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Burnt churches blot on revelry

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 25: Christmas in the communally sensitive Kondhmal district was marred by violence, which led to a curfew being imposed in Daringibadi, Baliguda, Brahmonigaon and Phulbani.

Revenue divisional commissioner (southern division) Satyabrata Sahu confirmed that one unidentified youth, was killed in clashes at Barakhamba village near Daringibadi, some 300km from Bhubaneswar. The clashes occurred at 1pm.

A Kondhmal district police convoy was sent to the spot, but they could not reach there till reports last came in, due to road blocks by villagers who felled trees on the way.

At least 12 churches across the district were set on fire or ransacked since last night.

People set fire to police vehicles, too, in Tikabali area and damaged the house of the relatives of minister Padmanabha Behera in Phiringia area, said the Kondhmal superintendent of police, Narsingh Bhol.

Across the district, trees were felled to prevent the police from entering the area.

However, sources said that around 22 platoons of police force have been deployed at several points.

Orissa police chief Gopal Chandra Nanda said: “IG Pradeep Kapur has been camping there since yesterday and keeping a close watch.”

The SP said the situation was tense in about seven police station areas. Police sources said three churches in Baliguda were set ablaze last night, while nine more were ransacked or torched in Nuagaon, Chakapad, Phiringia and Giringia today.

The police superintendent said violence erupted when the minority community at Brahmanigaon village wanted to celebrate Christmas and another community opposed it.

This led to a clash that left at least four injured.

Communal tension also flared up after VHP leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswati was allegedly attacked yesterday by a group near Daringibadi while he was on his way to Brahmanigaon to perform a yagna, Bhol said.

Saraswati, his bodyguard and driver were injured.

In retaliation, a group of people attacked a church at Baliguda last night, said Bhol.

The violence then spread to other areas of the district.

VHP activists observed a four-hour bandh across the state today to protest against the attack on Saraswati. VHP, Bajrang Dal and BJP activists staged road blockade from 8am to 12 noon.

Another bandh that was called in Kondhmal was by Kui Samaj, a representative body of Kondh tribes.

They were opposing the demand of Dalit Christians for ST status.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik has appealed for peace and harmony.

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