Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Vishwa Hindu Parishad Orissa Bandh-related violence claims 9

Malini Dey  

26/8/2008 7:39:12 PM(IST)

The death toll from Monday''s violence in Orissa during a bandh called by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has gone up to 9.

"There are reports that four to five people have been killed in fresh violence. The deaths are from yesterday's violence. There is no fresh violence. We have also clamped a curfew in Kandhamal district to avoid any violence," a senior Orissa government official clarified.

Officials are in the process of identifying five of the dead, sources said.

The government's statement that the Maoists were behind the murders has also been contested.

"Saying Naxals are behind the attack is totally misleading and orchestrated. This is an attack by the agents of Christian missionaries, whose attempts at forcible conversions the Swamiji countered," said a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh spokesperson.

He also blamed the state government for failing to protect Swami Lakshmanananda even after he lodged a lodged a formal complaint.

Lakhsmanananda came to Chakapada village in 1966, after which he set up schools and hostels for tribal children in the region.

"They tried and failed for seven times. The eighth time they have succeeded. A week before he was killed, he had received an anonymous threat that said he would soon be killed. Though he lodged a formal complaint, the officials did not do anything about it," a local functionary said.

Local observers also blamed the government for not giving the Swamiji enough protection and also not doing enough to douse the communal tension after December when an attack on Lakshmanananda sparked violence in Kandhamal district.

"The administration failed to ensure that the churches and Christian institutions were attacked in return. So, this might be an act of revenge for that, given the fact that Lakshmanananda was actively combating forcible conversions in the region," said an observer.

Soon after the attack, the state government and the police laid the blame on Maoists. "They were very quick to do it probably because they wanted to ensure that communal violence does not break out. But eventually they weren't able to do that also," he said.

Maoist-watchers are also not convinced that there could be a Naxal angle to the killings.

"There is nothing that suggests that Maosits may be involved. Though it is soon to say for sure they are not involved, there have not been many incidents where they have attacked civilians. Even in such a case, they would have killed the two home guards who were said to have been on duty at the time of attack," said a Delhi-based security analyst.

"However, whoever executed it had planned it to perfection. It is clear that they have been watching the Swami closely. The assailant also chose dinner time, when two of the guards were not present, on Janmashtmi day, when everyone had their guards down," he said.

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