7 convicted in Swami Laxmanananda murder case
Five years after the brutal killing of VHP leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, the court of additional district and sessions judge on Monday convicted all the seven accused. Judge R K Tosh would pronounce the quantum of sentence on October 3.
They have been convicted for murder, criminal conspiracy, rioting and possessing illegal arms. The court will also decide the fate of two more accused, including a hardcore Maoist Udaya, on Tuesday.
Those found guilty are Duryadhan Sonamajhi of Badegaon village, Munda Badamajhi of Durungipadi village, Bijay Kumar Sanseth of Talamadhuguda, Budhadev Naik of Kilanga village, Bhaskar Sunamajhi of Katiguda, Sanatana Badamajhi of Lambabadi and Garanath Chalanseth of Sortul village.
On the night of August 23 in 2008, Laxmanananda was killed while celebrating Janmashtami at his ashram at Jalespata under Tumudibandha police station. The assailants also gunned down four of his followers Amrutanandaji, Mata Bhaktimayee, Kishor Baba and a guest Purendra Ganda.
The killing triggered communal riots in the Kandhamal district and strained the ties between the two ruling allies, the BJD and BJP, later resulting in the breakup. More than 38 people died, 600 villages were ransacked, 54,000 people left homeless and 295 churches attacked. Around 800 criminal cases were registered in different police stations of the district. Of this, chargesheet has been filed in 500-odd cases. In half of the cases, the trial has been concluded with several convictions.
The case of Laxmanananda was probed by the Crime Branch. In its first chargesheet submitted on January 30, 2009, the CB named seven accused, who were convicted, on Monday. Later, on May 4, 2011, chargesheets were submitted against seven more, including dreaded Maoist leader Azad alias Duna Keshava Rao, Udaya alias P Ramarao and Sabyasachi Panda.
Of the seven, four are still at large. Fate of Udaya and Somanath Dandasena will be decided by the court on Tuesday.
Azad will be tried after the Nayagarh SDJM Court completes trial in the 2008 Nayagarh district armoury attack in which he is the prime accused. The elusive Panda, who was stated to be the brain behind the incident, has broken away from CPI(Maoist) and now heads a splinter group called Odisha Maovadi Party.
The case was first tried in a fast-track court and then transferred to the court of Additional District & Sessions Judge. The court relied on evidences of 35 prosecution witnesses.
“It was an extremely sensational case and the trial was being closely monitored by the CB whose Holding Investigation Officer used to camp in Kandhamal regularly. It is a matter of professional satisfaction,” ADG of CB B K Sharma said.