A lower court in Odisha’s communally sensitive Kandhamal district on Monday convicted seven people in connection with the 2008 sensational killing of Hindu religious leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati.
The judgment on two more accused in the case including one alleged Maoist will be pronounced on Tuesday.
The quantum of punishment against all the convicts will be declared on October 3. Saraswati along with four of his disciples were brutally gunned down by arms miscreants inside his ashram at Jalespeta in Kandhamal on August 24, 2008. The Janmastami night killing had not only shocked the entire state but also triggered an unprecedented Hindu-Christian communal riots in the backward district.
More than 40 were killed and thousands rendered homeless as their homes were destroyed.
Several religious institutions had also been set on fire and heavily damaged. The riots had received condemnation by different quarters both at the national as well as international level. Significantly, the communal strife had also led to a political divorce between two the then allies in the state—the BJD and the BJP.
The crime branch of the state police which had probed the Saraswati murder case had accused the Maoists operating in the district of engineering the crime with the help of a group of local villagers. In fact, the crime branch charge sheet had named a few senior Maoist leaders like Sabyasachi Panda who are now at large.
The local police, however, said that people who were convicted on Monday were not hardcore Maoists.
“At best they can be called as Maoists sympathisers,” a senior police official stationed in Kandhamal told Deccan Herald. Security had been beefed up in the entire district on Monday because of the court verdict. Sixteen platoons of armed police had been deployed in the communally sensitive points of the district of which six were stationed in the district headquarters town of Phulbani where the additional district and sessions judge pronounced the judgment.