Who is 'Appu?' Where is 'Appu?' And when -- or if -- he is found, what revelations can we expect about the alleged role played by the Shankaracharya of Kanchi in the murder of Sankararaman?
'Appu' is the working title of a man whose actual name is Krishnaswamy. He operates out of Chennai, and, in the inelegant language of the Indian policeman, he is a 'known character.' While there is supposed to be more than one case against him, the only one that need concern us today is the part he might have played in Sankararaman's killing. Because, according to several heavy hints being dropped, he was the 'brain' behind the actual murder.
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Where is Appu today? I have absolutely no idea. He may be hiding. Or he may already be in custody, ready to be trotted out at some convenient time and place. If the latter theory is correct -- and let me emphasise that it is nothing more than a mere supposition -- then Appu will be 'found' in a place that will embarrass several senior politicians in Tamil Nadu.
I have no clue if Appu actually had anything to do with the killing of Sankararaman but the manner in which hints are being dropped indicate that there is something in the air. Evidently, the DMK too believes that, which may go some way to explain why Karunanidhi [ Images ] has suddenly started backtracking. Having started out by congratulating the police for arresting the Shankaracharya, the DMK chief has begun to speak of 'political conspiracy.' And what a sweet mess he shall be in should it turn out that the head of the murder gang was linked to his party!
But this case simply does not make sense even if Appu starts to sing. Nobody has cared to explain what motive the Shankaracharya could possibly have to arrange for the murder of Sankararaman. Can we forget the political ballyhoo and simply look at the facts as we know them?
The prosecution's case seems to be that Sankararaman was about to 'expose' the Shankaracharya by revealing financial irregularities. But isn't there a Supreme Court judgment to the effect that a Math is not a public trust? (I think the ruling was made in a revenue case; I have to look up the details but that was the gist of it.) Broadly speaking, what that means is that the Shankaracharya could do pretty much what he wanted with the money that came to the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham. (Just as, to cite a parallel case, nobody demands an audit of the funds sent to the Missionaries of Charity.) What it boils down to is that Sankararaman was never a threat to the Shankaracharya. If at all he was one...
The only 'proof' that Sankararaman was going to expose anyone lies in some anonymous letters. Is there any proof that he wrote them? And why would anyone believe something said by a man who had left the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham seven years ago? Surely, if there were any sensational revelations to be made they would have come out when he quit. (Or was dismissed.)
I must admit that I was a little surprised to learn that Sankararaman held the post of manager in the Varadaraja Perumal shrine. First, it is tough for a man who left one post after a tiff to get another one so easily. Second, it is rare to find a Shaiva in such a job in a famous Vaishnava temple. (Such things still matter in tradition-dominated Kanchi where it was apparently a matter of grave concern that the Shankaracharya broke convention by watching television!)
The more you think about it, the more questions arise -- but precious few answers. Any lawyer could topple the case against the Shankaracharya as it stands. Take for instance the allegation that he had to be arrested when he was because there was a helicopter standing by to whisk him away to Nepal. Is there any civilian helicopter that actually has that kind of range?
The Shankaracharya would be well within his rights to demand an immediate trial. He can ask his legal team to stop any more demands for bail. And the odds are that any trial would end in an honourable discharge.
This leads me to my final point for this column. I am sure the Tamil Nadu authorities know that the case against the Shankaracharya is really too feeble to stand. So what on earth were they thinking about when they staged that arrest? There is something that doesn't add up in this case, and I am not too sure that even the appearance of Appu will answer all the questions.
Tailpiece: my last column led to a flurry of comments. I stand by what I wrote, namely that while I may have disapproved of the Shankaracharya's activities in the past, I condemn the manner of his arrest and the subsequent drama even more strongly. Today, I find myself wondering how much of a case, if at all, there is!