The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kanchi focus shifts to seer junior
- 'Tearful' acharya mum on arrest

Kancheepuram, Nov. 16: Political leaders from Delhi trooped to Vellore to meet acharya Jayendra Saraswati in jail today, but a subtle power shift was underway at the ashram in Kancheepuram.

The junior acharya, Vijayendra Saraswati, returned to the Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt this morning to be welcomed by devotees with cries of 'Periyaval, Periyaval'. Periyaval is an affectionate term so far reserved for Jayendra Saraswati.

Vijayendra Saraswati, who was on a tour with the Kanchi seer when he was arrested on Thursday night by Tamil Nadu police at Mehboobnagar near Hyderabad, drove back in a white Cielo that was followed by three mutt vans.

Devotees swarmed around the car as it reached the western entry point to the temple town. A brief reception to the chanting of Vedic shlokas and Poornakumbha followed.

For the junior acharya, the scene at Sarvatheertham ' the large temple tank that is a border landmark here ' when he was offered prasad from the Kamakshi Amman Temple would have been a throwback to 17 years ago. In 1987, Vijayendra Saraswati had received the Kanchi seer at the same spot when he returned after suddenly leaving the mutt. Jayendra Saraswati had been traced to Talai Cauvery in Karnataka and persuaded to come back.

Vijayendra Saraswati seemed to be groping for a response to the grief among followers and devotees over the arrest of the seer on a murder charge.

For a while, it seemed he might not speak at all to the waiting media contingent as mutt manager Sundaresa Iyer shut the gates and said there was nothing the junior acharya had to say. But sensing that silence could be interpreted diversely, the managers quickly arranged a brief media interaction with Vijayendra Saraswati before he resumed his usual puja at the mutt.

Without mentioning the arrest, the junior acharya said: 'I am in deep sorrow now. We should all join in an earnest prayer to the Lord.' This was preceded and followed by Vijayendra Saraswati taking a deep breath and observing a minute's silence. He sat on a wooden stool during the meet.

Wiping a tear from his eye, Vijayendra got up and left after former chief election commissioner T.N. Seshan prodded him to wind up the interaction lest the media ask uncomfortable questions.

As questions were raised about why he did not condemn the arrest, a mutt devotee retorted: 'Why should Sri Vijayendra condemn' It is for the acharya's followers to do it and the whole country is disturbed though there have hardly been any serious protests in Tamil Nadu so far'

Only the Sangh parivar and leaders of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance have come out in protest against the arrest. BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi and NDA convener George Fernandes separately called on Jayendra Saraswati in prison. Later, Joshi decried the acharya being treated like a 'common criminal'.

The former human resource development minister also called on Vijayendra Saraswati here in the afternoon. Later, Joshi said the seer had urged that wisdom and good sense should prevail and people should remain calm. Seeking police custody for the acharya was 'preposterous', he said, alleging that police were trying to 'concoct evidence'.

But a kilometre from the mutt the Kancheepuram District People's Forum staged a demonstration against Jayendra Saraswati, demanding that the police should not grant bail to a 'murderer'.

High drama prevailed at the judicial magistrate's court here as the police were directed to produce Jayendra Saraswati on Thursday to hear his views on the prosecution's petition seeking police custody of the seer.

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