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Churches torched on peace meet day

Phulbani, Dec. 27: More churches were allegedly attacked in Brahmanigaon and Barakhama on a day chief minister Naveen Patnaik visited the Kondhamal district headquarters and a peace committee met.

A PTI report said at least 12 churches and prayer houses were torched and a Congress MP’s house was attacked.

A mob raided the Brahmanigaon police station and set it on fire as clashes erupted in Barakhama. A tribal youth, Khage Mallick, was killed.

DIG, southern range, R.P. Koche said police resorted to firing to disperse the mob. He did not confirm any casualty or injury in the firing.

Curfew continued in four sensitive towns. It was re-imposed in district headquarters Phulbani at 7pm.

The curfew had been relaxed in the morning in view of the chief minister’s visit.

Patnaik, who held a meeting here in the afternoon, said the situation was improving.

He promised stern action against those creating trouble and appealed to the people to maintain peace and harmony.

Patnaik told reporters at Bhubaneswar that around 24 people had been arrested in connection with the violence.

He skipped a question on the VHP link to the strife. “I’ve told the district administration to take stringent action against those involved,” he said.

At the peace meeting, representatives of Christian organisations and Opposition Congress leaders blamed the administration for the situation in Kondhamal.

Former MP R.K. Digal and former Congress MLA Abhimanyu Behera said security in the 100-odd churches in the district should have been tighter on Christmas Eve, when the violence started.

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