Late Temple Treasure Man
The man responsible for the discovery of an (estimated) Rs 1,00,000 crore temple treasure passed away on 17 July. TP Sunder Rajan, a former IPS officer and Supreme Court lawyer, was 70. He had been down with fever for a couple of days but refused to move to a hospital or take drugs, says his nephew, advocate Anantha Padmanabhan.
Of the 1964 IPS cadre, Rajan had worked in the Central Intelligence Bureau and was also part of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s security staff. After 10 years of service, he quit and settled down in Thiruvananthapuram. He later became a prominent Supreme Court lawyer.
Rajan’s petition to ‘protect’ the Sree Padmanabha Temple’s wealth was not impulsive. He had been close to the royal family and had worked as legal advisor to the former king, Sri Chithira Thirunal. After the latter’s demise, Sunder Rajan moved court, says Padmanabhan, since he knew many valuable goods had gone missing.
Sunder Rajan, though, did not ask for the inventory of the assets, which led to the treasure being made public. This was the SC’s ruling. Sunder Rajan’s only plea was to initiate action to protect the wealth and shift the administration to a trust under the government.
After the treasure became an issue, he became a target of the Hindu Right. On a day of stock-taking, the local Shiv Sena held a protest march against him and heaped abuses on him when he came out of the temple. A few days before his death, it held a demonstration in front of his house with a buffalo carrying Sunder Rajan’s name on it.
Padmanabhan feels stress contributed to his uncle’s demise. Some devotees believe the wrath of God struck him dead. Others think he ‘accomplished his mission’ and had a peaceful demise. In any case, the litigation over the custody of the treasure will not be affected by his death, say legal experts.