Violence returned to Orissa’s Kandhamal district when suspected Naxalites shot and killed Prabhat Panigrahi, a local RSS leader, in Rudiguma village, 330 km from Bhubaneswar, on Thursday.
According to the police, it appears to be a revenge killing for Panigrahi’s alleged role in the Kandhamal riots. His name figured in the hit list released by the Naxals after the district was rocked by anti-Christian violence following the murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati in August 2008.
Kandhamal SP Praveen Kumar told HT: “Panigrahi was associated with the RSS. He was arrested for his alleged involvement in the communal violence but was released on bail on March 14.” Since his release, apprehending danger to his life, he had been spending each night at a different place. On Thursday, he was in Rudiguma village. At about 2.00 am, around 15-20 armed Naxals tried to break open the door of the house Panigrahi had taken shelter in. He tried to escape but “the Maoists shot him down,” a police official said. The assailants left behind posters in the name of CPI-Maoist that said: “All those who misuse religion to incite communal riots and interfere in the dietary habits (eg., oppose beef eating) of the local people will meet the fate of Saraswati.”
Tension ran high in the area after the murder. Angry villagers, demanding security, did not allow the body to be taken for post-mortem. The district administration defused the situation after assuring that they would be provided security.