Net closes in on Cong MP for Orissa swami’s murder

The BJD-BJP government in Orissa is closing in on Congress Rajya Sabha member and former civil servant Radhakanta Nayak for his "alleged role in the conspiracy to kill Lakshmanananda Saraswati."

Sources say that Nayak, the most high-profile Christian political leader in the State, may be arrested shortly. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has alleged that the plot to kill Lakshamananda Saraswati was "hatched in the presence of Nayak."

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Orissa police is said to be preparing a case against Nayak and his supporters.

Though CID officials refused to comment whether they considered Nayak as one of the suspects, they said: "The mastermind has been identified and he is now out of Orissa."

Nayak, when contacted by The Indian Express, said the allegations that he conspired to kill the Swami were "absolutely absurd and completely false". "I feel very surprised by the charges," he said over the phone from New Delhi.

Saraswati and four of his associates were gunned down by 30-odd assailants carrying sophisticated weapons at his ashram in Jalespeta of Kandhamal district on the evening of August 23. It led to one of the worst communal conflicts in the history of the State and Christians were targeted in Kandhamal and adjoining districts.

The Hindutva brigade in the State believed the Saraswati killing was a revenge attack. An attack on the Swami's vehicle in Kandhamal in December 2007 had sparked off a wave of violence on Christians in which three people were killed and several houses gutted.

The Sangh Parivar, it is believed, called off its Christmas bandh based on the assurances from the government that Nayak would be arrested. "It was one of our demands and we have been given to understand that the process is on," a senior BJP leader said.

CID Inspector General of Police Arun Ray said the murder of Saraswati was the result of a conspiracy hatched soon after the December 2007 riots. "It was a thorough professional job. The initial plan was hatched by someone else. The actual planning to kill Saraswati was done by a separate group while another group trained the group of killers. One group did not know what the other group was doing. Our challenge is to link up the evidence and present a case before the court that would lead to convictions," said Ray. The police have already arrested seven people, including some Maoists, for the murder.

Nayak, a former IAS officer, was once short-listed for the post of Union cabinet secretary during the Deve Gowda regime.

He could not make it to the post but in 2004, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha on a Congress ticket. In Kandhamal, he is known as the protector of churches and Pano (Dalit) Christians.

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