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Violence eclipses cops and curfew

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 26: Fresh violence erupted today at Kondhmal district despite curfew in sensitive areas and prohibitory orders at Phiringia, Tikabali, Udaygiri and Raikia.

Talking to The Telegraph in the evening Orissa director general of police Gopal Chandra Nanda conceded that a church was burnt down at Kalinga, some 350km from here in the afternoon by a mob. “Some men also set fire to the office of the revenue minister after ransacking it,” said Nanda.

However, by evening the situation was “under control” and the curfew was relaxed for a few hours. Central paramilitary forces, which were moved from Rayagada, Sambalpur and Rourkela, arrived in Kondhmal and roadblocks were cleared, the DGP added.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik and DGP Nanda claimed the situation was improving after yesterday’s clashes Ś even though reports of the church being burnt came in.

But, the situation was uglier earlier in the day. Like yesterday, the movement of police forces and reinforcements were restricted by roadblocks caused by felled trees. , said Kondhmal superintendent of police (SP) N. Bhol. The untoward incidents took place outside Barakhama and in Jaleshpata, where 11 were injured in stone pelting. Four houses were torched outside Barakhama, while six others were set ablaze in Jaleshpata, the police said. The man, who was killed at yesterday’s clashes, has been identified by the police as one Khage Mallick. A BSNL tower was damaged in yesterday's violence that lead to lines being disrupted for the better part of the day today.

The chief minister, reviewing the situation, asked senior IAS officers Aurobindo Behera and Ashok Meena to rush to the affected areas. Both were posted as the collector of Kondhmal district. The SPs of neighbouring Boudh and Gajapati districts and 20 police officers have been ordered to rush to Phulbani town to contain the violence. At the review meeting, Naveen stressed that peace and communal harmony would be restored in Kondhmal. He repeated his appeal to the people of Kondhmal to maintain peace at the BJD rally, too.

Meanwhile, the Orissa unit of the All-India Christian Council (AICC) today held the state government responsible for the attacks on churches and Christian outfits in Kondhmal.

“The government does not appear to have taken the matter seriously,” said AICC’s state unit president Pran Ranjan Parichha. . While Christian leaders said the trouble was started by Hindu fundamentalists, leaders of Hindu Jagaran Samukhya (HJS) today blamed the minority community at Brahmanigaon and an NGO for the communal tension.

At a news conference here today, HJS official Basudev Barik said temples at Jalespata, Baliguda and Tumudibandha were vandalised or damaged by the minority community. Condemning Monday’s attack on Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, Barik demanded arrest of all those involved in the incident.Near the afternoon, a mob set fire to Phiringia police station in Kondhmal district, some 250km from Bhubaneswar. Though property was damaged, no one was hurt in the mishap.

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