Jailed Maoist accused in VHP leader’s killing appeals Odisha CM for rehabilitation

Duna Keshav Rao, the alleged mastermind in the Laxmanananda Saraswati murder case, urges chief minister Naveen Patnaik to rehabilitate him under the state’s policy of bringing Left Wing Extremists (LWE) into the mainstream.

india Updated: Aug 21, 2017 11:15 IST
Debabrata Mohanty
Debabrata Mohanty
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
Maoist,Laxmanananda Saraswati murder case,Vishwa Hindu Parishad
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik.(PTI File Photo)

A top Maoist leader, an accused in several cases of violence including the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Laxmanananda Saraswati in June 2008, has written to Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik asking him to rehabilitate him under the state’s policy of bringing Left Wing Extremists (LWE) into the mainstream.

Duna Keshav Rao, the alleged mastermind in the Saraswati murder case, led a 40-member team to the VHP leader’s ashram at Jalespeta in Kandhamal district and gunned him and four of his disciples down on August 23, 2008. Saraswati’s killing led to the worst-ever riot in Odisha’s history.

Rao, who was a member of the now-defunct Odisha State Organising Committee of CPI (Maoist) headed by Sabyasachi Panda and was also known as Azad, also played a key role in the attack on the police armoury in Nayagarh in February 2008 among others.

Rao is an accused in at least 10 cases in Odisha and has been under judicial custody since June 2011. While Odisha police were looking for him, Rao surrendered before the Andhra Pradesh government in May 2011.

Now lodged at Jharpara jail in Bhubaneswar, Rao has said in his letter to the chief minister he has gone through the “worst social, mental, and economic agony” of his life in last six years and lost all hope for a timely completion of the trial in all the cases he has been named as a suspect.

“As a transformed person, I had taken the toughest decision of my life facing life threats from Maoist movement with the hope in the system that it will welcome me back to the mainstream society, which was short-lived, and to my shock and dismay, I am once again thrown into the vicious circle. Was it my mistake that I chose the right path and wanted to come back to the mainstream of the society?” Rao asked in his June 2017 petition, a copy of which is with the Hindustan Times.

The Maoist, a native of Nalla Bodduluru village in Andhra Pradesh’s Srikakulam district, is now facing trial in the Saraswati murder case under several sections of the Indian Penal Code and arms act.

“If people like me, who have hope and faith in the legal system and the government, are trapped and left to linger behind bars with no one even responding to the appeals for justice, what kind of message the system wants to give? The very motive and purpose of the government initiative of the LWE surrender and rehabilitation have failed when people like me are subject to false cases and put again behind bars,” he said.

He also requested bail in all the 10 cases in the district and sessions court in Nayagarh and Gajapati lodged between 2012 and 2016 and completion of the trials in all the cases within six months. He also pleaded for no arrest in the future in fake cases.

Rao said after he surrendered the Andhra Pradesh government gave him Rs 10 lakh under the LWE rehabilitation policy, but his dream of returning to mainstream remains unfulfilled.

“On June 1, 2011, the Odisha police on paper showed that they have arrested me in Bhubaneswar city and implicated me in different cases which is nothing but a trap,” he said.

Odisha has a surrender-cum-rehabilitation policy that has divides the Maoists into Category 1, Category 2-A, and Category 2-B. Cadres such as the state committee members, regional committee members, central committee members, and politburo members come under Category 1 and area commanders, sub-zonal commanders and zonal commanders are placed in Category 2-A. The lowly Dalam come under Category 2-B.

If a Category 1 Maoist surrenders they get a payment of Rs 2.5 lakh and the reward money announced on their name and those in Category 2 get Rs 1.5 lakh as well as the reward money. They also get Rs 35,000 for surrendering with arms and 4 decimal of homestead land.

Rao, who studied up to Class 10 at Haripuram and Mandasa villages in Srikakulam district joined the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) People’s War or People’s War Group in 1990. He worked in Uddanam area of Srikakulam in various capacities till 1997. He also worked as the deputy commander of Yellavaram Dalam of People’s War Group.

Later, he was promoted as the deputy commander of Basdhara Divisional Committee of Andhra-Orissa Border Special Zonal Committee of CPI(Maoist).

Odisha director general of police KB Singh did not respond to the calls and text messages for a comment on Rao’s plea.

But senior police officials who are well-versed with the surrender and rehabilitation policy of the government said there is nothing in the rule books that ensure amnesty from criminal cases.

“As Azad has heinous cases against him, he will have to face trial. But, he does have a right to faster trial,” said an officer.

First Published: Aug 21, 2017 11:15 IST