Five days after communal clashes broke out over Christmas celebrations in Orissa's Kandhamal district in eastern India, tension persisted in the area with four people feared dead in police firing and the government finally deciding to order a judicial inquiry.
Police said on Friday that the core trouble area continued to be the Christian dominated Brahmanigaon village, about 150 km from the district headquarters of Phulbani and about 200 km fm the state capital.
On Thursday afternoon, hundreds of residents burnt some Hindu houses. Police rushed in to rescue the villagers and brought them to the station, which was also attacked.
A mob of about 500 people opened fire at the police station, a district police official told IANS. To disperse the mob, police opened fire. In the gunbattle that went on for more than an hour, at least four people were killed and three police officials injured.
The exact number of deaths is yet to be ascertained because all communication to the village has been disrupted, the official said. The roads have been blocked and telephone lines have been down too.
Leading Oriya daily The Sambad put the toll at nine, saying that four were killed in police firing and five in clashes.
The place has been a tinderbox since Monday, when trouble broke out in Brahmanigaon, which has a population of about 4,000.
Hindus and Christians clashed over Christmas celebrations. Trouble escalated in the area when some people attacked the vehicle of local Hindu leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswati near Daringbadi when he was on his way to perform a yagna in Brahmanigaon.
Dozens of churches and prayer houses were burnt, vehicles were torched and houses of both Hindus and Christians attacked in the days that followed.
At least one person died and dozens injured in the clashes.
Kandhamal district, which has a population of about 600,000 including 150,000 Christians, is considered one of the most communally sensitive regions in the state with numerous clashes reported between both Hindus and Christians in the past.