Mangaluru, July 19, 2016: The following is an analytical account based on the study of files maintained by the late Vinayak Baliga and containing information pertaining to his RTI activism, campaigns and legal battles regarding various issues. Readers are hereby informed that the police have not yet disclosed the real motive for the murder of Vinayak Baliga. This article does not purport to be an authentic claim for establishing the motive as that right is reserved for the privileged domain of the police and the law courts.
PART- I: Going through the voluminous material meticulously procured and filed by Baliga reveal that he had been chasing quite a lot of cases. He had collected documents about a number of cases, violations and just information.
Baliga files had certified copies of the documents of the following case which goes back to the night of 31-12-2012 when a Nandakumar Prabhu alias Nandu had murdered by one Mahesh Prabhu with a knife at the Venkatramana Temple at car street, Mangalore. Both were camp followers of the mutt and allegedly there was a quarrel between the two resulting in the accused stabbing the victim who was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. A case was registered at the Bunder police station and the FIR no.210/2012 dated 31-12-2012 was made. This was subsequently admitted to the Sessions court as case no 46/2013.
The nexus between this case and two of the accused in the Vinayaka Baliga murder case Naresh Shenoy and Manjunath Shenoy alias Manju Neereshwalya is clear as the following shows: The judgment was that the prosecution had totally failed to prove that the accused had committed the murder. This was mainly because every one of the witnesses for the prosecution except the father of the victim Mahesh Prabhu had turned hostile. Out of them PW no 3 was Manjunath Shenoy alias Manju Neereshwalya who has been booked as one of the accused in the Vinayak Baliga murder case for abetting the absconder Naresh Shenoy to escape from the police dragnet. He was a witness for the mahazar and when he testified before the court he had denied every single thing on his statement and had claimed that the police had taken his signature on blank sheets. Later on when the accused Nandu was acquitted in 2014, it was Naresh Shenoy, accused No 1 in the Vinayak Baliga murder case who stood surety for him, arranged for his release and subsequently is supposed to have employed him.
The animosity between the murder victim Vinayak Baliga and the administration of the Venkatramana Temple has been running since long and there are very good reasons to support the contention that Naresh Shenoy was acting as a representative of the forces inimical to Baliga and were out to silence him. Even after his death his specter had come to haunt them again and again. A month after the murder of Baliga a meeting was supposed to happen at Mangalore of an organization called Sudha Seva Pratishtana ,the invite for which was as:
“Every village, town and city today has multiple organizations including Temples, GSB Sabhas, Bhajana Mandirs, NGOs, Educational and Charitable trusts, that have come up with the purpose of religious, social and economic development of the community. These organisations are the back bone of our community. Each one these have been doing and continue to do great work for the community. But there is very little awareness about the work being done by the various organizations/entities amongst the masses.
Sudha Seva Sammellan is an attempt to bring them to the forefront and let our community masses take notice and avail the maximum benefit out of these organizations’ services. The Sammellan will bring together the organizations, the people behind them and the community at large under the one roof and allow for meaningful interaction between the two. The Sammellan will also invite eminent GSB personalities from various walks of life who will share their vast experience and learnings with our youth and inspire them to succeed against all odds. The Sammelan is scheduled to be held from April 22-24 in Mangalore.
Valedictory function will be held on April 24th in the divine presence of Shrimad Samyamindra Thirtha Swamiji, Mathadipathi of Sri Kashi Math Samsthan Varanasi. In this regard we solicit your wholehearted support & participation in this noble initiative. We request your organization to actively participate in this Sammellan .
As the first step, kindly furnish the following information to enable us to show case your organization’s activities to our community during the Sammellan:
1.Details of your organization
2.Activities & services rendered by it in the past
3.Your proposed initiatives in the future
4.Whether you would like to set up a stall during the Sammellan to spread awareness about your organization.
This is a great opportunity to interact with the masses of our community. Please do take advantage of the same.”
This event was organized by a body called as Sudha Seva Pratishtana which was said to be the apex body for social service for the community under the control of Naresh Shenoy but headed by one Atul Kudva. Baliga had written a strong letter to Atul Kudva casting aspirations on the people who were associated with it calling them black marketers, vendors of T shirts, robbers of temple gold and so on. This must have stung Naresh Shenoy and is a possible motive for the murder. The event did not take place at the venue which it was originally scheduled to happen- The Canara High school Urwa and the exhibition which was to be on the Karavali Utsav grounds was also a non event. However it was carried out on a lesser scale at Karkal on the same dates. But the anger generated out of Baliga’s letter could have been one of the precipitating factors as it was written a few weeks before he was murdered.
It appears that it was not one single letter that caused the reaction which led to his ghastly murder of Vinayak Baliga. There were a lot of them. In fact, it was a build up of a number of such events. The main factors seem to be his questioning of the affairs of the Kashi mutt and the Venkatramana temple and more than that the nexus between the two. Funds or any other property of the temple belongs to the people of the community and the trustees are only the custodians answerable to the general body which is made up of all the male members of the GSB community. But, once the property goes into the hands of the Kashi mutt, the decisions pertaining to its disposal are in the hands of its seer or rather the coterie behind him! This was done with a parcel of land which was measuring about 42 cents belonging to the Venkataramana temple under survey no. RS IV-4-59 consisting of 36.25 cents and -60 in the same deed measuring 7.5 cents. Baliga had questioned this through letters, complaints to the revenue department about undervaluation and hence cheating the govt. of stamp duty etc. Though it was stated in the memorandum that the land was worth around 2 lakhs and its actual value at that time was around 60 lakhs. He had later on filed a case against the Kashi mutt questioning the transaction which had been dismissed by the court when it came up for hearing after his death because there was no one to represent him as he was the sole litigant.
