Orissa communal violence: Toll rises to eight (Third Lead)

August 27th, 2008 - 1:18 am ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Aug 26 (IANS) Eight people have been killed in communal clashes in Kandhamal district of Orissa following the killing of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader three days ago, officials said late Tuesday, even as curfew was extended to more areas.“We have recovered two bodies from Tiangia village. The two people died in a mob attack Monday,” Kandhamal district collector Kishan Kumar told IANS. “We also rescued a man who has sustained critical injuries,” he said.

“We have also rescued about 100 people including women and children from the same village whose houses mobs burnt during the shutdown,” he added.

Violence was triggered by the killing of Swami Laxmananand Saraswati, a member of the VHP central advisory committee, and four others Saturday evening at his Jalespata ashram by suspected Maoist guerrillas.

Communal tension escalated in the state Tuesday. 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.

Sporadic incidents of arson and attacks on churches were reported in the district.

Authorities 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 VHP-sponsored statewide shutdown to protest the killing of the Swami.

Police and paramilitary forces held flag marches in troubled towns of the district Tuesday. Orders under section 144, which prohibits the assembly of four 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.

Orissa is often in the news for clashes 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 Hindu radical mobs in their vehicle in Keonjhar district.

The trouble in Kandhamal had escalated in the early 1990s when the Kui, Kuvi and Kuee groups were added to the Kandhas in the Scheduled Tribes list.

The district has witnessed numerous clashes in the past over attempts of conversion and re-conversion of tribals and Panas by both Christians and Hindus.

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