Kandhamal BJP candidate arrested for communal speech (Second Lead)

April 14th, 2009 - 10:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Bhubaneswar, April 14 (IANS) Ashok Sahu, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate for Orissa’s Kandhamal Lok Sabha constituency, was arrested Tuesday and remanded to judicial custody after a court denied him bail for his alleged communally charged speech earlier this month, an official said.
Sahu, arrested from Phulbani town in communally sensitive Kandhamal district, is accused of violating the model code of conduct and creating caste and religious divide by making communally charged speeches April 5 at a public meeting in Raikia town. He allegedly accused the church and some Christian leaders of indulging in conversion.

If proven guilty, he could be jailed for at least three years.

“We arrested him under section 153 A of the Indian Penal code and 125 (A) Representation of People Act,” district police chief S. Praveen Kumar told IANS.

Sahu approached a court for a bail but was denied. He was remanded to a judicial custody in G. Udayagiri jail, Kumar said.

Police had registered a case against him April 8 on the basis of a complaint by a district administrative official.

Sahu while being arrested asked partymen to stay calm and not to resort to violence.

The Kandhamal district, about 200 km from here, witnessed widespread communal violence after the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram Aug 23, 2008.

At least 38 people, mostly Christians, were killed in the state and more than 25,000 Christians were forced to flee their homes after their houses were attacked by rampaging mobs. At least 3,000 people are still living in government relief camps.

Sahu, linked to the VHP, had also made similar remarks during the communal violence last year. Christian leaders had immediately refuted the allegations.

While Sahu is contesting the Kandhamal Lok Sabha seat, the BJP has also nominated Manoj Pradhan, an accused in the riots, for the assembly election from G. Udayagiri constituency in the district.

Pradhan was arrested about four months ago and is still in jail.

Orissa will go to poll in two phases April 16 and 23 to elect 147 members to the state assembly and 21 members to the Lok Sabha. Voting in Kandhamal will take place in the first phase.

Locals expressed fears that the arrest could renew tension in the region that goes to poll April 16 but the administration says adequate security arrangements were in place to avoid any untoward incident.

The BJP has condemned the arrest saying the move was to postpone the election in the region where normalcy is fast returning.

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