the woods has been tainted with some scandal or another.

Therefore, none will raise any objection over the outcome of the case — in all probability — the acquittal of the Acharyas — something I began saying right from 2004 almost immediately after the arrest.

Prem Kumar’s threats against me in 2004 did not work.

Nor did those of a yellow Tamil journalist who claimed to be a righteously indignant Hindu abroad, nonplussed with the seers’ arrest and exhibiting total cowardice in India, deter my contention that the seers were and are innocent of all the charges made against them.

But there are some unanswered questions – all of them serious.

And here they are:

1. Jayalalithaa is a devout Hindu and once a fervent devotee of the Math. Knowing the convent educated, media savvy lady, she obviously may not have seriously believed the murder charges’ standing courts’ scrutiny. Allegations of other organised religions like Christianity and/or Islam being responsible for the seers’ discomfiture are pure rubbish because the holy men were and are in serious dialogue with various faiths’ heads to establish meaningful global secularism and eschew sectarian violence. The reported issue of small business deals between Jayalalithaa and the seers going sour are not worth the dried ink used to sign them. So, what was the motive for Jaya to suddenly turn hostile against the seers?

2. Jayalalithaa’s awareness about her having crippled the murder case multiply by donating a huge sum of money to the surviving relatives of the deceased, can be easily guessed. By adding the charge of an attempted murder of a former auditor attached to the Math — Radhakrishnan — depending on the same set of witnesses citing the same set of circumstances was such a foolish act in prosecution terms that one expects serious strictures to be passed against all and sundry! If the cases were stillborn and always meant to be, why go through the meaningless charade at all?

3. The prosecution of the Math mainstays froze Jayalalithaa’s relationship with the rightwing Hindu outfits — perhaps contributing to her party’s defeat in 2006. However, there was undeniably a lamentably dead body in a pool of fresh blood, with eyes staring at nothingness, called Shankararaman when alive. His relatives themselves have exonerated the seers after blaming and profiting immensely from it. The approver turned turtle in open court. The only possible links to the Math and the dead man were the charges made by him against the pontiffs. Now, at least on paper, the charges have been shown to be devoid of merit. If this is true, why was the temple official publicly executed in September 2004, by whom and with such brutality?

4. The court can charge approver Ravi Subramanian with perjury, prosecute and even find him guilty. Needless to add, in all probability, he would seek the setting off of the time already spent in prison and walk scot free on the very day of conviction. After all, he did not commit the murder — did he?

5. But, there is a snag. The dead Prem Kumar had reportedly threatened Ravi Subramanian (while the approver was continuously in hospital) and even asked him to escape. Police sources said that Subramanian resisted the idea because he was scared of being bumped off once ‘free’. Even after being transferred out of the case, Prem Kumar refused to hand over the files to his successor or his superiors till being suspended. So at whose behest was Kumar acting? And in Kumar’s absence, would it be so that Subramanian too would end up ‘committing suicide’ like Union Minister Raja’s former aide Sadick Batcha, owing to a guilty conscience and/or worse? So what will the widow and offspring of Shankararaman do when Jayalalithaa comes back to power, after having taken a lot of blood money and letting the prosecution down in court? While none can guarantee how Jayalalithaa’s mind would work upon return to power in their respect, the moot question remains. What were the secrets that were cremated along with Shankararaman’s funeral pyre if they were not some silly business deals gone sour between the pontiffs and Jayalalithaa as alleged during heydays of the case?

6. One also has to remember that persons accused of serious crimes (including the murder-case-co-accused) have been seen hobnobbing with the Kancheepuram seers. None can fault any holy man from blessing anyone. T.S. Raghavan, the former Chairman of Indian Bank and currently one of the Math’s highly respected advisors is willing to tell everyone willing to listen thus: “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” So, whose pasts will form whose future?

7. Will the secret reveal itself with the soon to be concluded murder trial of the Acharyas in Puducherry? Or will it remain a mystery like those of the unsolved crimes like the murder of Nagarwala?

8. Will those sentenced or to be sentenced be eliminated one by one like it happened in the cases of Rajiv Gandhi and Olof Palme and those awaiting the final word left to rot in cells interminably?

