Rioters set fire to houses in Orissa (Lead)

October 9th, 2008 - 6:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Oct 9 (IANS) A group of unidentified people set fire to seven houses of Dalit Hindus in Orissa, police said Thursday, but it was not immediately clear whether the incident was linked to the communal violence in the neighbouring Kandhamal district.The houses were torched late Wednesday night at Lamsaripali village in Boudh district, some 300 km from here, additional district magistrate Mihir Chand Mallick told IANS.

“Officials and police have rushed to the village to provid relief. Besides we have set up a peace committee,” he added.

Communal clashes between Hindus and Christians have killed at least 35 people and rendered thousands of people homeless in Kandhamal district.

The violence erupted after the Aug 23 killing of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and four others at his ashram in Kandhamal.

Blaming Christians for the murders, thousands of rampaging Hindus burnt Christian homes and churches. Christian groups have repeatedly denied the charge.

Meanwhile, life is limping back to normal in Kandhamal district.

“There have been no incidents of violence in the past six days in the district,” district superintendent of police S. Praveen Kumar told IANS Thursday.

The police this week arrested three people linked to Maoists who are reportedly behind Saraswati’s killing.

The biggest challenge before the administration is to ensure that the people in the relief camps return home. Some have gone back, Kumar said.

At least 23,000 people had taken shelter in the relief camps in the district. With many returning to their homes, the number has come down to 15,000, an official said.

However, Christian organisations say that large numbers of their community have come to state capital Bhubaneswar and Cuttack and taken shelter in churches as well as private and government relief camps.

“They are not willing to return home,” Swarupananda Patra, president of the Orissa Minority Forum, told IANS.

The government has deployed more than 5,000 police and paramilitary personnel in Kandhamal, where prohibitory orders are still in force across the district and night curfew is in force in nine towns.

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