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Arrest: VHP plans agitation

By Our Special Correspondent

CHENNAI, NOV. 12. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) today dubbed the arrest of the Kanchi Sankaracharya, Jayendra Saraswathi, "politically motivated." The outfit has announced a countrywide agitation from November 13 to 15 to condemn the arrest.

Announcing the VHP's protest plan against the police action on the mutt head, its international vice-president, S. Vedhantham, told reporters here that the State Government had attempted to "defame the mutt and the Shankaracharya to appease certain quarters in the country and abroad, which indulged in activities such as religious conversions" in India.

Keeping the next Assembly elections in mind, the Chief Minister and All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary, Jayalalithaa, wanted to shed her party's "pro-Hindu tag," he claimed.

Breaking the mutt's orthodox traditions, the Acharya had visited slums and backward areas to meet the Dalits and others. He also helped them to come up socially, educationally and economically, Mr. Vedhantham said.

`A setback'

To a query, he said the efforts of the Acharya to find an amicable solution to the vexed Ayodhya issue would also "suffer a setback," as a good section of Muslims who welcomed the initiative was pained at the arrest.

All the Sangh Parivar organisations would take part in the VHP's proposed agitation, he said adding protest demonstrations would be held in all State capitals tomorrow and district headquarters on Sunday. In Tamil Nadu, the protest would be staged on Monday. Describing the arrest as an "extreme measure," the Tamil Nadu president of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), R.V.S. Marimuthu, urged the Government to release the mutt head immediately "respecting the feelings of millions of Hindus." He appealed to the mutts and other institutions to hold prayer meetings "to build the confidence of the Hindu society in this hour of crisis."

The Hindu Munnani founder, Ramagopalan, said the Government should ensure safety to the Kanchi Sankara Mutt so that its routine functions and pujas were carried on without any trouble from anti-social elements. He asked the devotees to hold prayer meetings in temples from November 15 to 20.

The Tamil Nadu Brahmins Association president, N. Narayanan, said all the devotees were "shocked and anguished" at the arrest of the Shankaracharya on a murder charge. He appealed to the devotees to maintain calm till the outcome of the trial.

`An extreme measure'

Our New Delhi Special Correspondent reports:

Speaking on the phone to The Hindu from Hyderabad, the RSS spokesperson, Ram Madhav, condemned the arrest, calling it an extreme measure. "We condemn the arrest. There was no need to arrest him. He would have fully cooperated with the investigating agencies. Being a senior monk of a highly respected Hindu mutt which commanded the obeisance of millions of devotees, he deserved better treatment," Mr. Madhav said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party questioned the step and the "haste" with which it was taken. "The BJP is shocked by the news of the arrest. It has surprised the nation and the party," the BJP spokesman, Arun Jaitley, told reporters here.

Mr. Jaitley expressed surprise over the timing of the arrest. "Why was the Sankaracharya arrested late at night and just before the court holidays?

Congress shocked

The Congress expressed its shock at the arrest. "We do not know the exact details, but he is a highly respected religious leader and the news of his arrest is shocking," said the party spokesman, Anand Sharma.

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