The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jaya breaks seer silence, minus fear or favour

Chennai, Nov. 17: Jayalalithaa today broke her silence on Jayendra Saraswati's arrest with a spirited defence of her government's action which she said came amid mounting evidence that the Kanchi seer 'had conspired' in the September 3 murder of a temple official.

By arresting the acharya, her government has proved that 'everyone is equal in the eyes of the law', the chief minister told the Tamil Nadu Assembly.

Jayalalithaa brushed aside comments that questioned whether it was 'correct' to arrest the seer, one of the five supreme Hindu religious leaders. The ADMK regime, she said, had 'neither acted on the expectation that Sri Jayendra's arrest would bring it bouquets from certain quarters, nor out of fear that any inaction on the government's part on the dastardly murder would invite blame from others'.

The chief minister's words were greeted by loud protests from BJP MLAs led by H. Raja, who objected to her statement as he had given notice for an adjournment motion to discuss the issue in detail.

It prompted a strong rejoinder from CPM and CPI legislators even as Speaker K. Kalimuthu expunged from the records most of what both sides said and ordered Raja's eviction from the House. The BJP members then walked out. None of the other Opposition parties like the DMK, which had been seeking action in the case, the Congress and the PMK raised a murmur.

Jayalalithaa then proceeded with her four-page statement, which, for the first time, detailed the background of the case from when Shankar Raman was hacked to death in his office by a five-member gang.

The ADMK chief said the first break for the 29-member police team probing the murder came after October 27, when five persons ' Pandian, Arumugam, Satish, Devaraj and Arun ' 'surrendered' in a Chennai metropolitan court owning up for the crime. But the police, she said, found out they were 'false surrenders' to mislead the probe.

Later, four others who had 'arranged' the fake surrender were arrested. Soon, two other accomplices directly involved in the crime, Kumar and Anand, were arrested on November 7. The next day two more persons were arrested for organising the 'false surrender'. On November 9, two key accused in the case, Kathiravan and Rajini, both from Chennai, were arrested.

Jayalalithaa said Kathiravan and Rajini's interrogation revealed 'shocking and definitive information' on the seer's 'involvement and link' in the murder and transfer of money from a Kanchi mutt account to hire the killers. The acharya, she added, was also 'involved' in setting up the fake surrenders and in telephonic conversations with the killers.

Investigations have shown that with the help of two kingpins of the killer gang, Ravi Subramaniam and Appu alias Krishnaswamy, 'Sri Jayendra Saraswati had conspired to murder Shankar Raman', the chief minister told the House. The police, she said, were on the hunt for Ravi and Appu.

Jayalalithaa said the sleuths were also probing the 2002 assault in Chennai of Radhakrishnan, a Kanchi mutt devotee. The seer's 'henchmen', she said, brutally attacked Radhakrishnan as the acharya suspected that he had written anonymous letters against him and the mutt. Though Radhakrishnan survived the attack, the case, she stressed, is similar to that of Shankar Raman's murder.

The chief minister asserted that no legal guidelines had been violated since the seer's arrest late on November 11 in Andhra Pradesh. This was apparently in response to National Democratic Alliance convener George Fernandes' charge yesterday that human rights had been violated.

' My government has only upheld the rule of law without any fear or favour and people by and large consider that the Tamil Nadu government had acted with strong determination to uphold the principle that none is above the law,' Jayalalithaa said.

'Since the date for convening the Assembly had been notified before Sri Jayendra Saraswati was arrested, I thought it was only proper to first inform the House,' she added, explaining her initial silence.

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