Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, 4 others shot dead in Kandhamal

published on August 23, 2008


Subhasis Mohanty | Bhubaneswar-Dailypioneer


Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, the 80-year-old monk who spearheaded the anti-conversion movement in Orissa’s tribal dominated areas for decades, was shot dead at his Jalespata Ashram under Tumudibandha block in Kandhamal district late Saturday night.
 
 


Reports reaching Bhubaneswar said a group of 20 to 25 people, armed with guns, barged into the ashram at 9.35 pm and attacked him. They lobbed a hand-grenade and fired indiscriminately. Swami Laxmananda Saraswati and four others who lived in the ashram died on the spot. Among them was a woman.
 


Director-General of Police Gopal Nanda confirmed the murderous attack on Swami Laxmananda Saraswati’s ashram. The police suspect the killers to be Maoists. The district administration has mobilised police force and rushed CRPF companies to the spot. The District Collector and the SP have also rushed to Tumudibandha to take stock of the situation.
 


Earlier, there were reports that the ashram had received a letter, threatening that Swami Laxmananda Saraswati would be kidnapped within seven days. An FIR was lodged to this effect on Friday. Police assured the ashram that all steps would be taken to protect Swami Laxmananda Saraswati.


 
An alert has been issued and all District Collectors have been asked to maintain strict vigil.
 



Swami Laxmananda Saraswati had received a letter, threatening that he would be kidnapped from his Chakapada Ashram in Kandhamal district in the next seven days. Ashram authorities received the letter on Friday. It had been posted from Barinipur post office.
 



They also filed an FIR on Friday. The letter-writer had identified himself as a member of the ‘Pahari Group’.
 



Viswa Hindu Parishad general secretary Gouri Prasad Rath had subsequently sought increased security cover for Swami Laxmananda Saraswati.
 



Before the police could react, he was shot dead.

 



Swami Laxmananda Saraswati came to tribal-dominated Kandhamal in 1966. Since then he has been leading a campaign against conversion activities of Christian missionaries. He has also been in the forefront of the campaign against cow-slaughter. It was because of his sustained efforts that thousands of tribals who had embraced Christianity returned to the Hindu fold.
 


Later, he set up an ashram at Chakpada and a Kanya Ashram (girls residential school) at Jalespata in Kandhmal district. He spent his life promoting literacy and combating conversions in this tribal-dominated district. For this, he earned the wrath of Christian missionaries and was attacked on several occasions.
 


On December 25, 2007, he was attacked by a section of the Christian community and his security guard was severely injured. Later, clashes erupted in Phulbani and other areas.
 


Curfew was imposed in Baliguda, Daringbadi and Brahmani Gaon as well as the district headquarters of Kandhamal for more than a month to restore peace. Swami Laxmananda Saraswati’s murder could give rise to tension.

Reacting sharply to the ghastly incident, the State BJP president said the culprits should be arrested immediately. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad expressed shock over the killings.


IANS Report

Bhubaneswar:  At least five people, including a top leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), were shot dead in an ashram in Orissa’s Kandhamal district by an armed group during Janmashtami festival celebrations Saturday, the police said.

Over 20 armed people started firing in the ashram at Jalespata village, at about 8 p.m., some 340 km from here.

“Five people were killed. They include Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati,” Gopal Chandra Nanda, state director general of police, told IANS. The dead include Swami Amrutananda, a woman and a boy.

The police could not confirm whether the attackers were Maoist guerrillas. “It looks like a Naxal attack but we are currently verifying,” Nanda said.


Octogenarian Saraswati was a member of the central advisory committee of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, one of India’s biggest Hindu nationalist groups. He had been leading an anti-conversion movement in the state.

The police have clamped orders prohibiting the gathering of four or more people in the entire district. Security has been beefed up in the area after the incident.

After hearing the news of the killings, thousands of people blocked roads at several places in the state. The state government has asked the police and district administrative heads to remain alert.

The Kandhamal district with a population of around 600,000, including 150,000 Christians, is considered one of the most communally sensitive regions in the state.

Saraswati has served tribes, mainly Kandhs, in the region. His main ashram is located at Chakapad in the same district. The place where he was killed is a smaller ashram meant for women.
 


 

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