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Relative calm in riot-hit areas

india Updated: Dec 27, 2007 12:18 IST

IANS
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Paramilitary troopers on Thursday marched through Orissa's riot hit areas, which were relatively peaceful after clashes between Hindus and Christians since Christmas Eve left one person dead and dozens injured.

"Barring one or two minor incidents, the (Kandhamal) district by and large remained peaceful in the past 18 hours," district police chief Narasimha Bhol told IANS.

However, curfew imposed on Tuesday would continue in various places till the situation returned to normalcy, he added.

The district administration was talking to people and had constituted a peace committee in the area.

Troopers of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), which had already staged a flag march in the district headquarters of Phulbani, would march through the other areas as well, the official said.

The district of Kandhamal (old Phulbani district) is considered one of the most communally sensitive regions in the state with numerous clashes reported between Hindus and Christians in the past.

The latest trouble started Monday morning in the Christian-majority Brahmanigaon village, 150 km from Phulbani, over Christmas celebrations.

While the Christian community wanted to celebrate the day in a grand way, the Hindus opposed the plan. This led to clashes between the Hindu and Christian groups.

The tension escalated 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 there.

Saraswati and a person accompanying him were injured and their vehicle partially damaged. Hindu radical group Vishwa Hindu Parishad called for a four-hour shutdown on Tuesday to protest the attack.

The trouble escalated with people burning dozen of churches, torching private and police vehicles and attacking houses of Christians. At least one person died and dozens were injured in the clashes between Hindu and Christian groups.

The local administration clamped curfew in at least four places on Christmas Eve night.

Despite the curfew, however, at least a dozen churches and a dozen vehicles, including two belonging to the police, were set on fire Wednesday. Besides, the protestors attacked the house of elder brother of state Steel And Mines Minister Padmanav Behera and torched one of his vehicles Tuesday, police sources said.

Thousands of security personnel from the state police and the CRPF have been deployed in the district.