Spiritual leader, ideologue, power broker, financer, Casanova. These are the many faces of Sudhakar Dwivedi a.k.a. Dayanand Pandey a.k.a Swami Amritanand Saraswati, who was arrested in Kanpur on Wednesday, in connection with the Malegaon blast.
The 36-year-old, according to investigators, sent out the message of an armed struggle by Hindus. His role wasn’t merely conspiratorial; he inspired and financed the tit-for-tat militant campaign.
“He first spoke of the necessity of a front for a Hindu jihad in 2003 and then three years later, at meetings in Nashik. The two meetings had all the important players in the Malegaon blast in attendance,” a source in the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) said.
A close relative of the swami, who wasn’t willing to be named, said he distributed fiery literature — some of which was recovered from the basement of his brother’s house, from where the ATS picked him up, along with a laptop. He is said to be closely associated with several key accused in the case — Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Samir Kulkarni and Lt Col S.P. Purohit. During his interrogation in Lucknow, the swami reportedly admitted his association with Abhinav Bharat and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
“He’s the inspirational figure and his extremist line put him in the big league of seers commanding absolute power,” said the ATS source. He was given VIP protocol in J&K, where he moved with four commandos in a beacon-fitted car.
His Sharda Sarvagya Peeth Math has four Padm Shri awardees on its board of trustees, one of them being Dr S.C. Rai, former BJP mayor of Lucknow.
His laptop reportedly has pictures that are a good indication of the kind of power and reach he has. They show a former chief election commissioner, a Supreme Court judge, a former Union minister and a former vice-president all touching his feet. One shows him with former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. “He proudly showed these pictures to family members in Kanpur three years ago,” said his relative and a family friend. “This period saw the family's fortunes change dramatically,” they added.
And for all his spiritual pursuits, he reportedly led a colourful life. There is speculation that he has more than two wives and several more love interests.