Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati

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Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati (1926–2008), born Shravan Krishna Navami, was a Hindu monk and a highly revered spiritual leader who lived a life dedicated to tribal welfare. The Swami was a native of Gurujanga village in Talcher and born in a pious Brahmin family. Over four decades ago, he left his wife and one year old son to become monk, and moved to Rishikesh in Himalayas.[1] In 1968, He established an Ashram at Chakapada in Kandhamal district of Odisha. Since 1970 he had been involved in social services promoting tribal welfare. He was regarded as a Messiah among Hindu tribals of the area.[2]

He was assassinated along with four disciples allegedly by Maoist insurgents with support from Christian Missionaries.[3][4] On 30 September 2013, a district court convicted seven Christians for the crime.[5]

Attacks[edit]

His work for the upliftment of isolated tribal population and opposition to aggressive proselytizing, had run afoul of several evangelical Christian groups as well as Maoist terrorists. He was severely injured in an attack by a Christian mob on Christmas Eve, 2007.[6] Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati accused the Congress Member Of Parliament and the chief of the missionary organisation, World Vision, Mr Radhakant Nayak for the attack on him. He also alleged that there is a nexus between Maoist terrorist and missionaries. The swami also said that World Vision spent money in India for proselytization, including during the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.[6][7] An Assam-cadre IPS officer (retired) from Odisha, Ashok Sahu, after visiting the Kandhamal district alleged that an NGO, World Vision, patronised by Congress Rajya Sabha member Radhakanta Nayak, had a role in the attack on Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati on December 24.[8]

Swami's claim that he has been attacked 8 times before 2008[9] was corroborated in January 2008 by a fact finding commission, chaired by Additional Advocate General of Rajasthan G.S. Gill. The first attack on the Swami occurred on December 26, 1970.[10]

Assassination[edit]

He was assassinated along with four disciples at his kanyashram (Girls school) at Tumudibandh, about 100 km from Phulbani, the district headquarters of Kandhmal district on the sacred day of Janmashtami. A group of 30-40 armed men surrounded the Ashram. Four of the assailants carried AK-47s and many others had locally made revolvers. Two of the four government provided security guards had gone home to eat. The assailants tied and gagged the two remaining guards. Within minutes of the reaching the crime scene, the district authorities made a statement saying it was suspected Maoists who killed the Swami. The Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda told the private Oriya channels at an undisclosed destination that the Maoists decided to eliminate Saraswati as he was 'spreading social unrest' in the tribal-dominated district.[11] However, Security experts who specialise in left wing extremism disagree that Maoists or left wing extremists could be behind the assassination of the monk.[12][13]

Hundreds of people had gathered en route to pay their last respects to Lakshmanananda. They ended up civil-unrest, rioting, looting and attack of places of worship mostly churches and Hindu-temples.[14]

Subash Chouhan, national co-convener of the Bajrang Dal, refused to accept that the Maoists were responsible, saying "Why all of a sudden so many days after the incident has [Panda] come and spoken to the television channels?"[15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]