Former Min blames CM for not using CPMF

Bhubaneswar: Senior BJP leader and former minister B B Harichandan on Friday blamed state Home Department headed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for not activating the Central Para-Military Force during the 2008 Kandhamal riot.

As the CPMF remained inactive, the riot spread from one place to another, Harichandan, who was the state Law and Revenue Minister at the time of the communal violence, told the judicial commission of inquiry headed by Justice S C Mohapatra on its second day of hearing.

"Though the CPMF were camping at Tumidibandha, barely 2 km away Jalespeta ashram of Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, the Home Department did not make the force operational," he said.

Harichandan said the CPMF jawans at Tumidibandha had remained inactive as their operation period had expired on July 31, 2008.

"It was the duty of the Chief Minister to extend the operation period of the CPMF by taking up the matter with the Ministry of Home Affairs. But Patnaik did not take any step in this regard," the former minister said.

The riots broke out after the killing of the octogenarian Swami, who was a VHP leader, on the night of August 23.

The former minister was grilled by lawyers representating CPI, a respondent in the case. "Why you did not take up the matter as a minister?" the lawyers asked him.

"As a minister, was it not the collective responsibility to ensure that the riot did not spread?" he was also asked to which Harichandan did not reply.

He was also grilled about his silence after the riot.