12 Orissa districts in grip of communal violenceSeptember 1st, 2008 - 1:32 pm ICT by IANS
Bhubaneswar, Sep 1 (IANS) The communal violence that engulfed nine Orissa districts following the Aug 23 murder of a Hindu leader has spread to three more districts, forcing authorities to deploy additional security personnel, an official said Monday.”Security forces had been deployed in nine districts since Aug 23 but policemen are now being deployed in an additional three districts,” Inspector General of Police Pradeep Kapur told IANS.
However, Kapur did not disclose the names of the three districts in which the forces will be deployed.
Security forces had already been deployed in Bolangir, Bargarh, Kandhamal, Gajapati, Ganjam, Koraput, Rayagada, Bhadrak and Kendrapada districts to curb the violence, which has claimed 14 lives.
A curfew has been clamped on all major towns in Kandhamal district and in Jeypore town in Koraput district.
Media reports said six churches and some houses had been burnt in Boriguma area of Koraput district and in some places in Rayagada district Sunday.
Director General of Police Gopal Chandra Nanda, however, said “only three or four churches had been set on fire”.
Fresh violence was also reported from the troubled district of Kandhamal where mobs set fire to some churches and houses Sunday evening. The incidents occurred in Bataguda and Parampanga area.
District collector of Kandhamal Krishan Kumar said two houses were burnt by a mob at Bataguda but he was not sure if there was any violence in Parampanga.
The state has been on the boil since the evening of Aug 23, when Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, a member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) central advisory committee, and four others were killed by suspected Maoist guerrillas at his Jalespata ashram in Kandhamal.
Saraswati was leading a campaign against cow slaughter and religious conversion in the communally sensitive Kandhamal district - which with a population of around 600,000 including 150,000 Christians has witnessed numerous clashes between Hindus and Christians in the past.
Radical Hindu groups in the state blamed Christians for the crime and alleged that Christians killed Saraswati because he was opposing religious conversion. Christian organisations deny these allegations.
Orissa is not new to communal violence between Hindus and Christians.
On Jan 22, 1999, Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons, 10-year-old Philip and six-year-old Timothy, were burnt alive by a Hindu radical mob in their vehicle in Keonjhar district.