In Tamil Nadu, move to hush up the Salem Sadhu Saravanan suicide issue by the ruling AIADMK government has baffled many particularly the opposition BJP and Hindu organisations. Hindu Munnani’s fact finding team report is shocking how the police is trying to pass it off as a yet another routine suicide. Demand for CBI inquiries is gaining ground as people have no faith in the government and its police, which is bent on protecting the SI who belonged to a minority community.
Locals said Saravanan was famous in that part and people would come in large numbers to get a holy talisman or to perform Midnight poojas at his ashram Puliyampatti Kudalamkadu near Edappadi for divine healing and get remedy for their problems through his occult practices. Devotees give him liquor, cigarillo and cash. “The crowd and their faith in Saravanan thwarted the efforts of the evangelical missionaries in religious conversion. Churches draw less crowds'' say locals. There were no complaints against Saravanan of any charges. But SI Anthony Michael, who was on leave on that day, came with some policemen, took up a wordy duel with Saravanan. At that time, Saravanan and devotees were eating the food (prasad). The SI spoke ill about the women there and the Sadhu. He had allegedly beaten the woman and sadhu till the cane broke into pieces. SI also took videos and said I would tarnish your image with these pictures'', recalled locals. Enquiries with police sources confirmed that there were no complaints and no FIR was registered against Saravanan.
The political parties including DMK and ruling AIADMK, communists and their media thought there was no merit in covering the suicide and condemning torture by SI. When father and son died in judicial custody last June, they made it a big issue. Print, visual and social media worked over time to only talk about the incident. The AIADMK government announced a solarium of 20 lakhs to P Jayaraj and Benicks family and a job to kin of the victim. AIADMK had given 20 lakh to the family and DMK presented a cheque for Rs 25 lakhs. No such munificent measures were announced in case of Saravanan. The judiciary took the issue on its own the issued slew of directions like how the probe be conducted and by whom etc. In Saravanan’s suicide there was no such activism by the judiciary which is a surprise to many in TN. Amnesty International and human rights commissions did nothing in his case.
After the Hindu outfits raked up the issue, police went to the residence of Saravanan to pressurize them to withdraw the charges against SI Anthony Michael. Now nobody knows the whereabouts of Saravanan’s family.
Meanwhile, a fact-finding team of Hindu Munnani led by its president Kadeswara C Subrmaniam went to the village and interacted with the residents. It raised many doubts and the safety of the Saravanan’s family who were not to be found in their house. In that report the team accused police of doing many wrongs to protect the SI. The police coaxed the Saravanan family to take back the complaint against SI Anthony Michael. As dead man tells no stories, the police are humiliating him after his death by spreading canards that amounts to character assassination. They allegedly set up a woman to complain that the dead Sadhu had asked him to attend a mid- night pooja in a naked condition. Police say they have no clue about the sadhu’s family.
Statement of Hindu Munnani Secretary VS Senthilkumar
The Hindu Munnani report says, “In that area Christian missionaries are engaging in conversion on a large scale besides running a school. By making false claims that they are going to provide houses to the locals, encroaching poramboke lands. They allow only the converted families to reside in that village. Anthony Michael, a singer, songwriter at ‘Jesus is Here’, transferred from Theyvoor police station recently. He is interested in evangelical preaching activities. Christian missionaries who are jealous about the popularity among the villagers, mis-informed the SI about Saravanan. Without any written complaint, he went on his own to the Saravanan’s ashram and attacked him. On that day he was officially on leave. How could an official who was on leave could go and investigate a matter or attack which raises many doubts about his intention. Locals allege that police planted some families claiming to be relatives of Saravanan. They are only informers. We tried to meet the Saravanan’s wife, son and daughter but nobody had clue about their whereabouts. We feel that their life in danger. Even their relatives have been threatened not to speak anything about the incident. It seems they have been kidnapped and wrongfully confined to hush up the case. Police in mufti are posted to know who are all coming to the village and doing what. It is also alleged that politicians who own illegal liquor shops and to carry illegal sand mining without any trouble from police and government refused to come out. Those who have made complaints against dead Saravanan, also face chargers of various natures. We recommend setting up advocate team to unravel the truth. We want justice to the affected family which is possible by an agency not connected with the state. It should also probe misuse of official powers. if the state government fails to act impartially, Hindu Munnani would stage protests till Saravanan’s family gets justice and compensation as done in Sathankulam judicial custody death”.
Indu Makkal Katchi founder Arjun Sampath said Saravanan family members said they found injuries in Saravanan’s body and he committed suicide due to SI’s torture. That is what they have mentioned in the police complaint filed before his suicide. Based on this, police should initiate action against SI. There are unconfirmed reports that the family was forced to say they are withdrawing the complaint which they did to get compensation from the government. Arjun sampath urged for a court monitored probe. Saravanan’s family should be given 25 lakhs compensation and job to the kin as it did for the Sathankulam victims family. His son is in 9th standard and daughter is in 10th. Indu Makkal Katchi (IMK) held a protest in front of Salem District Collectorate on 24th.
Arjun Sampath of IMK also visited the village with his supporters. People informed him that “He (Sadhu Saravanan) was a good person. He never indulged any anti -social activities. He would sit in a pit to do meditation by wearing loin cloth. Unable to bear the humiliation he died 5 days of the incident. They said we do not how he died”. Arjun Sampath said “Saravanan’s video before death has brought tears in ours eyes. He in his dying declaration clearly said SI Anthony Michael had beaten him and used obscene languages. It is enough. We have made on the spot inquiry and found there was no evidence to show he did naked poojas with woman. He had wives, daughter and women in the village. What made SI to come there on whose complaint? What we were told that there was a Christian prayer hall near to Saravanan’s residence. He was hindrance to the happenings in the prayer hall and conversion activities. So, he was attacked. We want to know from that what action was taken on the basic of his dying declaration. We want justice for his death as a police official was involved. Government should order a judicial commission to find out the truth to bring the culprit to book and if there is any religious angle in the murder.
Sakthi Sena (women wing of Indu Makkal katchi) Saraswathi said ordinary citizens feel no safety in the state. The SI who was responsible for the death of Saravanan was given 15 days leave and he is in native village Sathankulam with his family. We presented a memorandum to the Thoothukudi District collector. We want to know where the police kept the Saravanan’s family. We want the police to produce them before us. Otherwise we would protest in front of SI’s house in Sathankulam.
Journalist Jai Krishnan recalled that 35 years ago in Odisha Graham Stain, a missionary, was burnt alive along with his sons Philip and Timothy to avenge the death of a sadhu who was questioning their conversion activities. In Palghar, two sadhus were beaten to death allegedly by a mob linked with missionaries. Now we have this Salem incident. These are ones that hit the media. Others were buried under the sand. Persecution by Christian evangelists, preachers and social workers is rampant not so much in cities as it is in smaller towns and villages. The step motherly treatment and not giving due importance to deaths of Hindus have emboldened them to do such things. Of course they have political and media connections. Past is past in the present case the victim's family should get justice and compensation”, he urged.