VHP, Bajrang Dal leaders barred from visiting Kandhamal

October 18th, 2008 - 12:24 am ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Oct 17 (IANS) A group of senior Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal leaders were Friday prevented by police from visiting Kandhamal district in Orissa where the Aug 23 killing of a VHP leader triggered widespread anti-Christian attacks, officials said.The VHP’s all India joint general secretary Shyamji Gupta, state secretary Gauri Prasad Rath and Bajrang Dal national convenor Subash Chouhan were among those prevented from visiting Kandhamal, police said.

On Aug 23, VHP leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides were killed by unknown gun men at his Jaleshpata ashram in Kandhamal.

“Shamji Gupta was closely associated with late Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and he wanted to visit the Jaleshpata ashram. But police stopped us and did not allow us to advance,” Bajrang Dal leader Subash Chouhan told IANS.

“Police asked us to leave the district when Gupta-ji was speaking with some lawyers in Phulbani (district headquarters of Kandhamal). A police party escorted us and forcibly drove us out of the district,” he said.

“When the administration and the government are allowing leaders of Christian organisations and political parties to hold marches and allowing them to visit parts of the district, it is unfortunate that they prevented us,” he said.

A senior police official said the leaders were prevented from entering Kandhamal as the situation is not conducive for them to go there.

At least 36 people, mostly Christians, were killed and thousands of homes burnt in the district during the violence. More than 20,000 people, mainly Christians, have taken shelter in relief camps after their houses were torched by rampaging Hindu mobs.

Although there has been no violence in Kandhamal since the past two weeks, tension continued in the region over religious conversion.

Night curfew is in force in nine towns and prohibitory orders under section 144, that bans the gathering of four and more people in one place, is in force across the district.

More than 600 people, including activists of the Bajrang Dal, have been arrested for involvement in the violence.

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