Bhubaneswar, Aug 24: Renewing calls for the arrest of those involved in the murder of a Hindu leader and his four aides in Odisha's Kandhamal district five years ago, a senior leader of opposition BJP began a fast-unto-death, police said on Saturday.
Ashok Sahu, a former Assam-cadre Indian Police Service (IPS) officer and Bharatiya Janata Party leader launched the silent and passive hunger strike at Phulbani, district headquarters of Kandhamal, a senior district police official said.
"I had written a letter to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik a week ago, reminding him of the written assurance he had given to the people a few months after the brutal murders in Jalespata village in Kandhamal district Aug 23, 2008," Sahu said, before going on fast.
The chief minister had asserted, at the time, that his government was commitment to solving the crime expeditiously, after evidence against the culprits was gathered.
I had given the government a one-week deadline for the arrest of all those involved in the murders. The deadline has elapsed. Since the government did nothing, I am forced to go for a silent and passive protest, Sahu told a news agency over telephone.
"I am ready to sacrifice my life for the cause" he said.
Five years is a long time to bring the killers to book. The killers and the conspirators behind these brutal murders are still at large, he said.
Kandhamal, about 200 km from the state capital, witnessed widespread communal violence after the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader and saint Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram.
The crime branch of the state police arrested seven people in connection with the crime in 2008, and a chargesheet against them was filed the following year.
Sahu, however, said the main accused and all those who conspired in the killings are still at large.
At least 38 people were killed and more than 25,000 Christians were forced to flee their homes in 2008 after their houses were attacked by mobs in Kandhamal.
The violence followed the killing of the 82-year-old Saraswati.