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BJP legislator gives himself up

Ajay Kumar Singh, Bhubaneswar

March 10, 2011

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A state legislator convicted of murder following 2008 anti-Christian riots in Orissa has surrendered before a local court more than a month after the Supreme Court withdrew his bail. Bharatiya Janata Party legislator Manoj Kumar Pradhan surrendered yesterday before a fast track court in Orissa’s Phulbani district. Pradhan was sentenced to seven years hard labor by the fast track court in June, 2010 for the murder of Parikhita Digal of Budedipada. He represents G Udaygiri constituency in Kandhamal district, which was the focal point of the anti-Christian riots. After his conviction, Orissa High Court granted Pradhan bail, pending an appeal, but Digal’s widow, Kanakrekha, challenged the decision in the Supreme Court. The top court revoked Pradhan’s bail on January 25, according to Kanakrekha’s lawyer Dibakar Parichha. He said Pradhan is thought to have been the mastermind behind the Kandhamal riots and has been accused of involvement in 12 murders. Catholic lay leader John Dayal says the legislator has had political and official support “to have remained free for as long as he has.” “It is good that he has at last surrendered. But it remains a mystery how he managed to avoid arrest for more than a month after the Supreme Court’s decision,” Dayal said. Kanakrekha Digal is now confident that justice will be done. “I am still in hiding and cannot go back to my village. His presence was threatening and intimidating,” she said. The Kandhamal violence claimed more than 100 lives, displaced 54,000 people and saw 6,500 Christian houses ransacked or destroyed. IE13600.1644
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