Christian leaders in Orissa have asked for Army deployment on Wednesday, as the police have failed to cope with the situation. Communal strife in Kadhamal district worsened so much that arsonists defied curfew restrictions imposed in six towns.
Although curfew has been imposed in Phulbani, Tumudibandh, Baliguda, Udaygiri, Nuagaon and Tikabali towns since Monday, the district has been witnessing large-scale violence and arson ever since Swami Laxamanananda was killed on Saturday.
Community leaders have also demanded a CBI probe into the events till date, arrest and trial of culprits by a special court and immediate steps to end riots in Kandhamal.
The unofficial death toll increased to 14, although officially it still is nine. DIG, operations, Arun K Sarangi, who is camping in Kandhamal district, told HT there were all sorts of rumours about deaths. For instance, he said, “The death toll in Barkhama in Tuesday’s firing is actually two, while the popular belief is four.”
Apart from Kandhamal, churches have been damaged in Bolangir in western Orissa, while in Gajapati in the southern part of the state, a mob killed a 50-year-old Christian, besides burning down several churches.
Swarupananda Patra, president of the Orissa Minority Forum, said: “We want the killers of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati to be arrested promptly. But at the same time, those who have killed innocent Christians should be brought to justice. We want the Army to be deployed in the trouble spots.”
Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Bhubaneswar-Cuttack Archdiocese said: “The government is not protecting the minority community. A sister called me up from Baliguda in Kandhamal district to say that she was molested. Many of our priests are hiding in the forests.
Union MoS for Home Affairs Sri Prakash Jaiswal, who was to lead a delegation to Kandhmal, cancelled the visit on the state government’s advice.