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Seer spill-all threat drives in last nail

Kancheepuram (Tamil Nadu), Nov. 12: Shankar Raman was at his desk in his office in the Varadaraja Perumal temple complex around 5.30 on the evening of September 3.

Close by was his small house, on the far end of South Mada Street abutting the temple's huge compound wall.

A gang of five turned up there and asked his wife and daughter for Raman. The little girl said Appa was in office.

They proceeded to the temple in the Vishnu Kanchi locality and rang up Raman on his cellphone, police sources said.

The 52-year-old no-nonsense temple manager answered and the gang spotted him. Raman was hacked to death inside his office, a source said.

In the course of the investigation by the district police, 14 people were arrested.

Last night, the Kanchi Sankaracharya, Jayendra Saraswati, became the 15th. His alleged connection with the assailants surfaced when two of the accused, arrested on November 9, named the seer.

'Sri Jayendra Saraswati is the first accused in this case,' said Cuddalore police superintendent N. Premkumar. He was SP of Kancheepuram at the time of the murder and has been coordinating the probe.

The police, he said, were in possession of a 'lot of documents' to show the 'link' between the seer and the assailants.

On behalf of the police, the public prosecutor told Madras High Court this evening that they had evidence like 'contacts through cellphones' between the seer and his confidants, on the one hand, and the assailants, on the other.

Besides, details of huge sums of money withdrawn from a mutt-related bank account and corresponding recoveries from the assailants were also there, the prosecution told the court.

The seer's lawyer dismissed all charges as unfounded and vindictive.

The police source said five persons had earlier reportedly 'surrendered' to the police but turned out to be 'fake productions' to mislead sleuths.

Sources here say the alleged 'enmity' between Raman ' whose father served the mutt for six decades ' and the present sankaracharya is at least four years old.

The seer's proposed China visit in 2001 ' Raman opposed it as 'against Hindu shastras' ' was as much a point of friction as the way the mutt was being run, said Sowmayanarayan, a national coordinator of the Left-wing outfit, the Indian People's Front.

Raman used to write anonymous letters to the government and the authorities of the mutt about the 'goings-on' there, the source said.

He wrote his 'last letter' on August 30, to the mutt, 'threatening to go to the press to expose the sordid goings-on in the mutt' and marked a copy to Tamil biweekly Nakkeeran, the source added.

Nakkeeran did investigative stories on the murder which hinted that the needle of suspicion pointed towards the seer.

Two days ago, DMK chief M. Karunanidhi asked in his party journal why the state government was not acting against the 'real culprits'.

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