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Was Shankaracharya politically targeted?

Was Shankaracharya politically targeted?

Author: Girdhari Lal Bhan
Publication: Asian Voice, UK
Date: November 27, 2004

His Holiness Jayendra Saraswati's arrest and imprisonment as a common criminal will have far-reaching repercussions; in due course it will become a watershed in the history of India.

A religious head of another faith, the Pope or a high priest in Islam, e.g., would not be treated similarly because of the vicious backlash such an action would evoke. It stands to reason that those who decided to arrest His Holiness took that action assured that the Hindu community would not react similarly to express its outrage.

I was in India in the days following this event. Talking to a vast number of ordinary Hindus from diverse backgrounds I became aware of their seething anger. Reading the various newspapers, the news reports as well as the editorials, it became clear that this anger was not being recognised and reported. The scant reference to this issue in the news broadcasts and in discussions, rather the lack of discussions, told its own story. What little was reported was followed by one unanimous refrain - 'nobody is above the law and the Shankaracharya should be punished for the crime he has committed'. Clearly a judgement had been passed by the State Government and by the media.

This was not enough. There were headline references to the 'crafty' seer. Underneath the headline was a description of how the matha had in recent years spent its funds in establishing educational institutions, hospitals etc. for the benefit of the people. But surely such activities by a Hindu religious leader! There must be something 'fishy' about this; the seer must be 'crafty'. [Similar activities by a non-Hindu would have produced accolades, demands for nomination for Nobel Prize, or application for sainthood.]

When the Union Home Minister was asked by reporters for the Central Government's views on the arrest, the Minister appeared fully relaxed. Sipping tea he calmly stated that the Union Government would contact the Tamil Nadu Government to ascertain the facts of the case before responding. To-date, the Union Government has not taken any action to come to the rescue of His Holiness - a person of the highest standing in the Hindu world. This lack of concern by the Government of the country clearly is based on the knowledge that the Hindu community will not express its anger through violent demonstrations.

The police have stated that there is a 'strong' case against the Shankaracharya. Is there any credible evidence? So far none has been furnished. All that has been mentioned is based on conjecture and innuendo.  In any country with a reasonably effective judiciary, this imprisonment would not have been possible in the first instance. And, had there been an imprisonment, a swift release on bail would have followed. In law, a person is considered innocent until proven guilty.

Why did the State Government and its police act in the manner they did? Some observers are of the opinion that these actions were driven by political motives. That His Holiness has in recent years worked hard to provide educational, medical and other facilities for the local population, and done a lot of work to raise the status of the 'dalits' - he has attended their functions and offered pooja (worship) at their temples - may have upset certain quarters. Hopefully, in time we will know the reality behind this dreadful farce.

That a criminal case was registered against His Holiness on uncorroborated evidence, indeed allegations, that he was imprisoned without a trial, and the shabby way in which he has been treated in prison is an insult to devout Hindus all over the world.

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