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Cancer cry on lady disciple's lips

Chennai, Nov. 30: A day after government lawyers spoke about Kanchi seer Jayendra Saraswati's 'contacts' with a 'deserted woman', she surfaced before the Kancheepuram police superintendent.

Usha, in her mid 40s, said she was suffering from cancer and had only sought solace from the acharya and the mutt, which helped her with her medical expenses.

Witnesses in the temple town said Usha, in a brown sari with a large pottu (dot) on her forehead, looked calm as she appeared before superintendent Premkumar, accompanied by her lawyer Sudha Ramalingam.

'She (Usha) did not surrender, but presented herself before the police around 12.30 pm,' said Ramalingam from Kancheepuram.

'She is a cancer patient and she took solace from her devotion to the mutt and the Kanchi acharya and that is the only relationship she has with the mutt,' she added.

Yesterday, government counsel K.T.S. Tulsi told Madras High Court during a hearing on the seer's second bail plea that the police wanted to interrogate her in connection with the murder of temple official Shankar Raman, but she was absconding.

'She is neither a criminal nor absconding,' Usha's lawyer said. So she decided to present herself before the police and tell them all she had to say.

The prosecution had insinuated that she was involved in the conspiracy to murder Shankar Raman as the acharya, arrested in connection with the case, was 'regularly speaking to her before and after the incident'.

S.P. Sakthivelu, chief of the special investigation team handling the case, had said some of the early morning calls to her used to last 'even for 900 pulse units'.

Moreover, the lawyers said she had been given free quarters in Srirangam, a pilgrim town, and money was periodically transferred to her account.

'I am such a sick person that I cannot even lead a normal life. Yet such things are being said about me,' Usha told reporters at Kancheepuram after leaving the superintendent's office.

The Kanchi seer's counsel, I. Subramaniam, told the high court during continuing arguments over the acharya's bail plea that the references to Usha in the police's counter-affidavit were in 'bad taste' and amounted to 'mud-slinging'.

The prosecution today opposed bail, saying the 'fake' surrenders after the murder showed that the conspiracy continued after the killing.

This evening, Justice R. Balasubramanian reserved orders on the bail plea and directed the public prosecutor to produce the case diary, along with judicial confessions and other materials, before him tomorrow afternoon.

The prosecution had told the court yesterday that the seer had 'confessed' and offered to show the judge a video of his interrogation. But the confession is not admissible as evidence in court as it was not recorded before a magistrate.

Usha was questioned by the special investigation team, which asked her to come again tomorrow. 'We are not remanding her in judicial custody. She would go home and come back tomorrow,' Premkumar said.

Police sources said a police official had visited Usha's house at Srirangam at least twice since the murder of Shankar Raman on September 3. She had replied in the negative to all his queries on whether she knew anything about the murder.

On October 23, she vacated that flat and moved to Chennai. 'I left Srirangam, where I was living with my aged mother, because I felt humiliated by police visits. Srirangam, being a small place, neighbours will view everything with suspicion,' Usha told PTI.

Usha apparently has been leading a difficult life since she moved in with her mother a few years ago after estrangement from her husband, Parthasarathy.

Usha, who comes from a middle-class Tamil Brahmin family, did her Masters in English literature and worked briefly as a lecturer in a woman's college in Tiruchirappalli near Srirangam. She also had a short stint in journalism.

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