Either time will tell the truth or shall zip its mouth as it happened in the cases of former US Presidents ‘Honest Abe’ Lincoln and John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Here are some details about the way things happened before the murder, the way the case is still being conducted:

Prem KumarWrit Petition demands action against police officer

Chennai, Dec. 13, 2004: The Madras High Court has ordered notice to the Home Secretary and the Director-General of Police on a writ petition seeking departmental as well as criminal proceedings against the Kancheepuram Superintendent of Police, Prem Kumar.

In his petition, Henry Tiphagne of the Campaign Against Torture also prayed for an order restraining Mr. Prem Kumar from discharging his responsibilities as SP.

Among other things, the petitioner cited an incident in 1982 when Mr. Prem Kumar, as sub-inspector at Vadipatti in Madurai district, thrashed and paraded one Nallakaman in handcuffs. Nor were his teacher-wife and son spared.

The incident sparked a public protest. After the allegations were confirmed in an RDO (revenue divisional officer) inquiry, a case was registered and it, along with a private complaint preferred by Mr. Nallakaman, was remanded to a sessions court.

During the pendency of the proceedings, Mr. Prem Kumar cleared the Group I examination conducted by the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission and was appointed Deputy Superintendent of Police. According to the petitioner, the principal of the police training college himself said he should not be admitted to the college as two criminal cases were pending against him.

When Mr. Nallakaman’s quo warranto plea against Mr. Prem Kumar came up for hearing, the Government submitted that his appointment was only temporary and that it was subject to the outcome of the petition.

The High Court refused to quash the criminal proceedings and made caustic observations against Mr. Prem Kumar, Mr. Tiphagne said. Justice M. Karpagavinayagam also referred to more than a dozen non-bailable warrants pending unexecuted against the official.

In July 2003, a Madurai fast track court found Mr. Prem Kumar guilty of various criminal offences. It, however, gave him the benefit of Section 3 of Probation of Offenders Act and let him off after admonition, the petitioner said. Though he was convicted in another case as well, the judge did not hand any sentence or imprisonment as the circumstances and facts which led to the registration of both cases were one and the same. “It is not known whether any report was sent to the High Court after the conviction as per its directions,” the petitioner said.

“It is also not known whether the Home Secretary and the DGP have taken note of his conviction and proceeded departmentally.”

Mr. Tiphagne referred to a 1997 incident of custodial torture at Nagercoil, where Mr. Prem Kumar ill-treated one John Joseph and two nuns.

According to the petitioner, they were stripped in custody and humiliated. The High Court recommended prosecution of Mr. Prem Kumar through the CB-CID.

In 1998 the official was promoted Additional Superintendent of Police when two criminal cases were still pending against him in addition to a batch of writ petitions seeking action against him.

In 1999 he was promoted and posted as SP even when the criminal cases and the writ petitions were pending, Mr. Tiphagne said. — The Hindu, December 13, 2004

On November 25, the Supreme Court dismissed in limine a public interest petition seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the arrest of the Sankaracharya. A Bench comprising Chief Justice R.C. Lahoti and Justice G.P. Mathur questioned the locus standi of the petitioner, B.P. Singhal, a former Rajya Sabha member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in filing the petition and wanted to know which fundamental right of the pontiff was violated in the case. The Judges ruled that when none of the accused or the affected persons had approached the court, the petitioner, a third party, had no locus standi to invoke the extraordinary jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution….

The same day in Chennai, Shankararaman’s wife Padma and his daughter Uma reportedly identified some of his killers in an identification parade held at the Central Prison. (The alleged assailants had gone to their house before the murder and inquired about Shankararaman’s whereabouts.) Separately, Radhakrishnan and his wife tried to identify two men who had attacked them in their house.

JayalalithaaLate on the night of November 25, the Jayalalithaa government replaced S. Davidson Devasirvatham, Superintendent of Police (S.P.), Kancheepuram district, with K. Prem Kumar, Cuddalore S.P. They were the two key leaders of the 29-member team set up to investigate the murder of Sankararaman. In another important move, A.X. Alexander replaced S.V. Venkatakrishnan as the Director General of Police (Intelligence).

On November 26, Justice Uthamaraj extended the judicial custody of the Sankaracharya for 15 more days, that is, up to December 10.

