'Saraswati was messiah for tribal Hindus in Kandhamal'



Bhubaneswar: Slain VHP leader Laxamananda Saraswati was regarded as a messiah by Hindu tribals but minorities disliked him for his campaign against conversion and cow slaughter, a commission probing his killing was told on Wednesday.

"Saraswati was considered a messiah by Hindus due his activities for protection of cows, halt to religious conversions and protection of tribal rights," Hemant Rao, who was officer-in-charge at Phulbani Sadar police station during last year's riot, told the judicial commission headed by Justice S C Mohapatra.

On the other hand, a section of people, particularly minorities, disliked Saraswati's activities, he said.

"The people in Kandhamal also believed that Hindu religion survived in the district on account of activities of Saraswati," Rao said during cross examination.

Noting that the supporters and followers of Saraswati attacked houses and churches when his body was being taken in procession on August 24, 2008 through Phulbani town, Rao said about 1,000 people had assembled to pay homage to the VHP leader.

"I apprehended sharp reaction from Hindus to Saraswati's killing as they believed that Christians had killed him," Rao said.

This feeling surfaced in December 2007 when Saraswati was attacked on Christmas eve at Daringbadi in Kandhamal.

The police officer said he had registered 20 cases and arrested nine people after getting prima facie involvement in attack and arson on houses and churches. Rao, however, said there was no report relating to religious conversion at the police station.

The officer in his affidavit also used words like 'radicals' and 'mischievous' while describing the followers of Saraswati who went berserk after his killing on August 23, 2008 evening.

"The statement of the field level police officer on the impression of the local people on Saraswati will help me in the probe," Justice Mohapatra said while winding up the day's hearing here.

Bureau Report