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Politics behind Kanchi seer's arrest

Politics behind Kanchi seer's arrest

Author: Vijay RanaSaturday
Publication: Sify News
Date: November 27, 2004
URL: http://sify.com/news/othernews/fullstory.php?id=13618934

When the state begins to misuse its powers nobody is safe. Today we have seen the arrest and the subsequent humiliation of a Hindu saint; tomorrow another mercurial chief minister might order the arrest a Muslim Imam or a Christian bishop. Those gloating at the arrest of Sankaracharya should remember that the politics of religion is bad for all.

Whether Kanchi Sankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi has a hand in the murder of Sankararaman, the manager of the Varadarajaperumal temple, most of us do not know.

Moreover, the manner of arrest and the treatment of the law enforcing agencies, the police and judiciary, arouse many questions that must be sensibly debated and dispassionately discussed in a free and democratic society. | The latest on the Kanchi seer's arrest |

But one of the major obstructions to free debate is that most of us are blinded by sectional and class interests. And such people, our politicians know, could easily be shepherded in the desired direction. It's no secret that the desire to consolidate anti- Brahmin vote prompted both M Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa to take tough action against Sankaracharya.

Though Karunanidhi is now trying to be clever to blame Jayalalithaa for the harsh treatment of Sankaracharya. Let's hope both Brahmin and non-Brahmins of Tamil Nadu are able to see through his cynical manipulation. And that is the biggest problem of Indian democracy. | Political parties using seer's arrest to woo voters |

In recent years whether it is Gujarat, Bihar or Tamil Nadu our people have shown an increasing tendency to fall prey to the divisive political calculations of our politicians.

Another worrying aspect of the Sankaracharya affair has been the intellectual polarisation reflected in the media. One hue of column writers expressed satisfaction at the fact that barring Brahmins nobody was bothered by the arrest; those on the other end of spectrum described it a calculated assault on Hinduism.

Those who argued against the arrest of the Kanchi Sankaracharya were branded as sympathisers of the Hindu fundamentalists and those who supported the arrest became champions of secularism and pro-Dalit movements.

It was either black or white. To some the Sankaracharya was a God and to others a demon. Intellectual extremism is more dangerous than political extremism because intellectuals provide to ammunition of ideas to fire the flames of political extremism.

Thank God, the Sankaracharya's followers have so far behaved with great restraints. One could sense the hurt and consequent tension simmering in Tamil Nadu. You need one stupid man to spark a Brahmin versus non-Brahmin riot in the state.

Of course, the manner of Sankaracharya's arrest has raised many questions that should be discussed dispassionately without being blinded by political loyalties.

The first issue is about hurting the sentiments of a particular community. Shouldn't this principle be applied universally to all communities in India? The obvious answer would be, yes.

Sankaracharya is the head of one of the most ancient institutions of the Hindu religion. He is worshipped by millions of devotees. But there were politicians, particularly from parties like the DMK, the CPI, CPM and RJD, who were gleefully smiling at the discomfiture of the Hindu saint. If community leaders indulge in mocking at each other's difficulties, we are entering in an age of competitive hatred.

One the other hand it was really heartening to see some Muslim organisations setting an extraordinary example of social understanding and communal empathy.

The All India Organisation of Imams of Mosques (AIOIM) issued a descent and a very dignified statement: "AIOIM notes with consternation and deep regret the actions of the Tamil Nadu government and politicians that have culminated in the arrest of the highly respected Sankaracharya. The entire Muslim society is saddened and shocked with this reprehensible action.The Muslim community hold the seer with great respect, particularly in view of his 'constructive' approach in solving Ayodhya problem and hoped the government will not allow inimical groups to subvert impartial inquiry and application of law in his case."

And that brings us to another comment that we have repeatedly heard about Sankaracharya's arrest - 'the law should take its due course'. Unfortunately this has now become the main point of contention. How come the law suddenly woke up in the middle of the night, on the eve of the biggest Hindu festival to arrest one of the most respected Hindu leaders? And how come the state police was literally waked up a sleeping magistrate early in the morning to help them to put the seer in the jail. And why did the magistrate deny Sankaracharya the opportunity of legal representation, a basic right of any accused?

The prosecution put forward some ludicrous arguments that the old man was conspiring to fly away to Nepal and if allowed to cook his food, he would commit suicide by poisoning his own food. The judge, convinced by these arguments, refused bail. If that was 'the due course of law', the law was surely treading upon an undue and undeserving course.

No one was in doubt that it all happened on the orders of the all-powerful Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. Remember it was on her orders that her arch-opponent Karunanidhi was once dragged out of his house by the police, again in the middle of the night, and it was on her orders that Vaiko was put in jail for months under the POTA.

Certainly, the so-called 'due course of law' in India varies according to the friendly or unfriendliness of the accused with those in power. For politicians and politically connected people in India, 'the due course of law' means years of litigation and a guaranteed acquittal. Tantrik Chandraswami is the most recent example of this.

So Sankaracharya must be confident that in the end he will be acquitted. The process already seems to have begun with two of the accused saying that they named Sankaracharya under police torture.

He must also take heart from the examples of the long legion of politicians accused of more serious crimes and still happily going through the 'due course of law'. Laloo Yadav, who presided over the fodder scam, virtually emptying the state exchequer, is still going strong as per the due course of law.

Shibu Soren, now preparing to become the next chief minister of Jharkahand, was also accused of committing a murder but the due course of law allowed him to hide for as many days as he wanted and then an obliging judge gave him the bail.

Taslimuddin, another Union minister who has been terrorising local community for years, confidently boasts that nothing has ever been proved against him in a court of law. And Sadhu Yadav has been enjoying more comforts in jail than Sankaracharya, including the freedom to go in and out of prison as and when he wants.

Also look at the BJP in Gujarat, their rabble-rousing MLAs, seen openly inciting violence during the recent riots, remain totally untroubled by the due course of law, as we all know most of the witnesses have been either threatened to remain silent or bought off.

Subverting the course of justice has itself been a serious crime in all the civilised societies of the world. But democratic India remains a glaring exception where powerful politicians either misuse the process of law to harass its opponents or undermine it to carry on their criminal adventures.

Sankaracharya's arrest once again proved that our politicians do not mind undermining peace and social harmony to fulfil their political interests.

Despite numerous appeals by Hindu saints, organisations and many political leaders, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, while denying any hand of the federal government in the affair, remained quiet on the affair for almost fourteen days. And then he wrote a letter the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.

He wrote: "An investigation involving a person of his eminence needs to be conducted with extreme care and consideration . I believe that the Government of Tamil Nadu has had to take this extreme step of arresting Swamiji keeping in view the gravity of the allegations against His Holiness in the murder case.Whereas it is extremely important that due processes of law must not be interfered with and that law must be allowed to take its own course." Indeed, a great balancing act.

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