The Padampur subdivision in Bargarh district of Orissa is a perennially drought-hit area. Poor and desperate, it was never known for violence.
But on Monday, mobs led by the VHP and BJP cadres protesting against Swami Laxmanananda’s killing in Kandhamal by masked gunmen, torched five churches and other institutions managed by Christian missionaries in a systematic manner.
They also beat up sub-divisional police officer Gourachandra Mohapatra and eight other policemen and torched a police jeep. Their brutality was at its worst at the Missionary Orphan Centre at Khuntpali, just 5 km from Padampur. They attacked the home while Father Eddie and 18 inmates were having their lunch.
The mob assaulted Father Eddie, locked up the home and torched it. By the time police rescued him, Rajni Majhi, a 19-year-old inmate, and three students of Padampur College had been charred to death. “I cannot recount what happened,” a traumatised Father Eddie said later.
Trinath Sabar (11), one of the inmates, said, “I jumped out of the window with others to save my life.” Padampur sub-collector Prabhat Kumar Bhoi said all the inmates had been sent to their villages.
However, locals alleged that the police inflated the number of attackers to conceal its failure to control the mobs. Sambalpur DIG YB Khurania, who visited the spot on Tuesday, disagrees. He added that the situation was under control now.