After he appeared in the Kancheepuram court, the Sankaracharya was driven to Chennai to appear in a Saidapet court in the case related to the attack on Radhakrishnan. The XXIII Metropolitan Magistrate, Saidapet, S. Umamaheswari, remanded him to judicial custody till December 9.

“The Kanchi Acharya is confronting not just a neurotic Chief Minister and a hostile state but also a section of the judiciary which is, to put it mildly, not Caesar’s wife. He is also confronting a section of the state police, specifically, the SP of Kancheepuram who has been damned by the Madras High Court itself and who has had a non-bailable warrant issued against him. The Chief Minister of course has several cases pending against her with regard to acquiring government property and amassing wealth disproportionate to her known sources of income. So, which among these worthies is qualified to judge the Acharya?” – Radha Rajan, ‘Equal Before Which Law?’, December 16, 2004

“I am shocked and pained by the observations made by Ashok Singhal, Working President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) International, on the credentials of K. Prem Kumar, Superintendent of Police, Kancheepuram, who is reported to be supervising the investigation of the Sankararaman murder case. He has made serious allegations against the concerned officer and in this context he has referred to the strictures and pronouncements made by the Madras High Court and certain other Courts of Law against the concerned officer. All the responsible and law abiding citizens of Tamil Nadu are expecting that the Government of Tamil Nadu in the Home Department would have these allegations properly verified immediately without any delay whatsoever.”

“If Government of Tamil Nadu do not act immediately then the confidence of the public in the investigation of the case initiated against Sankaracharya would not only be lost forever but also lead to a lawless environment of total public contempt for the Police Department.” – V Sundaram (IAS Retd)

Madurai, Sep 21, 2006: The State Government on Wednesday objected to stay the conviction of suspended Superintendent of Police, K. Prem Kumar, in the assault case.

Opposing a petition filed by him, the Advocate General R. Vidudhalai said that the officer had been committing “crimes after crimes” right from the day he joined service as a sub-inspector of police.

The Additional District and Sessions Judge in Madurai convicted him on July 11, 2003 for attacking an ex-serviceman during the course of an enquiry in 1982. However, the court released him without imposing any punishment under the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958.

The Home Secretary, on September 1, 2006, issued a show cause notice to him seeking explanation as to why he should not be removed from service since he was convicted in the assault case. Immediately, Mr. Prem Kumar moved the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court to stay the conviction.

In the meantime, he was also suspended from service on the ground that he attempted to influence some of the witnesses in the case against the head of Kanchi Mutt.

When the stay petition came up for hearing before Justice M. Jeyapaul, the Advocate General said that it would be against public interest to stay the conviction, because the officer with bad antecedents did not deserve a place in the police department. The AG said that the officer was accused in a few other cases also.

M. KarunanidhiUnlikely Friends

DMK going soft on the Shankaracharya?

Senior Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) member and recently appointed Tamil Nadu Cooperatives Minister Kosi Mani has come in for criticism following his recent meeting with the Kanchi Shankaracharya Sri Jayendra Saraswathi in Kumbhakonam. According to reports, Mani participated in a yagya conducted by the seer and had a private meeting with him.

Parties who have traditionally been antithetical to the Kanchi mutt, like Dravidar Kazhagam and Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, were quick to condemn the meeting. Chief Minister and DMK president M. Karunanidhi first expressed “shock” and sought an explanation from the minister. According to DMK sources, Mani was reprimanded for calling on the seer who is the prime accused in the murder of Sankararaman, the former manager of Varadaraja Perumal temple in Kanchipuram.

Karunanidhi was reportedly satisfied with Mani’s clarification that he had gone to thank the seer for asking his followers to vote for him in the recent Assembly elections. Mani told his party chief that he had not taken part in any yagya. “There is no reason to disbelieve him. He is a staunch follower of Periyar,” said a DMK party member. The 76-year-old politician and four-time MLA was the local administration minister in the previous DMK regime.

Mani retained the Kumbhakonam seat in the recent Assembly elections defeating his All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) rival Rama Ramanathan by a margin of over 14,000 votes. He believes that his victory with an improved margin — he had defeated Ramanathan by 6,488 votes in 2001 –was made possible by the overwhelming support of the estimated 12,000-strong Brahmin voters in Kumbhakonam. Brahmins were not happy with Ramanathan, a Brahmin himself, as they felt that he had not taken up their cause with the Jayalalithaa government when the Shankaracharya was arrested in the Sankararaman murder case.

