Protest again Seer's arrest may snowball

Updated on Nov 15, 2004 08:58 AM IST

The protests over the arrest of Kanchi Seer threatened to snowball on Sunday with nationwide protests by various Hindu groups.

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PTI | ByIndo-Asian News Service, New Delhi

The protests over the arrest of Shankarachayra Jayendra Saraswati threatened to snowball on Sunday with his followers going on a countrywide fast and accusing the government of treating him as a common criminal.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) said Hindu seers across the country had gone on a fast to protest the arrest of Shankarachayra Jayendra Saraswati, one of Hinduism's revered spiritual figures, on charge of involvement in the murder of a former aide-turned-critic.

It was, however, not known how widespread was the protest campaign, as the seer spent another day in prison.

A group of sadhus, who met in the holy town of Hardwar, rallied behind the Shankaracharya and threatened to court arrest on Tuesday.

Another group met in Varanasi and demanded the immediate release of the influential Jayendra Saraswati, who is considered close to the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

There have been reports that he had not eaten since his arrest in Andhra Pradesh on Thursday night. There was no official confirmation of these reports.

The VHP and other Hindu organisations have said that the seer cannot be tried like an ordinary criminal. The VHP has also demanded legislation to provide some sort of immunity to Hindu pontiffs.

Some Hindu leaders saw a Christian conspiracy behind the arrest while an official of the order in Kancheepuram, the seat of the seer, accused the Tamil Nadu government and political parties of having organised the arrest with an eye on the vast wealth of the temple.

"The government and the political parties have their eyes on the wealth of the Kanchi Mutt (monastic order)," he said.

He also said that the murdered man, a former accountant, had never worked in the monastery and had only been visiting it as one hundreds of visitors.

"It is 100 percent false (to say he was an official of the temple)," he asserted.

Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee also criticised the arrest of the seer.

"More people are hurt by the manner in which the seer was arrested," Vajpayee told reporters during an iftar party he organised at his official residence Saturday.

He said he had spoken to Home Minister Shivraj Patil to "ensure the security and safety of the Shankaracharya," but added it was for the court to take a decision on the case.

Following his arrest, the Shankaracharya was taken to the Vellore jail near Chennai in Tamil Nadu Saturday as he failed to secure bail.

The Madras High Court will hear his bail application on Wednesday.

On Saturday the court put off the Shankaracharya's bail plea to Wednesday after the prosecution argued that once out on bail, he would try to flee the country.

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