In a sensational development, Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati, was last night arrested as the prime accused in the murder of an official of a famous temple in Kanchipuram.
The 60-year-old senior pontiff of the Kanchi Matth, whom the Opposition parties in Tamil Nadu accused of having considerable clout over the AIADMK Government, was arrested at 10 p.m. in Mehboobnagar in Andhra Pradesh by a special team from Tamil Nadu armed with an arrest warrant.
"Thiru (Sri Jayendra Swamigal Saraswathi of Kanchipuram Sankara Matth) was arrested at 10 p.m. last night at Mehboobnagar in Andhra Pradesh as one of the prime accused in a case relating to murder of Thiru Sankararaman, manager of Varadaraja Perumal temple in Kanchipuram on 3.9.2004. "The police team from Tamil Nadu, which went to Andhra Pradesh, secured Sri Jayendra Swamigal at Mehboobnagar and was being brought to Chennai to be produced before Judicial Magistrate - 1, Kanchipuram," a brief press release issued by the I K Govind, Director General of Police, said.
The arrest is understood to have been made on the basis of statements made by five people who were earlier held in connection with the murder.
The Kanchi Shankaracharya, who has considerable influence with political leaders cutting across party lines, was in the limelight in the last two years of the NDA rule, acting as a go-between with Muslim leaders and Hindu organisations in the Ayodhya issue.
The murder issue had become a political controversy with the main Opposition party DMK announcing an agitation while accusing the State Government of inaction despite information about the persons involved in the murder.
In the politics of Tamil Nadu, dominated by Dravidian parties espousing rationalist policies, Jayalalithaa was accused by the Opposition of running the Government on the advise of the Kanchi Shankaracharya.
The arrest of Shankaracharya in Mehboobnagar, 90 km. from Hyderabad, was preceded by high drama. A police team, comprising fully armed commandos and led by Superintendent of Police Elangovan, first went in an Cessna aircraft to Bangalore on information that he was there but later left for Hyderabad and went to Mehboobnagar by road to arrest him. The Shankaracharya was at that time performing a 'Trikal Puja'.
Accompanied by an Andhra Pradesh police team, the Tamil Nadu team explained to Shankaracharya the case and took him to custody.
Earlier another police team, headed by Additional DGP K V S Murthy, had also left by air to Bangalore.
There were reports that Shankaracharya's brother and another person have also been arrested. However, there was no confirmation yet.
Jayendra Saraswati had created a controversy over 10 years back by disappearing suddenly from the Math. He was later traced to Tala Cauvery in Coorg district in Karnataka.