Orissa’s Kandhamal wants more paramilitary forces for polls (Lead)

March 1st, 2009 - 2:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, March 1 (IANS) Authorities in Orissa’s Kandhamal district, which witnessed communal violence last year, have sought additional central forces to ensure the smooth conduct of the upcoming assembly and Lok Sabha elections, an official said Sunday.
“We have informed the state government that we need about 12 additional companies of central paramilitary forces during the elections,” district collector Krishan Kumar told IANS.

The Kandhamal district, about 200 km from here, witnessed widespread communal violence after the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram Aug 23.

The assembly and Lok Sabha elections are expected to be held simultaneously in April-May.

At least 38 people were killed in the state and more than 25,000 Christians were forced to flee their homes after their houses were attacked by rampaging mobs.

Soon after the communal violence, at least 40 companies of central paramilitary forces were deployed in the district in phases. Now 19 companies are left in the region, Kumar said.

Although there has been no violence in the region since October, Kumar said the administration wants more Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel deployed for at least a week during the polls as they fear renewal of violence.

“The situation at present is absolutely normal. Only about 1,000 people are left in government relief camps and about 2,500 people are living in transit relief camps near their villages,” he said.

The houses of at least 3,900 families were damaged during the riots and financial assistances has already been given to 3,600, the official said.

About the alleged incidents of forcible re-conversions, Kumar said the administration had received 68 complaints during September and October when the violence was at its peak.

The complainants had alleged that they had been threatened with dire consequences if they didn’t convert from Christianity to Hinduism.

“We have taken actions in all such cases. Some arrests were also made. There have been no fresh complaints since October,” Kumar said.

The state government has set up a fast track court in the district to tackle the cases related to communal violence. The court will start functioning from Sunday.

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