Communal violence continues in Orissa, 2,400 buildings burnt

September 2nd, 2008 - 3:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Sep 2 (IANS) Communal fires continue to rage in Orissa’s Kandhamal district with reports of homes and prayer houses being burnt by those protesting last week’s murder of a Hindu leader, an official said Tuesday. “As per the latest government assessment, at least 2,400 buildings, including prayer houses and schools, have been either damaged or burnt,” Kandhamal district collector Krishan Kumar told IANS.

He said sporadic incidents of violence had been reported from some villages under Tikabali police station despite the imposition night curfew in the entire district.

Curfew was also clamped in Jaypore town in Koraput district after clashes between Christians and Hindus, a police official said.

The communal violence erupted on 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.

The death toll in the violence has gone up to 16 even as the government deployed police and paramilitary forces in 12 of the state’s 30 districts and imposed curfew in Kandhamal.

Due to the violence, thousands of villagers in Kandhamal district fled to nearby forests. Soem of them are now returning and taking shelter in the relief camps set up by the administration.

“The district administration has set up at least 10 relief centers and 14,500 people are being sheltered there. They are being provided food and medicines,” Krishan Kumar said.

“Fifty percent of the people were brought by us, while the others came on their own. Today (Tuesday) we rescued 20 children from a Christian home at Phulbani since they were feeling unsafe. A police party has gone to Raikhola village to rescue 25 old people who informed us that they want to take shelter in the relief centers,” he added.

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.

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