However, for the DMK, the political implications of the Mani-Shankaracharya meeting might prove costly. There have been reports in the wake of the meeting that the Shankaracharya has sounded out the DMK regime for bailing him out of the murder case. “The seer might have sought Mani’s help when he took him aside for a private discussion. What else could they have talked in secret?” asks a former AIADMK MLA.

An impression has gained ground that the DMK government might go slow on the Sankararaman case. Sources say that the DMK could be obliging the seer because it sees this as an opportunity to prove its oft-repeated stand that it is not against Brahmins, only against Brahmanism.

According to top police sources, the strength of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) investigating the case has substantially dwindled. The government has transferred Superintendent of Police, Prem Kumar, who led the SIT, leaving the team without a head. Some mid-level officers in the SIT have also been shunted back to their old posts. Currently an additional SP is heading the team, which once had three SPs.

The Sankararaman murder case was transferred to the Pondicherry sessions court from the Chengalpattu sessions court in Tamil Nadu last November. Charges have been framed in the case, but the accused have moved the Supreme Court challenging the appointment of special public prosecutor by the Tamil Nadu government when the case is being heard in Pondicherry.

Legal experts say that the DMK government could withdraw the case against the seer if it wishes to. The public prosecutor in charge of the case can withdraw it, subject to the court’s approval.

However, sources in government said it was unlikely that the cases against the seer would be withdrawn. “The DMK government would not risk facing the wrath of the anti-Shankaracharya lobby in the state. If at all it wants to help him, it would adopt other ways. It could for instance dilute the case with the help of pliable police officers.”

Police sources point out that the appointment of officials in the SIT will reveal the sincerity of the government in pursuing the case. “Let us wait and watch. It might be that Prem Kumar and his colleagues were transferred because they were close to Jayalalithaa. The present government might appoint some other equally efficient officers in their place,” said an officer. Those who have faith in the DMK regime point out that it has retained the public prosecutor, who had volunteered to resign from his post. – Tehelka, Jun 17, 2006

I wrote thus in April 2010 in a blog series called ‘Pardon the Gaffe’:

Here are some of the glaring dead giveaways in the Kancheepuram Acharyas case:

The moment Ravi Subramanian was made an approver in the murder case while still in prison the case was blown away irretrievably. If the prosecution wanted to succeed in getting the Acharyas convicted, it would have ensured the ‘approver’ was out on bail before being declared as one.

When such a silly thing is done as it was in the case of Subramanian, decent defence counsels fighting any high profile murder case will see the opportunity, clap, squeal with glee and begin working towards inevitably getting the approver to score several own goals against the prosecution as notorious murder case trials stretch for several years.

On all such occasions, all let-down approvers will be in terrible mental conditions.

Having rotted in prison long after power-wielding political vested interests that caused the cases to be filed in the first place lost power, fleeced-pigeon approvers are easy meat for smart lawyers.

And this need not happen secretly in a prison either.

Jails are not water/air tight compartments stowed on the lunar surface.

A disinterested investigating officer – the attitude being inherent/induced due to various circumstances – would use the opportunity to make way while visiting relatives of jailed approver(s), would openly force their incarcerated relative(s) with emotional blackmail and thereby hasten the ‘turning-hostile-process’ in full view of prison authorities.

Legally, nobody can do anything about it.

I am not suggesting that the lawyers defending the Acharyas have had anything to do with approver Ravi Subramanian and/or the other 40 odd prosecution witnesses short-changing the charges against the accused in the Shankararaman murder case.

I do not believe that the Christian church had anything to do with the murder of a blackmailer called Shankararaman.

Before his brutal 2004 murder, the man, in my opinion, did make fantastic claims against the Kanchi Acharyas.

Nevertheless, I have to point out the following facts to the benefit of such readers:

I was the first mainstream Indian journalist to openly espouse the cause of the Kanchi Acharya and my opinions were published widely in 2004.

My guru, Jayendra Saraswathi, is innocent: Vijayendra Saraswathi

Vijayendra Saraswathi, junior pontiff of the Kanchi Mutt, firmly believes that his spiritual guru, Jayendra Saraswathi, is innocent of the charges of involvement in murder slapped against the arrested seer.

