Special Correspondent

Local armed groups were involved, they say; “Decision to kill him was taken about seven months ago”

BHUBANESWAR: The Crime Branch of Orissa police on Thursday confirmed that Maoists had killed Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati in Kandhamal district by involving some local armed groups.

The decision to eliminate the VHP leader was taken by the Central Committee of Communist Party of India(Maoist) about seven months ago, and a group of about six hardcore extremists killed the VHP leader at the Jalespata ashram in Kandhamal on August 23 evening.

The extremists who committed the crime were armed with automatic weapons, including AK-47 rifles.

The local youths also took part in the crime and stood guard around the ashram when the Maoists executed their plan. The youths belonged to about four different groups from nearby villages, according to sources.

The conspiracy to kill the VHP leader was hatched in the aftermath of the communal violence that took place in Kandhamal following an attack on the slain VHP leader on the eve of Christmas last year, sources said.

Judicial custody

The three persons who had been arrested in the case so far belonged to the local groups, sources said. The three were produced on Thursday before a court at Baliguda in Kandhamal. The court remanded them to judicial custody.

Crime Branch Inspector General Arun Ray told The Hindu over phone that efforts were now on to arrest the other accused who were involved in the killing.

It may be recalled that soon after the killing of the Swami, the police had said they suspected involvement of Maoists in the crime.

CPI (Maoist) leader Sabyasachi Panda had also told journalists recently that they killed the Swami because he was allegedly converting both Christians and tribals in Kandhamal into Hinduism. His party wanted to protect the minorities, he had said.

GCIC plea

The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), a Bangalore-based organisation, has urged the National Human Rights Commission to inquire into the attacks on Christians in the Kandhamal and other parts of the State.

President of the Council Sajan K. George told reporters here that they had also submitted a memorandum to Orissa Governor Murlidhar Chandrakant Bhandare requesting him to intervene in the matter by exercising his constitutional powers to ensure action against the rioters and safety and rehabilitation of the Christian families affected in the violence.

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