‘Wanted’ Sahu campaigning next to Kandhamal police HQ | india | Hindustan Times
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‘Wanted’ Sahu campaigning next to Kandhamal police HQ

The Kandhamal police may have claimed that Ashok Sahu, BJP candidate for the Kandhamal seat, is absconding, but Sahu himself, busy campaigning in his constituency, has denied it. Soumyajit Pattnaik reports.

india Updated: Apr 13, 2009 00:53 IST
Soumyajit Pattnaik

The Kandhamal police may have claimed that Ashok Sahu, BJP candidate for the Kandhamal seat, is absconding, but Sahu himself, busy campaigning in his constituency, has denied it. An FIR was lodged ahainst Sahu on Friday for allegedly making an inflammatory speech on April 5.

HT met Sahu on Saturday at the Hill View Hotel in Phulbani, the headquarters of Kandhamal district, discussing poll strategy with his workers. The hotel is barely a km away from the district’s police headquarters.

Sahu continued his campaign again on Sunday morning at Kantamal, in adjoining Boudh district, which is part of his constituency.

“If the police come here, I will surrender,” he said. “It is up to them to arrest me.” But there was no trace of the police, barring the single armed cop providing him security.

“I’m moving the high court to get anticipatory bail,” said Sahu. “I cannot stop campaigning midway. This FIR is a conspiracy by the Naveen Patnaik government to silence me as my meetings have evoked better response from the voters here than the chief minister’s when he had come.”

Sahu, a retired 1975 batch Assam cadre IPS officer, had been controversial even while in service. He was twice suspended in the 1990s, the first time for criticising the state government’s handling of anti-militancy operations against the United Liberation Front of Assam; the second, for claiming Assam police were inefficient and harboured criminals.

Returning home to Kandhamal after resigning prematurely from the service in 1999, Sahu became president of the Hindu Jagran Samukhya, a front organisation of the RSS in the state. In Orissa, he first hit the headlines for his provocative comments about the killing of Swami Laxmananda Saraswati in August last year, following which there were widespread attack on local Christians. Around 40 people were killed while another 22,000 took shelter in relief camps.

With Maoists being blamed for the swami’s killing, Sahu held a press conference to declare that local churches were harbouring Maoists and using them to convert poor Hindu villagers. He claimed the murder plot was hatched at a specific church in the locality, which he named, on a specific date, attended by many local Christian leaders. When the church sued him for defamation, he said, “I will submit my reply in court.”

In the latest controversy, Sahu is alleged to have made objectionable statements in a speech on Phulbani’s outskirts about Christians in general, and the Archbishop of Bhubaneshwar-Cuttack, Raphaeal Cheenath and Congress Rajya Sabha MP R. K. Nayak in particular. “The CDs of Sahu’s speech have been submitted to the police,” said R.S. Mohapatra, Raikia tehsildar.

Sahu, however, contested the facts relating to the FIR. “I have been served a show cause notice relating to a pamphlet which I allegedly distributed at a public meeting. I have neither printed nor published this particular pamphlet. It has nothing to do with me.”