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Churches attacked, woman burnt alive

The VHP-sponsored bandh, to protest the killing of their leader, witnessed attacks on churches and missionary schools across Orissa, report S Pattnaik & S Mohapatra.

india Updated: Aug 26, 2008 08:43 IST

A 45-year-old woman, employed as a cook in a missionary school in Orissa’s Bargarh district, was burnt to death on Monday when the school was set on fire allegedly by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) protesters. The pastor running the school was also injured.

The VHP-sponsored bandh, to protest the killing of their leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four disciples, witnessed attacks on churches and missionary schools across the state, reminiscent of the Graham Staines case in January 1999.<b1>

"We are afraid to move out. Some Christians staying in institutions or bungalows are hiding in jungles or villages," said Bishop of Sambalpur Lucas Kerketta, whose jurisdiction includes Bargarh. "We have two to three policemen, and they can’t control a big crowd… we have asked for more security."

In state capital Bhubaneswar, protesters stoned a church; churches in Kandhamal, Bargarh, Koraput Deogarh districts were also attacked.

Said Balasore Bishop Reverend Thomas Thiruthalil, chairman of Orissa Bishop’s Council: "These are planned attacks on minorities. We need police protection; minorities should be able to move freely and their rights to worship must be protected."

Kandhamal remained tense as the Swami was cremated at his Ashram.