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Mutts turn temples of murder

Kancheepuram, Jan. 20: The manager of the mutt behind the Sri Varadaraja Perumal temple, where Shankar Raman was murdered last September, was found stabbed to death on his blood-soaked cot early this morning.

Police have not found anything to link the killing to Shankar Raman's murder, which has led to the arrest of the two acharyas of the Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt. A chargesheet is expected to be filed tomorrow in the case, which took a dramatic turn with an accused proposing to turn approver.

The murder of T.C. Shrinivasacharya, who ran the branch of the 150-year-old Bihar-headquartered Utradhi Sri Vaishnava Mutt, was discovered when an elderly acquaintance who was staying the night in the mutt was awakened by the banging on the door by the milkman.

Shrinivasacharya, a bachelor in his forties, was from Bihar and all his relatives are there. The body bore stab injuries on the forehead and upper jaw. The main door of the mutt was locked from inside, setting the police thinking on how the assailants entered the main hall where the manager slept.

Sniffer dogs brought to the crime scene ran out of the mutt, much against expectations that they would pick up a scent inside, and went towards the Sri Varadaraja Perumal temple before losing track.

An FIR has been filed in Vishnu Kanchi police station and the milkman and 62-year-old Ramanji are being questioned. No arrests have been made yet and Kancheepuram police superintendent K. Prem Kumar said three teams had been set up to trace the killers.

Shrinivasacharya was scheduled to leave for Patna today as his mother had passed away. He had asked Ramanji, an acquaintance from another branch of the mutt at Sriperumbudur, to take care of the Kancheepuram premises till his return.

Ramanji had arrived at the sombre, yellow stone building on Sethurayar Street, right behind the eastern tower gate entrance of the Sri Varadaraja Perumal temple, last night.

The two had cooked and sat chatting till midnight before retiring, police have learnt. Ramanji slept in an adjoining room while Shrinivasacharya settled into his rickety bed in the cavernous main hall lined with pictures of gods and gurus of the mutt.

Ramanji was awakened around 6.30 am by a loud banging on the main door. He opened it to find the milkman, who was surprised it took unusually long for Shrinivasacharya to respond. When they went to investigate, they found his limp body lying in the blood-soaked bed.

Shrinivasacharya's neighbours described him as a simple, mild-mannered man who had been managing the mutt for over 20 years with a smattering of Tamil. One of them emphasised that he 'did not have any late night woman visitors', to contrast his lifestyle with the goings-on in the Kanchi mutt. 'Nor was there any politics in this mutt.'

Though some neighbours said Shrinivasacharya had once got involved in a land dispute, most others living in the mutt's vicinity described him as a 'good man'. Kannan, another neighbour, said Shrinivasacharya used to offer food and shelter to pilgrims, mainly from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, who would spend a night at the mutt on their way to Rameshwaram.

The Utradhi Mutt has two small guesthouses for pilgrims and about 25 acres of arable land in nearby villages.

Deputy inspector general of police, Chengalpattu, S.G. Rajendran, who visited the mutt, said police would investigate the nature of the caretaker's relationship with the people and those dealing with the mutt's properties.

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