“I have firm belief in one thing. My guru is innocent. Every allegation made against him is untrue,” the junior seer said in his first interview since the Nov 11 arrest of Jayendra Saraswathi.

Amidst reports that there is a move to install the 35-year-old Vijayendra Saraswathi as chief of the powerful Shankara Mutt in Kanchipuram, the mutt has blamed the media for false reporting.

In an interview to T.S.V. Hari, editor of the religious magazine “Kamakoti” that will hit the stands Tuesday, an emotional Vijayendra Saraswathi said: “I have requested the advocates representing us to seek the permission (of the magistrate) to enable me to meet my guru in person… a one-on-one meeting. That is all I want … for now.”

Hari writes: “Two words can aptly describe the expression on the face of His Holiness Sri Shankara Vijayendra Saraswathi. Stunned disbelief.”

“As a matter of policy, the mutt has now learnt to forget the existence of the contraption called mobile phone.”

While arresting the senior pontiff, police had furnished as evidence mobile phones numbers and conversations relating to the execution of the crime – the murder in September of Shankara Raman, a former mutt employee.

“As a believer in the Hindu faith and as a devotee of the mutt, this scribe wanted to hear from the present centre of power (Vijayendra) of the 2,500-year-old institution, what it was all about,” Hari writes.

“At 8.45 a.m. the mutt was almost deserted. But for a strong contingent of policemen outside, and three old hands at the place, there was an eerie silence… a far cry from the usual hustle and bustle one associates with the institution.”

“With innocent incredulity,” Hari writes, Vijayendra asked him: “Why has the press suddenly turned so hostile towards us?”

“The junior seer asked the question not as a rhetoric. It was obvious that he is yet to come to terms with a medium called television which captured his visuals and juxtaposed it with diatribe.”

“As every hour passes, I am informed that a new series of lies have been said about us. When people started saying that my brother from my previous ashram was trying to hide from law, I requested the television crews to come here and take pictures of him. They did that and uttered more untruths,” Vijayendra told Hari.

“Now I know better. The press is free to write and show what it wants. I only have one wish now. I just want to see my guru and hear what kind of tribulations he is undergoing — from him … straight. The second and third hand information is confusing and threatening at the same time,” Vijayendra said emotionally.”

Hari asked the junior pontiff: “Just tell me, your Holiness, what is the truth about Shankara Raman?”

“I remember this man vaguely. That is all. All this talk about him being a former employee of the mutt and everything else is like a nightmare. But why talk about him? The courts can find out the truth. But I have firm belief in one thing. My guru is innocent. Every allegation made against him is untrue. The outside world doesn’t know what kind of rigorous discipline we have (and) how many rituals we have to perform. Today, various newspapers and television channels publish and show some visual and add a different commentary totally twisting everything out of context. Someone told me that some television channel said that I was emotional and showed me brushing off the dust from my eyes, suggesting that I was shedding tears. Tell me, is this journalism?”

“Just request your readers that everyone prays for the release of my guru. I simply want him to be free. Everything else seems so needless for the moment,”

Vijayendra said in a matter-of-fact tone, blessed this scribe, got up and walked away toward the main hall of the mutt for puja, Hari writes. – Indo-Asian News Service

I am also appending excerpts from two self-explanatory conversations.

November 2004

His Holiness Sri Shankara Vijayendra Saraswathi Swamigal: What is going to happen?

Me: Your Holiness needn’t worry at all. To my knowledge, whatever [be] the police case, [it] will not stand decent scrutiny in court. The Swamigal (Sri Jayendra Saraswathi) will be acquitted of all charges in due course. I am sure of it.

February 2005

Phone Voice: Is that Venkat?

Me: Yes.

Phone voice: And who is T.S.V. Hari?

Me: It is me again.

Phone voice: You have a series of articles defending the Sankaracharyas.

Me: Yes.

Phone Voice: How did you write them?

Me: By hand.

Phone Voice: Don’t get smart with me! I am Prem Kumar, Superintendent of Police. Remember who all I have arrested. You will come to my office and explain your conduct immediately!

Me: Listen carefully. I have nothing to do with whom you arrest, torture or whatever. What you are saying to me amounts to a threat. If you are sure of your proper parentage, you can issue me official summons and then face the consequences. But before doing so, do two things. Consult a good astrologer to find out whether you are getting into serious trouble and secondly talk to some of your colleagues and seniors and ask about one T.S.V. Hari.

