Fresh violence in Orissa over Dussehra celebrations, 10 injured

October 10th, 2008 - 3:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Oct 10 (IANS) In fresh violence in Orissa, 10 people were injured, two critically, as groups of Hindus and Christians clashed over the celebration of Dussehra in Malkangiri district, police said Friday. The clash took place late Thursday in Podia village of Malkangiri, some 750 km from here, police said.

“Ten people were injured in the clash, two of them critically,” district superintendent of police Satish Kumar Gajbhiye told IANS by phone.

According to village sources, 12 Hindus and five Christians were injured in the clashes.

Orissa has been witnessing anti-Christian attacks since the killing of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and four others at his ashram in Kandhamal district Aug 23. The violence has left at least 35 people dead and rendered thousands homeless in the district.

Although no fresh violence has been reported in Kandhamal in the past seven days, on Wednesday some houses were set on fire by miscreants in the neighbouring district of Boudh.

Police forces have been deployed in Podia village in Malkangiri to prevent further clashes.

Podia village is a block headquarter with a population of 4,700. Hindus and Christians are in equal number. The village has a few Muslims families too.

Meanwhile, many villages in Kandhamal district wore a deserted look as thousands of Christians who are living in relief camps are refusing to return home.

“At least 13,000 people, mostly Christians, are in government relief camps in Kandhamal district,” a senior police official told IANS.

More than 5,000 Christians are also staying in private relief camps set up by different Christian organisations in and outside the district, including in state capital Bhubaneswar and in Cuttack, he added.

Christians complain they have been threatened by some Hindu groups that they can return only after they become Hindus.

Thousands of Hindus have also fled to the forests to escape arrest by police for rioting.

The total number of people hiding in the forest could be over 10,000 and most of them are Hindus, the police official said.

Police have arrested more than 600 people, mostly Hindus, over the last week. The arrests are still on. Police are raiding village after village and arresting dozens of people every day, he said.

Swarupananda Patra, president of Orissa Minority Forum, said that hundreds of victims of the minority community have migrated to other states.

On the other hand, Subash Chouhan, one of the national coordinators of the Bajrang Dal, said tribals are deserting homes because police are arresting “innocent people”.

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 mob in their vehicle in Keonjhar district.

But officials admit that the violence the state witnessed since Aug 23 is one of the worst.

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