The Kandhamal district police and crime branch sleuths probing the murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati on August 23 say several clues point to Maoists’ involvement.
The VHP leader's murder was the trigger for the recent communal riots in Orissa.
The fact that the assailants fired from AK-47s has strengthened the Maoist conspiracy theory as it is unlikely that less organised groups have access to such lethal weapons.
The People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) has claimed responsibility. The investigating team says there are three plausible reasons for Maoists killing the VHP margdarshak.
First, they say Maoists must have been unnerved after Saraswati's much-publicised visit to Malkangiri district on April 9. The visit took place despite Naxalite threats.
“The Maoists may not have liked the Swami entering Malkangiri to launch initiatives among tribals, as this would hurt Naxal recruitment,” a senior police official told HT. Second, Naxalites have targetted RSS/VHP leaders as they describe the Salwa Judum phenomenon in neighbouring Chhattisgarh as a “creation of Hindu fascists and capitalists”.
Malkangiri SP Gajbhiye told HT, “When advocate Prabir Das was killed in Malkangiri district few months ago, the police found a letter by the Maoists at the spot which said Das was being killed for his RSS links.”
The third reason could be the Naxalites' failure to make inroads into the strategically-located Kandhamal district. A strong base in the dense jungles of the district would open doors to the coastal plains of Orissa via Ganjam and Nayagarh districts.
A senior police official said: “Maoists were not very successful in recruiting cadres in Kandhamal district as Swami Laxmanananda had a major influence on tribals in the district.”
Another theory is that the murder could be the handiwork of local Maoists without authorisation from higher-ups.