Did Malegaon blast suspect buy his holy title?

November 13th, 2008 - 7:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Lucknow, Nov 13 (IANS) Dayanand Pandey alias Swami Amritanand Dev Teerth Maharaj, who has been arrested in connection with the Malegaon blast, has a controversial past with many Hindu seers questioning his self-proclaimed title of Shankaracharya. While Pandey, 40, says Narendranand Saraswati was his Guru, the Varanasi-based monk denied his claim.

“I met him once in Pune in 2000. I have also heard he was a non-commissioned officer in the Indian Air Force and was shown the exit door after he was found involved in financial anomalies,” Narendranand Saraswati told reporters in Varanasi.

Pandey, a native of Varanasi, is son of a police sub-inspector who retired barely 10 days ago. Pandey left home in 1993 and assumed the new identity of Amritanand Swami at an age of 25. He moved to Jammu in 2003 to run the Sharda Sarvagya Peeth there.

According to the official website of the Peeth, Pandey, along with Rajesh Pachauri formed the organisation in Varanasi in 1999.

“The duo used to live in a hostel in the Sampoornanand Sanskrit University and used to lead a lavish lifestyle,” Avimukteshwaranand Swami, a native of Varanasi who is with the Puri-based Jyoti Math told reporters in Varanasi.

Pandey secured the title of Shankaracharya - arguably the highest title in Hinduism - by paying a huge sum of money to the Varanesya Vidwat Parishad, a religious body of Varanasi, he said.

Investigating officials here say he was found of mobile phones - it was after police put his mobile phone on surveillance that he was caught.

A joint team of the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of Mumbai Police and its Uttar Pradesh counterpart Wednesday arrested Pandey from Kanpur for his alleged role in the Malegaon blast.

Six people were killed in the low-intensity blast in the Maharashtra town of Malegaon late Sep 29 night.

Uttar Pradesh police sources said Pandey’s name surfaced during the narco-analysis test of another accused, Lt. Col. P.S. Purohit, an Indian Army officer who was based in Jammu and Kashmir.

Another prime accused, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, was a regular visitor to Pandey’s Haridwar-based ashram, they said.

Pragya and Purohit also held a meeting with Pandey at his Jammu Tawi ashram before the blast, added the sources.

The police are also investigating if there is a link between the Malegaon blast and one in Kanpur this year in which two people were killed.

“On Aug 24, two persons, Bhupinder Singh and Rajiv Mishra, died in a powerful explosion in a house in Kanpur. They were suspected to be assembling bombs and later they were found to be active members of Bajrang Dal,” said Uttar Pradesh ATS chief Brijlal.

According to police, there is sufficient evidence to link Pandey with radical Hindu organisations.

“Pandey is a well-known face among various Hindu organizations of Varanasi, Kanpur, Malegaon and Haridwar, and was also a frequent visitor to many ashrams in these places,” Brijlal told reporters after his arrest.

Meanwhile, many religious organizations and leaders have come to his defence.

“He is being falsely farmed. He used to visit Kanpur to meet his father and is a respectable religious figure. The Congress-led government is framing him for political reasons,” Awadh Bihari Mishra, provincial general secretary of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, told IANS here.

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