Curfew, flag marches in tense Orissa towns

August 26th, 2008 - 11:59 am ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Aug 26 (IANS) Curfew was clamped in Orissa’s communally tense Kandhamal district and police and paramilitary forces held flag marches in troubled towns Tuesday, a day after two people were burnt alive and several churches were damaged by mobs during a statewide shutdown called by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to protest the killing of one of its leaders.Prohibitory orders under section 144, which prohibits the assembly of five or more people, have been clamped across Kandhamal district. “Besides we have imposed curfew in three places in the district,” Inspector General of Police Pradeep Kapoor told IANS.

Curfew has been imposed in Baliguda, Phulbani and Tumudibandh towns and police and paramilitary forces held flag marches in the trouble areas in the morning, he said.

Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, a member of VHP’s central advisory committee, and four other people were killed at his Jalespata ashram in Kandhamal district, 340 km from here, Saturday evening after more than 30 suspected Maoist rebels opened fire on them, according to police officials.

Saraswati was leading a campaign against cow slaughter and religious conversion in the communally sensitive district - which with a population of around 600,000, including 150,000 Christians, has witnessed numerous clashes between Hindus and Christians in the past.

However, Hindu groups in the state blamed the church for the crime and alleged that Christians had killed Saraswati because he was opposing religious conversion in the region. Christian organisations have denied these allegations.

Saraswati’s supporters have been holding protests since Saturday night, blocking trains and vehicles.

On Monday, mobs attacked churches, torched vehicles and stopped rail and road traffic across the state during the VHP shutdown. A 22-year-old woman was killed and a church official badly injured when angry mobs burnt down an orphanage in Khuntpali village in Barhgarh district, 300 km from here.

Most government and private offices had witnessed thin attendance as thousands staged demonstrations and burnt tyres in several villages, towns and on national highways.

The state government had Sunday ordered a judicial probe into the killings and announced compensation for the victims. Authorities also constituted a special police team to investigate the crime.

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