Vinayak Baliga was also in the habit of writing stinging letters pointing out the grim realities and criticizing the ills of the GSB community which he felt should reform. One of the letters he had penned in August, 2015 was addressed to seer of Kashi mutt in which he had dwelt at length on the problems facing the utilization of the funds collected for the temple, the way its affairs were run and the lack of accountability to the samaj. This long letter running to 11 pages was in Kannada. Another letter was sent by him to the trustees of the Venkataramana temple at Mangalore in December, 2015 questioning the way the car festival was being conducted.
This famous car festival of the Venkatramana temple of Car street, Mangalore is a five day affair in which lakhs of people would attend and thousands of people would be served free meals. He had questioned the wastage of food, resources, way things were being run and most importantly the lakhs of rupees which were donated by devotees as a tribute to the Rath. In Konkani it is called Rath kanik.That money was by convention handed over to the seer of the Kashi mutt if he were to be in station during the event. Baliga had questioned the propriety of that and also the procedure. He insisted that even if the collection amount were to be handed over to the mutt by convention, it should be counted in the presence of some appointed members of the public, deposited into the bank account of the temple and a cheque for the amount handed over to the Seer. This was not heeded and people have witnessed during the car festival held two months after the letter was sent that the collected money was being stuffed into gunny bags and taken away with no sort of accountability whatsoever.
It was not that Vinayak Baliga was against the present head of the Kashi mutt. He had been writing very respectful letters to him though pointing out the problems and proposed solutions to what he thought was wrong. But circumstances that took place later might have resulted in his being labeled so. In a speech delivered at a meeting of the supporters of the deposed head of the mutt Raghavendra, Baliga had made a statement that the present head Swayamindra was only a caretaker, the true head was the one who had the saligrama with him and that the charge should be handed over to him- that is to Raghavendra.
Was this the last straw? The links of those who were directly involved -that is the contract killers and the person who gave them the contract led to Naresh Shenoy and the involvement of others would have been known after his interrogation. An application has been made by the police to the magistrate for NARCO analysis and brain mapping to find out more. But, as expected, Shenoy is not willing for it. If he is innocent as per his own and his supporters claims, there should be no problem for him to submit himself for the test. While the information got during such procedures cannot be used as evidence, it can be certainly put to use to gather further material evidence. His vehement opposition to these tests is clearly indicative that he must be having things to hide.
Part-II: The battle between Baliga and the powers that be at the Venkatramana temple and the Kashi mutt had been running since long. Going through his papers we see lots of correspondence, cases and the temple authorities had even filed a caveat against him to prevent him from getting any ex parte injunction years ago. The management of the temple was so paranoid about Vinayak Baliga that his uncle B.Shrinivas Baliga who was a retired banker and was doing some accounting work for the temple from 1998 was relieved of his duties under the suspicion that he was leaking information to his nephew when the renovation work for the temple was started in 2010.
When contacted Shrinivas Baliga said that as soon as the foundation was dug for the temple, he had been removed from his work which he was doing more as a service to the deity than for the remuneration. The case filed against the temple trust for change of the scheme for running the temple had run into legal hurdles. The scheme which was made in 1927 or so was meant for those days when it was not a very big enterprise and relied only on the integrity of those in seats of power- the trustees. When Baliga proposed changes, it was resisted and the Sessions court at Mangalore ruled in favour of the trustees contention that the scheme could not be changed. But it was overturned by the high court on appeal which directed that the plaintiff be heard and then the Lok adalath took up the matter under the directions of the Sessions court.
One important hearing of that was to be on the 2nd of April in which Baliga and others who had filed the case had asked for a re audit of the accounts, particularly those pertaining to the renovation of the temple which involved a budget of about 20 crores. Baliga had suspected that large sums had been misused and wanted to expose that. It was stoutly opposed by the trustees who said that there may be some minor mismatches here and there. For which the court said that it was not going to bother about any such minor slip ups. In response to Baliga’s plea for appointment of a fresh auditor the name of Nithin J. Shetty was proposed and he agreed for the same. The audit fee was also fixed. When the temple trustees were requested to pay for that they retorted as to why they should pay for a pauper! So, Baliga despite of his weak financial situation had arranged for Rs.3 lakhs to be paid for the same. But, on the 2nd of April the auditors refused to take up the work of re audit as they said that they were apprehensive about the safety of their team who would do the work. So, as things stand at present the audit has not happened.
With the arrest of Naresh Shenoy and his remand to judicial custody has the trail stopped?
How could he manage to be out of the police dragnet for nearly three months with the help of allegedly only one single co-accused Manjunath Shenoy aka Manju Neereshwalya? Who were the others supporting and aiding him?
Should they not be booked for the offence of sheltering a murder accused on the run? These questions continue to haunt the grieving members of Vinayak Baligas family and the law abiding public.