Explainer: How the mysterious death of a Swamy 13 years ago has come to haunt Kerala politics

Sivagiri Mutt head Swamy Prakasananda has come forward alleging that Swamy Saswathikananda had been murdered
Explainer: How the mysterious death of a Swamy 13 years ago has come to haunt Kerala politics
Explainer: How the mysterious death of a Swamy 13 years ago has come to haunt Kerala politics
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On 1st July 2002, Swami Saswathikananda of Sivagiri mutt had travelled from Varkala to Aluva in Kerala to attend the board meeting of the Sree Narayana Guru trust. That very day, the Swamy who was heading the Sivagiri mutt founded by the followers of social reformist Sree Narayana Guru, was found drowned in the Periyar River.

Thirteen years later, the Swamy’s death has ominously come back to haunt the political narrative the SNDP and BJP are trying to weave together in Kerala. It all started with startling allegations made by Biju Ramesh, a bar owner and whistleblower in the bar bribery scam in Kerala.

Biju Ramesh’s allegations

Biju Ramesh, who has always been seen as SNDP leader Vellapally Natesan’s adversary within the Hindu Ezhava community, claimed in a press meet that Natesan’s son Thushar Vellapally was the man behind the seer’s murder.

According to Biju Ramesh, the seer had a disagreement with Thushar Vellapally during a Gulf tour in 2002, as the former had apprehensions about how the latter was managing funds of the Sree Narayana Trust.

Biju Ramesh’s version is that after an altercation with Thushar, the seer then cancelled his tour midway and came back to Kerala. He was killed just before the trust’s meeting while he was taking a bath at the Advaitashramam at Aluva near Kochi.

Though the Aluva police and later the Kerala police’s crime branch had closed the file claiming that the seer had drowned, Biju Ramesh has asked how the seer who was a deft swimmer and knew the ghat well could have drowned.

Priyan and Praveen

Twenty-four-year-old Praveen had been hacked to death; his body cut into pieces by R Shaji, a Deputy Superintendent of police with the help of goons including one named Priyan in February 2005. Shaji had suspected his wife of having an affair with Praveen.

The goon Priyan, was the one who also committed the seer’s murder according to Biju Ramesh.

Biju Ramesh claims to have spoken to Priyan on the phone, and in the phone conversation, Priyan allegedly told Ramesh that Vellapally Natesan had asked him to murder the seer.

What has made Biju Ramesh’s allegations stronger is that Praveen’s father Pavithran, had revealed after his son’s brutal murder that in July 2002, he had dropped a goon (Priyan) at Aluva.

Bruises on the seer

The current head of the Sivagiri Mutt, Swamy Prakasananda too has come forward alleging that Swamy Saswathikananda had been murdered, and a deep wound on the seer’s forehead had convinced him of the same in 2002 itself.

Though there were bruises on the seer, investigation had concluded that the death was due to an accident and the bruises were caused by the bamboo poles used to locate the body in the river.

Following requests from the seer’s family and the Sivagiri mutt, the death had been probed by many Crime Branch teams, but each concluded that it was an accidental death.

More demands crop up

Following Biju Ramesh’s revelations, the seer’s family has come forward asking for a CBI probe. The seer’s sister Santha who claimed to have spoken to Praveen’s father insists that the Priyan angle must be probed.

Sensing a political opportunity, Congress and Left parties too have come forward, demanding the re-opening of the investigation.

The Home Minister of Kerala has reportedly obliged and asked the Crime Branch chief to submit a report.

BJP plays it cautious

The BJP’s grand plan for entering Kerala was through an alliance with Vellapally’s SNDP. But with allegations cropping up against the SNDP leader on a daily basis, including one of murder, the BJP is playing it cautiously. 

With just months to go for the election, the UDF and LDF know that discrediting Vellapally Natesan is the first step towards destroying the BJP’s plan. And much to the delight of the Congress and CPI (M), Vellapally Natesan who is a leader of the Sree Narayana Dharma Vedi, an Ezhava organisation, is a man with too many enemies, even within the Ezhava community. 

With elements like Biju Ramesh surfacing with sensational allegations, Congress and the Left are hoping that this will blunt not just the SNDP’s political growth, but the saffron party’s too.

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