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Curfew imposed in four Orissa towns

Largescale communal violence in Kandhamal sees a youth killed, while six churches have been attacked.

india Updated: Dec 26, 2007 01:18 IST

Curfew was imposed in four towns after a youth was killed and six churches and a minister's houses were targeted on Tuesday in largescale communal violence and arson in Orissa's Kandhamal district following an attack on a VHP leader who led an anti-conversion movement.

A youth was killed in mob violence at Barakhamba, a senior police officer said, adding he was yet to be identified. At least six churches, mostly built in thatched houses, were either ransacked or the vacant premises set on fire since on Monday night as tension built up in the area, Revenue Divisional Commissioner Satyabrata Sahu told PTI. Two police outposts and a police vehicle were set on fire, he said.

"Following largescale violence, we have imposed curfew in district headquarters town of Phulbani, Baliguda, Daringibadi and Brahmanigaon to prevent further flare up," Sahu said.

Unconfirmed reports said 12 churches were targetted by vandals since Monday night and additional forces deployed in sensitive pockets of the district where of the total 6.50 lakh population, more than one lakh belonged to Christian community.

The violence, which began at Brahmanigaon village under Daringbadi area on Monday , gradually spread to other parts of the district with miscreants attacking two houses of the state's Steel and Mines minister Padmanabha Behera at Phiringia and Nuapadar villages, 10 km from Orissa.

While three churches were set on fire at Baliguda on Monday night, three others were burnt on Tueaday at different villages under Nuagaon block, official sources said.

Churches at Chakapada, Giringia and Phiringia were also ransacked before being set afire, the sources said. A police station and a police outpost area were set on fire and the official jeep of circle inspectors of Phulbani and Tikabali torched by mobs which attacked offices of some organisations including an orphanage run by Christian missionaries in different parts of the district.

Policemen who went to Daringbadi, Phiringia and Chakapada blocks were not allowed access by the mob which took to streets after 80-year-old VHP leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati was allegedly attacked on Monday.

"The situation is tense but we are trying to get control," Director General of Police Gopal Nanda told PTI adding additional armed forces were being sent to the violence-prone areas of the tribal-dominated district.

The DGP said Inspector General of Police (Special Armed Police) Pradip Kapoor was camping at the district headquarters though police movement was restricted due to felling of trees on the road.

Meanwhile, several trains were delayed and vehicular movement hit as bandh supporters blocked railway tracks and highways in Cuttack, Balasore, Bhubaneswar and Bhadrak during the four-hour shutdown.

Activists of VHP and Bajrang Dal blocked traffic in many areas and moved in groups to enforce a four-hour bandh called in protest against the attack on Saraswati.

As many as 13 persons were taken into custody in connection with the alleged attack, Inspector General of Police (special armed police) Pradeep Kapur said.

Expressing concern over the violence on Christmas day, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik appealed to the people to maintain peace and communal harmony.

While 14 persons, including Laxmanananda Saraswati, were injured on Monday, over 10 others sustained injuries in incidents of violence since this morning as saffron activists targeted Churches, a missionary-run orphanage and an international NGO.

Thousands of people were denied entry into Churches in different parts of the tribal dominated district to offer special prayers and services on the occasion of Christmas as saffron activists held picketing during the bandh called by them in protest against attack on Saraswati.

The VHP-sponsored bandh coincided with a two-day shut-down called by "Kui samaj sammanwaya samiti", a tribal outfit demanding Scheduled Tribe status to Dalit Christians.