Curfew has been lifted in parts of Orissa's troubled Kandhamal district where anti-Christian violence has claimed at least 36 lives over the past seven weeks as normalcy is gradually returning to the region, police said Saturday.
Curfew was imposed in all areas under the district's nine police stations and prohibitory orders under Section 144, which bans the assembly of four or more people in one place, were clamped across Kandhamal after communal riots broke out following the Aug 23 killing of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader and four of his aides.
"We lifted curfew in four police station areas and Section 144 in most parts of the district Friday night as the situation has improved and there has been no violence over the past two weeks," District Collector Krishan Kumar told IANS.
Now prohibitory orders will remain in force only in areas under five police stations and there will be curfew at night in towns in the same areas, he said.
Christians and their places of worship in Kandhamal, some 200 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, have been facing mob attacks since Aug 23, when VHP leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides were killed.
Maoist rebels have claimed responsibility for the murder, but some Hindu groups hold Christians responsible for it, despite repeated denials by Christian organisations. At least 36 people have been killed in the violence and thousands of Christian have been rendered homeless.
More than 20,000 people, most of them Christians, have taken shelter in private and government relief camps after their houses were torched by rampaging Hindu mobs.
"About 13,000 people are in government relief camps in Kandhamal and the administration is trying to send them back to their villages. We are setting up smaller relief camps in their villages where people who have lost their homes can live," Kumar said.