The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Clean chit to disciple, in a day

Kancheepuram, Dec. 1: After all but implicating a woman from Srirangam in the Kanchi temple murder, the prosecution today turned around and said she is innocent.

On Monday, the prosecutors had told Madras High Court that Jayendra Saraswati had long early morning conversations with Usha, a 'deserted woman in Srirangam', to whom substantial sums of money had been transferred. The suggestion was that she was involved in the murder of temple manager Shankar Raman in which the seer is the first accused.

But after two days of questioning, police failed to find any evidence of Usha's involvement in the case and allowed her to go home this evening. Summoned by the special team probing the murder, she patiently sat through a near five-hour interrogation at the all-women police station today.

Usha, who had yesterday appeared before the police to say she was a cancer patient and had only sought solace from the mutt, submitted copies of all the records asked for ' her bank passbook, medical records of treatment for cancer and her recent passport application form ' to the Kancheepuram district superintendent of police, K. Prem Kumar.

After the ordeal, a relieved Usha said: 'The police officials, after listening to me and perusing all the records, told me I had nothing to do with this case, cleared me and let me go.' Her lawyer Sudha Ramalingam, who also met the police superintendent, said: 'The investigating police team has been satisfied intrinsically that there has been no criminal intention or connection between her and the pontiff.'

As a sick and deserted woman, Usha had been a beneficiary of the mutt on compassionate grounds and her relationship with the seer was that of sishya and guru, Ramalingam added.

A top police officer of the investigating team confirmed that 'Usha was not involved in this case and she will be taken as a witness'. She had cooperated well with the team and had records for cancer treatment since 1979, he added.

Usha's elder brother Ranganathan, who accompanied her, pointed out that some details had been wrongly reported yesterday. Usha's husband's name is Narayanan (not Parthasarathy as reported earlier), it was clarified. She had only completed her schooling and had been working in a private firm as a clerk contrary to earlier reports that Usha had done her masters in English and taught in a college.

Jobless for some time now, Usha applied for a passport to go to Dubai as 'someone said that she could get a job as a babysitter there and earn more money', Ramalingam said.

Too tired to react to her name being tarnished, Usha merely said the police had treated her well during interrogation. But her lawyer pointed out that she had gone through very painful moments over the last two days after her name was 'sensationalised'.

The police today also questioned a man called Muralidhar Swami. Three police parties 'are on the job' to nab the kingpin of the killer gang, Appu. Two of the teams have fanned out in Andhra Pradesh and Bangalore and the third is in Tamil Nadu. The second accused in this case, Chennai-based builder Ravi Subramaniam, is believed to be in Delhi. 'We hope to nab them soon,' a top police officer said.

In a surprise development, VHP leader Ashok Singhal, who met the junior Kanchi acharya, Vijayendra Saraswati, here this evening, softened his stand on chief minister Jayalalithaa. Her latest remarks in Delhi on the Kanchi seer's arrest were a clear indication that 'greater pressures' were at work behind the arrest, 'including the central leadership of this country and a foreign hand', he said.

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