Nephew, mother suspect Hindu hardliners shouting anti-Christian threats that morning.
NEW DELHI, February 25 (Compass Direct News) – Family members of a Christian found murdered last week in the Pandagadu area of Orissa state’s Kandhamal district said they believe the killers were Hindu nationalists such as those responsible for more than two months of violent anti-Christian rioting last year.
Hrudayananda Nayak, a 42-year-old father of two, was found dead on Thursday (Feb. 19) with several injuries to his head sustained as he took a shortcut through a forest to his home village of Rudangia, two kilometers from Pandagadu and five kilometers from G. Udayagiri.
His mother, Prasanna Kumari Nayak, has submitted a written complaint to police alleging the killers were associated with Hindu hardliners involved in last year’s rioting. His nephew Sujan Nayak, a lawyer and resident of Rudangia who saw the victim’s body, said that his uncle appeared to have undergone a fatal beating.
Sujan Nayak told Compass that on the day of Hrudayananda Nayak’s death, Feb. 18, his uncle told him before leaving home that he had received threats from three drunken men who were standing outside shouting threats at Christians in general that morning.
“He quoted them as saying, ‘We will not burn houses this time but will kill all Christians one by one,’” Sujan Nayak said.
Describing the injuries on his uncle’s body, Nayak told Compass there were wounds on his forehead, a severe wound on the left side of his head near the ear, as well as injuries to the back of his head and “marks around his neck.” He added that a blood-stained towel and flashlight battery were found near the body.
“From the battery and the injuries on his head it is evident that a huge torch was used for hitting him, and the mark on the neck shows that the towel was put around his neck to drag him,” he said.
There is reason to suspect the men who had threatened anti-Christian violence, he said.
“The three men threatening violence in the morning were seen on the same road passing through the forest where Hrudayananda was murdered at 11 at night on the date of the murder,” Nayak said, adding that the three suspects have absconded. “It is one week since the murder, and the suspects have not returned back home.”
He said that the victim’s mother also witnessed the threats that her son and others received the morning of the murder, “but due to fear of revenge from them she did not reveal this to the police.”
District Superintendent of Police S. Praveen Kumar reportedly said it is not clear that the murder was related to last year’s anti-Christian rioting.
“I am not sure if his death has anything to do with the communal violence,” he told media. “Our investigation is on. Somebody may have hit him on the head, causing his death.”
The killing is the third such murder since October 2008, when the more than two months of large-scale, anti-Christian violence that began in August officially came to an end.
Sujan Nayak said that his uncle left home in Rudangia for a market at G. Udayagiri on the afternoon of Feb. 18.
On his way back, Hrudayananda Nayak took a vehicle from G. Udayagiri as far as Gressgia village, from which he took a shorter route to Rudangia, crossing the forest by foot. It was around 7 in the evening. He had covered a distance of two kilometers and reached an isolated part of Pandagadu when he was attacked.
When he did not return home as expected that day, the following day villagers went searching for him in different directions. Around half a kilometer from the site of the murder is a school, and students there informed the search team of a blood-stained slipper lying near the school grounds.
The victim’s mother identified the slippers as belonging to her son, Hrudayananda Nayak. A rigorous search began around the area, and soon they noticed blood spots on a path leading up a hill. Reaching the top of the hill, between two huge rocks forming a cave shape they found Nayak’s body.
“His shirt and pants were taken off and kept aside, which means they had intentions of burning the body,” said Sujan Nayak. He explained that it is normal practice in the area to remove clothes on a body to be burned to reduce the time necessary for cremation.
Police were immediately informed, he said, adding, “Sniffer dogs were brought who led them to the lane of the house that belongs to one of the men who screamed threats the other morning, and then to a pond located in the same area used for bathing.”
Police suspect the killers had washed in the pond after committing the crime, Sujan Nayak said.
The house of the suspect to which the dogs led police is about 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the house of the victim.
According to Sujan Nayak, even after the dogs traced the lane where one suspect lives, police have been slow to proceed with the case.
Hrudayananda Nayak is survived by his 35-year-old wife, Reena Nayak, a 10-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son.