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VHP leader rejected security despite Maoist threats: former cop

Source: PTI
September 22, 2009 19:12 IST
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Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, whose killing last year had triggered riots, had rejected the police's request for deployment of security personnel within the campus of Jalespeta ashram on the grounds that it would not suit its atmosphere.

This was stated by Nikhil Kumar Kanodia, the then Kandhamal superintendent, before the inquiry commission probing the killing of Saraswati and four others on August 23, and incidents of violence in its aftermath.

"We wanted to keep armed guards for patrolling-cum protection duty for Saraswati and unarmed guards within the ashram campus for elaborate safety measures. But, it was straightway rejected by Saraswati," Kanodia said in his affidavit to the one-man judicial commission headed by Justice S C Mohapatra.

Kanodia, who was suspended from duty after the killing of Saraswati, also informed the inquiry commission that he had wanted post security inside the premises of Jalespeta ashram in Kandhamal as it was located in a secluded place.

However, this could not be done due to "total non-cooperation" of Saraswati, he said.

On the day of the killing, Kanodia said a police officer from nearby Tumudibandha police station had discussed with Saraswati on the necessity of augmenting security in view of a threat letter from one 'Pahadi Brunda'.

"He (the police officer) had asked Saraswati to allow deployment of armed police personnel inside the ashram." Unfortunately Saraswati flatly turned down the proposal.

"He took the whole matter in a very casual manner and avoided further discussion over it," Kanodia said, adding that though adequate security arrangements were made for protection of Saraswati, those were not sufficient to repeal a Maoist attack.

Replying to a question, the former SP said the personal security officer attached to Saraswati was not present when the attackers sprayed bullets on the monk and others at Jalespeta ashram.

"Had I been allowed to continue in Kandhamal, with my background and experience, I could have tackled the situation in the shortest possible time as I did during the month of January 2008 immediately after joining," he told the commission while replying a question on the police action in the aftermath of killing.

About 40 people were killed and many houses and churches were burnt in the ethno-communal violence in Kandhamal in the aftermath of the killing of Saraswati.
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