January 2006

Senior Police Officer (to remain unnamed): You have not changed since I saw you as an angry, young, irreverent journalist in 1980.

Me: Really? Look at my face, greying beard, lost teeth…

Senior Police Officer: You have not lost your sarcasm either.

Me: I am impatient to know what this is all about.

Senior Police Officer: You have been advising police officers to consult astrologers.

Me: Obviously you are referring to that rascal Prem Kumar. That was an off the cuff remark I had forgotten. Why bring it up after all these months?

Senior Police Office: He consulted some of us. And I remember telling him: “You have attracted some media attention by arresting the Acharyas and the powers that be here have got some political mileage. If you go anywhere near Hari with this sort of attitude, he will hit you so hard that you will be buried six feet under before you can say sorry. Worse, all of us will have egg on our faces too!”

Me: Why are you telling me this?

Senior Police Office: Would you not like to know what transpired later and why Prem Kumar is going to be dismissed?

Me: Sure.

Senior Police Officer: Prem Kumar has lost his job.

The reasons for Kumar’s dismissal are his atrocious behaviour against members of Christian priests and a family during a purely mercenary type of exercise abusing powers bestowed upon him as a police officer.

Kumar is suffering from serious ill-health.

He, however, had allegedly made huge sums of money in the starting stages of the case by blackmailing several top Tamil Nadu industrialists and a few of the arrested persons.

Almost all the main witnesses and the approver in the Shankararaman murder case, Ravi Subramanian, have gone back on their earlier testimony to the police, their sworn statements and have been declared ‘hostile’ by the prosecution in the Union Territory of Puducherry.

Now, it is a more or less foregone conclusion that the Acharyas will soon be acquitted of all charges, something I predicted within days of the first arrest to His Holiness Sri Vijayendra Saraswathi Swamigal.

Tailpiece

Prem Kumar died late 2010 of natural causes.

He had been dismissed from service and had lost various appeals.

His appeal was pending in the Supreme Court when he passed away.

5 Responses

  1. http://www.hindu.com/2010/08/04/stories/2010080453400400.htm

    Please read this article. Mr.Prem kumar was ordered to be re instated in service before he was dead.

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  2. When this whole sordid episode in Tamil political history is reviewed, it must be said that even the anti-Brahmin Dravidian racist Karunanidhi has never treated this prestigious Math and its incumbents so badly as has the believing Hindu Brahmin lady Jayalalithaa.

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  3. The central question, who killed Shankararaman and why, has been avoided right from the beginning. Had the police pursued the case objectively instead of deciding right at the beginning that their high profile suspect was guilty, they could be taken more seriously. What we have learned from this case is that the Tamil Nadu police are completely politicised.

    Prem Kumar may have been a psychopath but he had superiors who could have checked him. Why didn’t they do it? The CM was in personal communication with him and even flew to Kanchipuram to meet him for a private 10 minute tete-a-tete. Obviously he was acting on her orders. That is what the public believed then and what it believes today.

    If the Shankaracharya is in dialogue with the Church, then he is ill-advised and knows nothing about how this criminal institution operates. That the Church wouldn’t set up a Shankaracharya for murder because he attends tea parties with Cardinals, is really juvenile reasoning.

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  4. The most glaring give-away is Ravi exonerating the Church on the laughable grounds that Pujya Periava is in dilaogue with some sections of the Church. Shri Ravi must also explain to us why if Pujya Periava is in dialogue with Muslim religious leaders, are jihadis continuing to target Hindus and Hindu India? I am left wondering as to the real motive for Shri Ravi writing this column now.

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  5. While Shri Ravi has not added anything new to what is already known to some of us in the minitest detail, three things strike me as being the purpose of this column. One – Shri Ravi has insinuated towards the end that it is indeed some transaction between Pujya Periava and Jayalalithaa which made her do what she did. Two – The Church has no role in any of this. Three – Jayalalithaa is all set to become the CM of Tamil Nadu and that she deserves to become CM. Surely Shri Ravi could have said this in one small paragraph without wrapping it in the already known details of the Shankararaman case. Lastly and most invidiously Shri Ravi has the left the case open-ended as though he is objective. He is not.

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