Senior Journalist demands Padma Award for Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati

Saswat Panigrahi, Delhi based Senior Journalist, Columnist and researcher who has done extensive research on the socio-economic conditions in the conflict zone of Odisha’s Kandhamal, has demanded Padma award for Hindu monk Swami Lakshamanananda Saraswati, who was brutally murdered on the day of Janmashtami in 2008 in his hermitage.

The Padma awards are India’s second, third and fourth largest civilian awards.

Swami Lakshamanananda Saraswati was a social reformer and an anti fraudulent conversion crusader, operating in Odisha’s tribal areas of Kandhamal. Due to his activism and rigorous crusade to protect Hindu and national interests amongst the tribals he had become a major cause of headache for both the missionaries, and the maoists.

Born in 1924 in Anugul district of Odisha, Lakshamanananda Saraswati left home at an early age to become a monk. He practiced spiritual practices in Himalayas. In 1966, he participated in Goraksha (cow protection) movement, which brought him contact with MS Golwalkar, the second Sarsanghchalak of the RSS. It was upon RSS’ request that Swami Lakshamanananda shifted the base of his operations in tribal regions of Kandhamal in Odisha.

Soon, Swami Lakshamanananda began to be perceived as a challenger by the two other forces who were looking to gain a foothold in Kandhamal, the missionaries and maoists. Several attempts were made on the life of Swami Lakshamanananda, and on each occasion, missionary links were found in the conspiracy.

In December 2007, a deadly assault was launched on Swami Lakshamanananda at Daringbadi, the centre of missionary activities in Kandhamal. He narrowly escaped the attack. The attack was allegedly masterminded by Radhakant Nayak, former Congress Rajya Sabha MP and chief of the missionary organisation World Vision.

Following the attack, several calls were made to increase the security of the monk. But the Naveen Patnaik Government failed to act upon it. On 13th of the August, a letter threatening Swami Lakshamanananda circulated amongst Kandhamal district administration and state authorities.

On 22nd of August, Swami Lakshamanananda appealed to the administration to increase his security. A day later on the day of Janmashtami, a band of masked men barged into the hermitage of the monk and killed him along with his four desciples in cold-blooded style.

Six months from the brutal killings, maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda came out to claim responsibility for the crime. He and his two aides, Azad and Uday are currently serving their term in jail. But the admission failed to satisfy all the questions regarding the murder.

Many people have alleged that there was a concentrated attempt by administration to shield missionaries and their role in the crime. Many have even alleged that the conspiracy was jointly hatched by Maoists and missionaries, hinting towards a greater nexus in Kandhamal.

Till date, many questions regarding the murder of Swami Lakshamanananda and his desciples remain unanswered. But with the fresh demand for Padma award for the monk, it is needless to say that the monk and mystery surrounding his demise may again be return back to spotlight.