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Indian Express, New Delhi, 1-4-2009

Debabrata Mohanty

BJP faces fire over nomination to riot accused

Bhubaneshwar: The Christian community here as well as political parties have condemned the BJP´s decision to nominate Kandhamal riot- accused Manoj Pradhan as the party candidate from G Udaygiri Assembly constituency of the riot-hit district.

Pradhan, a Kui tribal who is the main accused and alleged masterming behind last August´s communal riots in Kandhamal, is now lodged in G Udaygiri jail. Police officials said he has been booked in 10 cases, of which seven are related to murder during last year´s riot. Pradhan, a resident of Patalisahi village, filed his nominations last week.

All India Christian Council head John Dayal said he was not surprised by the nomination. "I was expecting that BJP would play the communal card in Kandhamal. Only the BJP can have the temerity to add salt to the wounds of the riot-hit people. L K Advani should be ashamed that his party is choosing a person accused of murders. BJP has no decency left," he said over phone.

Dayal said BJP´s plan to whip up communal hysteria in Kandhamal is evident from its choosing Hindu Jagaran Sammukhya leader and former IPS officer Ashok Sahu as the candidate for Kandhamal Lok Sabha constituency.

Joseph Kalathil, Vicar-General of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Diocese, said Christians in the state were very concerned. "It is very unfortunate. He is very notorious in Raikia area of Kandhamal," Kalathil said.

The BJD also came down heavily on its former alliance partner. "This amply proves their involvement in the riots. Our party will make it an issue during campaign in Kandhamal," BJD spokesman Damodar Rout said.

However, BJP leaders said the police were trying to fabricate cases against him. "He is not involved in the riots. He is quite popular in that area. Besides, he has not been convicted in any case. So what´s the harm in nominating him?" asked BJP leader Golak Mohapatra.

Police officials in Kandhamal said Pradhan, the 30-something Kandhamal district general secretary of BJP´s youth wing Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, was arrested from a lodge in Berhampur town on the night of October 15. Baliguda sub-divisional police officer Sudha Singh told The Indian Express that of the 10 cases lodged against him in the police stations of Raikia, G Udaygiri and Tikabali, seven were of murder. Singh said Pradhan has not got bail in any of the cases though he has been chargesheeted in six.

In the Raikia police station, Pradhan has seven cases against him, four of which are for murder. "In the first case he was accused of murdering Bikram Nayak, a Christian of Tiangia village while in the second he was allegedly involved in the murder of Trinath Digal of Tiangia. He was also involved in the murder of Dasarath Pradhan and Parikshit Nayak of the same village. All these murders happened on August 25 but were reported to police on August 28," said officer-in- charge R N Barik. "He was also involved in the attack of Raikia police station on September 30 last year, which resulted in the death of three persons," he said.

Landelijke India Werkgroep / India Committee of The Netherlands - April 15, 2009