Maoist hand?

Published : Sep 26, 2008 00:00 IST

WHO killed Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati? Confusion about the identity of the killers kept growing even as the Sangh Parivars demand for the arrest of the killers got shriller. What led to the confusion was Chief Minister Naveen Patnaiks refusal to hand over the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Among the questions being asked were: Were the killers Maoists or a group of Maoists who supported a section of Christians who wanted to eliminate the swami because he was working to bring Christian converts back into the Hindu fold?

Were militant Christians, who were allegedly behind several attacks on the swami in the past few years, behind this attack too? Lakshmanananda had been attacked at least nine times before he was killed.

The modus operandi of the assailants, the use of sophisticated weapons and the brutal manner of the slayings point to the involvement of Maoists. Initially the police said they suspected the Maoists and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the swami had been killed by a group of extremists.

But after Sangh Parivar organisations claimed that militant Christians were responsible for the crime, the police became tight-lipped. Though a few persons were arrested, the police would only say that the investigation was in progress.

In fact, soon after the killing, a report in a newspaper said a member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) called up the newspaper to claim that the organisation was behind the killing. Later, a few media houses received letters saying that the CPI(Maoist) was not involved in the incident and that some of its cadre might have committed the crime by playing into others hands. However, a few days later, media reports said the central committee of the CPI (Maoist) issued a statement in New Delhi claiming responsibility for the murder.

Whatever the truth, a Maoist hand in the killing has not been ruled out because the swami was expanding his base in Malkangiri district where the left-wing extremists have a strong presence. The swami visited Malkangiri a few months ago to attend a function of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

The presence of the Maoists was also felt in Kandhamal last year when members of the Christian community and extremists attacked Hindu families in Brahmanigaon village. The attack took place within a few days of the outbreak of communal violence following an attack on Lakshmanananda on December 24.

The attackers had used automatic weapons. Interestingly, Brahmanigaon remained peaceful during the current riots.

As regards the probe into the killing, sources in the ruling alliance said the government was not willing to hand it over to the CBI as it apprehended that the agency may be influenced by the Central government.

Whoever may be the culprits, many in the ruling alliance in the State would not want them to be arrested before the next Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. Identification and arrest of the killers will deny the Sangh Parivar the chance of making it an issue in the polls in the tribal-dominated districts where the swami had a strong following.

Prafulla Das
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