Several people, mostly women, sustained injuries after police resorted to baton charge to disperse a mob which allegedly was blocking a road in Orissa's Kandhamal district demanding arrest of those involved in a recent attack on a Hindu villager.
More than 300 women Monday blocked the road near Bakingia village under the Raikia police station protesting the attack and demanding the arrest of the culprits, official said.
"Police resorted to a mild lathi charge after some protesters threw stones on policemen," district superintendent of police S Praveen Kumar told IANS.
While he said some people were injured, local officials put the number of the injured at 12.
Police said a group of unidentified people shot at Manoj Pradhan near his home at Laburigaon village Saturday night. Although the attackers fired five rounds, only one bullet hit him. Pradhan was undergoing treatment in a government hospital.
Kandhamal district, some 200 km from here, has been witnessing communal violence since the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at the Jaleshpata Ashram Aug 23.
The violence has left 36 people dead and thousands homeless even as Christians and their places of worship have been under attack.
Maoist rebels have claimed responsibility for the murder, but some Hindu groups held Christians responsible for it, despite repeated denials by Christian organisations.
Even though officials say they are making desperate attempts to bring normalcy by holding peace meetings in different areas, they admit the situation remains tense as fresh sporadic violence reported from interior areas.
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. Thousands of Hindu tribals have, meanwhile, taken shelter in forests fearing arrest.
Meanwhile, more than 70 Hindu saints led by Swami Jeevan Chaitanya, a VHP central advisory committee member, staged a protest at state capital Bhubaneswar with a charter of five demands.
Swami Jeevan Chaitanya and Madhu Baba, another sadhu, said they had also launched an indefinite hunger strike from Monday and would not break their fast unless and until their demands were fulfilled.
"We want arrest of all those who killed Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and those who conspired in the crime," Swami Jeevan Chaitanya told IANS.
"Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati had named two persons prior to his killing and had said they were after his life. We want their immediate arrest," he said.
On Monday, seven Hindu women from Kandhamal lodged a complaint before the state human right commission and state women's commission that the central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were harassing tribal women.
Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), pointed out that most of the victims in Kandhamal are Christians. "There seems to be a larger conspiracy behind the attack on Christians and that needs to be investigated," he said.
"All Christian organisations have condemned the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati but we are totally dismayed at the ongoing attacks on Christians, their houses and institutions that continue unabated in Orissa and other parts of the country," George told IANS.