Malegaon blast: ‘Shankaracharya’ sent to police custody; charges continue to fly (Roundup, changing dateline, combining different series)November 14th, 2008 - 9:08 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Nov 14 (IANS) Self-proclaimed Hindu seer Sharada Sarvadnya Peeth “Shankaracharya” Amritanand Dev Teerth was Friday remanded to police custody to facilitate investigation of his suspected role in the Sep 29 Malegaon bomb blast even as efforts to unravel the conspiracy got embroiled in a welter of political accusations and counter-accusations.In a related development, Kashmiri Pandits living in and around Delhi sought to play down Amritanand’s links with a temple on the outskirts of the capital, saying the association was “purely religious”.
Meanwhile, Swami Avdheshanand Giri, the spiritual guru of Pragya Singh Thakur, a Hindu ascetic arrested in connection with the blast, said that he is ready to help the Maharashtra police with the probe into his links with his disciple, even as a Bharatiya Janata Party MP said he knew Thakur personally and asserted she was no terrorist.
The chief judicial magistrate’s court in Nashik in Maharashtra remanded Amritanand, who is based in Jammu but was arrested Wednesday from Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, to 12 days’ police custody. It also permitted the state police’s Anti Terrorist Squad to conduct brain-mapping, narco analysis and polygraph tests on him to further the probe.
Amritanand, also known as Dayanand Pandey, is suspected to have motivated Malegaon blast accused Lt. Col. Prasad Srikant Purohit and Thakur to execute the terror plan.
In an apparent bid to make out a case for wrongful arrest, the ‘Shankaracharya’ told the Nashik court that he was not Dayanand Pandey but Amritanand Dwivedi and also complained of torture during his transit remand.
On Thursday, Kanpur judicial magistrate Mukesh Kumar Singh too was initially baffled by the multiple names adopted by Amritanand but granted the ATS transit remand after being convinced that Dayanand Pandey, Sudhakar Dwivedi and Swami Amritanand Dev were aliases of the same person who heads the Sharada Sarvadnya Peeth in Jammu.
In Ambala in Haryana, while offering himself for any probe, Thakur’s guru, Avdheshanand, who heads the Juna Akhara sect, defended his disciple saying that “not a single charge against Sadhvi Pragya had been proved so far”.
“She is being unfairly being labelled as a Hindu terrorist. Let the police prove the charges,” he said at his ashram located near a big air force base of north India, about 45 km from Chandigarh, the twin capital of Haryana and Punjab.
He also denied that he had any direct relations with Thakur, saying that he had just met her twice, including once when he baptised her at Allahabad during the Hindu Kumbh Mela religious festival.
In Madhya Pradesh capital Bhopal, the BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Raghunandan Sharma charged the Congress with falsely implicating Hindu outfits in the Malegaon blast to win the support of the Muslims for the state’s upcoming assembly elections.
He said he personally knew Thakur and that she was not a terrorist.
Sharma termed the entire episode a “conspiracy hatched against the Hindus in general and the Sadhvi in particular at the behest of the Congress party which was eager to win back Muslim voters who have now understood that the Congress was merely using them as its vote bank and were alienated from it”.
In Faridabad, the Haryana town adjacent to Delhi, the Kashmiri Sewak Samaj said “Shankaracharya” Amritanand’s association with the Mata Chakreshwar Hari Parbat temple, eight km from Delhi was purely religious.
“The association with the arrested saint Amritanandji was purely from a religious denomination attached to the seer,” it said in a statement.
The Mata Chakreshwar temple “is the cultural and religious symbol of Kashmiri Pandits in exile” and there was no possibility of Amritanand using it to meet terror suspects, the statement added.
“We knew the seer as the Shankaracharya of the Sarvignya Peeth of Sarada. As a religious person he has been to our programmes and has sometimes stayed at the complex atop Chakreshwari temple at Hari Parbat,” M.L. Hashia, the president of the organisation, said in a statement.
The temple, said to be a replica of the ancient Hari Parbat temple in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, was searched Thursday. In particular, the room the ’seer’ stayed in during his visits was searched for evidence.