Four killed in Orissa communal violence (Second Lead)

August 26th, 2008 - 9:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Aug 26 (IANS) Communal tension escalated in Orissa Tuesday, three days after the killing of a Hindu group leader, as Hindus and Christians clashed in Kandhamal district, resulting in the deaths of four people in a gun battle. Curfew has been extended to more areas of the district.Hindu and Christian villagers of Barakhama village in Kandhamal, 340 km from here, clashed and fought gun battles, leaving four people, including a woman dead.

Police rushed more forces to the area and managed to bring the situation under control.

Meanwhile, sporadic incidents of arson attacks on churches were reported as well as attacks on vehicles in the district. The authorities have extended curfew to nine areas in the district from three.

A woman was burnt alive Monday after mobs torched an orphanage in Khuntpali village in Bargarh district, about 300 km from here, and a paralytic patient was lynched and also burnt in Rupa village in Kandhamal on Sunday night.

On Monday several churches were burnt and rail and road traffic impacted during a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) sponsored statewide shutdown to protest the killing of a leader Swami Laxmananand Saraswati and four others on Saturday at his Jalespata ashram.

Police and paramilitary forces held flag marches in troubled towns of the district Tuesday.

Prohibitory orders under section 144, which prohibits the assembly of five or more people, have been clamped across Kandhamal.

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.

Radical Hindu groups in the state blamed the Church for the crime and alleged that Christians killed Saraswati because he was opposing religious conversion. Christian organisations have denied these allegations.

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

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