Maoists gun down Hindu leader in Orissa’s Kandhamal district (Lead)

March 19th, 2009 - 9:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Bhubaneswar, March 19 (IANS) A band of armed Maoists has gunned down a Hindu leader in Orissa’s Kandhamal district, where communal violence erupted last year after the killing of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader, the police said Thursday. Officials fear the murder could lead to renewed tension in the area.
“About 15 to 20 Maoists killed Prabhat Panigrahi in Rudiguma village Wednesday night,” district superintendent of police S. Praveen Kumar told IANS.

“The killing could trigger tension. We have deployed additional police forces in the region,” district collector Krishan Kumar told IANS.

Panigrahi was the block head of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and was arrested for his involvement in the August-September 2008 communal riots. He was released on bail in March this year.

Kandhamal district, about 200 km from here, witnessed widespread communal violence after the murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram Aug 23 last year.

While the police accused Maoists for that killing, leaders of Hindu organisations blamed Christians. At least 38 people were killed in the state and more than 25,000 Christians were forced to flee their homes after their houses were attacked by mobs. More than a thousand people are still living in relief camps set up by the government in the district.

Soon after the violence in August, Maoists had circulated a hit list of over a dozen local leaders of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other Hindu organisations and threatened to kill them.

The latest violence may also have far-reaching political implications. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), headed by Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, recently traded charges over their role in last year’s violence after the alliance between them ended early this month.

While the BJD alleged the BJP’s hand in the violence for setting up its “communal agenda”, the BJP accused the BJD of not providing adequate protection to Hindus.

Hindu radical groups - the VHP and Bajrang Dal - Thursday blamed the chief minister for the murder of Panigrahi.

“We condemn the brutal murder and hold Naveen Patnaik and the Church responsible for the killing,” a Bajrang Dal press release cited its leader Subash Chauhan as saying.

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