Orissa tense again as mobs kill cop, torch police station (Lead)

September 16th, 2008 - 11:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Sep 16 (IANS) Orissa’s riot-hit Kandhamal district was gripped by tension once again Tuesday after an armed mob of about 500 torched a police station and killed a policeman, officials said.The mob torched Gochapada police station and set fire to several vehicles late Monday night and also shot dead a policeman. A police outpost in the same area was also ransacked in the wee hours of Tuesday, a police official said.

The violence comes two days after security forces fired at a crowd in Krutamgarh, about 100 km away, to prevent them from attacking Christian residents, officials said. Three people were killed Saturday night though some reports said the death toll from the police firing was six.

On Monday night, the ire seemed to spill over to the police personnel in Gochapada with crowds carrying guns, swords and sticks ransacking the police station. The mob also torched several vehicles, including a police jeep and a motorcycle.

Police said that the situation had been brought under control Tuesday, but added that tension prevailed in the affected areas.

District Superintendent of Police S. Praveen Kumar said that security had been beefed up at all police stations in the district and patrolling had been intensified.

“We have formed a special investigating team to probe the latest violence and our officials are carrying out extensive search operations to nab the culprits,” Kumar told IANS over telephone.

With the death of the police personnel in Gochapada, the number of people killed since the Aug 23 murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswati has gone up to 25.

The murder of the VHP leader by unidentified gunmen in his Jalespata Ashram in Kandhamal district triggered communal clashes in which several churches were attacked, thousands rendered homeless and 25 killed.

Police suspect Maoist rebels killed Saraswati but some Hindu groups blamed Christians for the murder and went on the rampage. Christian groups have repeatedly denied the allegation.

The prohibitory order that bans the gathering of four or more people that was clamped across the district Aug 23 is still in force. Besides, curfew is imposed during the night in most towns of the district, officials said.

The state government has, meanwhile, requested the central government to extend the deployment of paramilitary forces presently working in the state till the end of October.

“We want the force because polls for 93 local urban bodies will be held on Sep 19 and the Dussehra festival will be held in October,” a state home department official said.

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.

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