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Naveen on peace path as violence continues

Phulbani, Dec. 27: Fresh violence erupted in the Christian populated Brahmanigaon and Barakhama area of communally sensitive Kondhamal district, even as chief minister Naveen Patnaik visited the district headquarters and a peace committee meeting was held there.

PTI stated at least 12 churches and prayer houses were torched and a Congress MP’s house was attacked in violence for the fourth consecutive day.

A mob today attacked Brahmanigaon police station and set it on fire, while fresh clash erupted in Barakhama area where one person was killed. Earlier, a tribal youth, Khage Mallick, was killed in a clash.

While the DIG, southern range, R.P. Koche, conceded that police resorted to firing to disperse the mob, he did not confirm any casualty or injury in the firing. Unconfirmed sources said three persons were killed in the police firing.

Curfew continued in four sensitive towns in the district, while it was re-imposed in Phulbani district headquarter town from 7pm. It had been relaxed in the morning in view of the chief minister’s visit to the town and to facilitate the peace committee meeting.

Naveen, who held a brief review meeting here in the afternoon, said the situation was improving. Adequate police forces were deployed to maintain law and order, he said assuring stringent action against the culprits.

Hoping that normalcy would return very soon to the troubled district, the chief minister appealed to the people to maintain peace and communal harmony.

The chief minister told reporters at Bhubaneswar that around 24 people had been arrested in connection with the communal violence.

He evaded the question on VHP link in the communal violence. “I have told the district administration to take stringent action against those involved in the incident,” he said.

Meanwhile, representatives of Christian organisations and Opposition Congress leaders blamed the administrative failure for the unfortunate situation in Kondhamal district, at the peace committee meeting presided by the revenue divisional commissioner, southern division, Satyabrata Sahoo, at Phulbani this afternoon.

Former MP R.K. Digal and former Congress MLA Abhimanyu Behera said the police should have taken adequate security measures on Christmas eve in the 100 odd churches across this communally sensitive district.

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