Maoist leader Azad to be quizzed in Saraswati murder case

Bhubaneswar: A day after top Maoist leader Duna Keshava Rao alias Azad`s surrender in Andhra Pradesh, the state government on Thursday said it would seek his remand as many cases, including the one relating to the killing of VHP`s Laxmanananda Saraswati, were pending against him in the state.

Crime Branch of Police meanwhile, framed the charge sheet against 14 persons, including eight Maoist leaders in the Saraswati killing case. Though top Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda had claimed responsibility for killing Saraswati, police investigation subsequently showed Azad had executed the crime, a senior police officer said.

"Crime Branch of Orissa Police will soon move in this direction to bring Azad for interrogation," Home Secretary U N Behera told reporters. The Crime Branch had on May 9 framed the charge sheet against Azad and Sabyasachi Panda in the case involving the killing of Saraswati and four others in 2008.

Saraswati`s killing had sparked largescale communal violence in Kandhamal claiming at least 38 lives. BJP state vice-president Ashok Sahu also demanded immediate remand of Azad for interrogation to ascertain the "hidden" mastermind behind Saraswati`s killing incident.Azad, a member of CPI (Maoist) Orissa State Organising Committee (OSOC), was also involved in the attack on armoury and police station in Nayagarh in 2008 and attack on jail and police station at R Udayagiri in Gajapati district in 2006, the Home Secretary said.

He said Orissa Police had been tracking the movement of Azad for some months and his associate Runita Badamajhi alias Pramila was rounded up by police on May 8. Thereafter, Azad moved to Andhra Pradesh and surrendered there, he said. Behera, however, rejected the allegation that Azad could manage to escape from police net here on May 8. "I do not know why Azad preferred to surrender before Andhra Pradesh police," the Home Secretary said replying a question.

He also rejected the charge of lack of coordination between the intelligence wing and the state police. Orissa Police were on high alert in several sensitive places like Malkangiri, Koraput, G Udayagiri and Daringbadi in Kandhamal district, Mohana in Gajapati district, Rourkela and also in Saranda jungle neighbouring to Jharkhand, he said.

"In all these places, central para-military force jawans are deployed and state police is alert," he said not ruling out the possibility of top Maoist leaders` movement in the state capital in disguise.