Why Does the ‘Suicide’ Theory in Narendra Giri Case Raise Questions?
What prompted Yogi to go for a CBI probe when he had formed an SIT to investigate the case just 24 hours earlier?
Four days after he was found hanging from the fan in the bedroom of his multi-million Bagambari Mutt in Prayagraj (Allahabad), the mystery behind the death of widely revered seer Mahant Narendra Giri has deepened.
Meanwhile, amidst demands from multiple quarters for a probe by an independent agency as they dumped the “suicide” theory aggressively floated by the Uttar Pradesh police, state Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath recommended a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the incident late Wednesday night.
What prompted the Chief Minister to go for a CBI probe when he seemed quite convinced that the 18-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted by him barely 24 hours earlier would unravel the mystery and bring the guilty to book? Apparently, this was done with a view to pre-empting intervention by the Allahabad High Court, where two letter petitions had been submitted by different sets of advocates who suspected foul play and sought a high-level judicial inquiry. According to another theory, the advice for a CBI probe came from the highest level in Delhi.
Why Was the State in Such Hurry to Call it 'Suicide'?
Mahant Narendra Giri’s death under mysterious circumstances occurred at a time when the Uttar Pradesh government had launched a blitzkrieg to impress upon all and sundry that law and order were at the highest level in the state. Prima facie, it did look like a case of suicide. But why was the state in a hurry to call it one? The cops looked so impatient to spread this word that the 13- page ‘suicide’ note, allegedly left by the seer, was made available to several media houses and TV channels. No one knows the reason for the tearing hurry when there were so many visible loopholes in the ‘suicide’ theory. Perhaps ‘suicide’ would not cause embarrassment to the ruling dispensation as would a suspected ‘murder’ conspiracy.
After all, the seer, who was also the head of the All India Akhada Parishad, the highest nodal body of the country’s 13 ‘akhadas’, constituted in 1954, was a heavily guarded person with two-tier security around him.
Several pertinent questions have been raised with respect to the security as well as the manner in which the initial evidence was tampered with by the ‘Mutt’ inmates. According to them, they broke open the door of the seer’s room after there was no answer from inside. On finding him hanging from the fan, they promptly cut the rope and brought the body down to the floor. His post-mortem was not performed for 30 hours, which also raises several forensic medicine issues.
The Post-Mortem Report
When it was common knowledge that Mahant Narendra Giri was not into writing and that all his letters were written by someone else, how could the police give credence to the 13-page “suicide note” recovered from his room? The note was written in two parts with a week’s gap. One part was penned down on September 13 and the rest on September 20, the day he was found hanging.
Significantly, the said “suicide note” also has a mention about someone blackmailing Mahant Narendra Giri with an allegedly “morphed” picture of a woman in an objectionable position with him. The authorities are tight-lipped on that.
Issues about disputes relating to the huge properties owned by the ‘Mutt’ also find mention in the so-called ‘suicide note’.
Meanwhile, the post-mortem report also remains somewhat ambiguous since it terms “asphyxiation” as the cause of death. It is not clear whether the report has details about the necessary ligature marks on the neck, the position of the tongue and the state of the eyes.
Whether this note was actually written by the Mahant is for the CBI to investigate, and sure enough, that would also be a pointer towards establishing it as a case of ‘suicide’ or ‘murder’. The post-mortem report, too, would be deciphered by CBI sleuths. And all these revelations will eventually have a bearing on the goings-on in the monastery.
Saffron-Clad Sadhus and Disputes — Not New
The fact remains that this is not the first case where a saffron-clad sadhu or head of a ‘mutt’ has met a suspicious or gory end. Uttar Pradesh is replete with cases of murder of senior seers of leading or lesser-known ‘mutts’ or ashrams. Disputes over property and money are stated to be the main reason behind most of these murders.
A senior police officer said on condition of anonymity that local courts in Ayodhya and Chitrakoot had a large number of cases pending about disputes over property and wealth belonging to ‘mutts’. Saffron-clad sadhus are a common sight in these courts.
Referring to Ratan Kumar Srivastava, a retired police officer, who had been SP (City) of the temple town between 1996 and 1998, the officer told this journalist, “I remember that even at that point of time, there were about 150 cases related to property disputes between saffron-clad sadhus registered with the police.” According to him, “the stakes are much higher now. No wonder, the lust for money and property drives some to go to any length to achieve their ill-conceived goals.”
According to a sadhu in Ayodhya, “There is no check or screening of new aspirants joining ashrams. There have been cases where criminals sneak into ashrams and hide their sins behind the saffron they acquire. Disputes usually arise when there is an unaccounted flow of funds.”
The Story of Anand Giri
Top seers of the country are now raising their voice against the killing of sadhus in various ashrams. But what still remains a mystery is that why they chose to remain silent when Narendra Giri’s disciple, Anand Giri, fell out with him and was busy washing all the dirty linen in public. Interestingly, Anand Giri had struck rapprochement and had even gone to the extent of tendering a public apology.
Accusations and counter-accusations have been levelled by the ‘mutt’ inmates looking after the seer as well as by former lieutenants who fell out with him and established their own ashram elsewhere. The main ex-aide, Anand Giri, and two other priests heading the Prayagraj-based ‘Bade Hanumanji’ temple, Aadya Tiwari and Sandeep Tiwari, have already been arrested, while some cops on duty have been suspended.
What has been discovered so far may be just the tip of the iceberg. Once the CBI formally takes charge of the case, the real skeletons may roll out of the closet. And that would determine whether Mahant Narendra Giri actually committed suicide or it was a murder most foul, with property, wealth and sleaze at its root under the garb of religion.
(The writer is a Lucknow-based senior journalist. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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