» 08/26/2008, 00.00
Orissa: Hindus torch Christian homes and churches, three die asphyxiated By Nirmala Carvalho
Radical Hindus pursue their pogrom against Christians and their institutions. Catholic and Protestant institutions come under attack. People who fled into the forest are without food and shelter. Police imposes a curfew.
Bubaneshwar (AsiaNews) – Violence continues in the district of Kandhamal where an actual pogrom against Christians is currently underway. Three people died asphyxiated last night in the Raikia area when their homes were torched by groups of radical Hindus. With last night’s victims the death toll from the violence sparked by the death of Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s leader Swami Laxanananda Saraswati now stands at five.
In two separate incidents a woman and man died yesterday. In the first case a 21-year-old lay missionary, Rajani Majhi, who was initially thought to be a nun, was burnt alive as she tried to save the residents of an orphanage run by the Catholic mission in Bargarh. In the other case a man was similarly burnt alive in Kandhamal.
Meanwhile the number of Catholic and Protestant churches set on fire is rising. Christian homes are being torched as well after being pillaged; villages are coming under siege and schools are attacked. For many people nearby forests are the only place of safety but they lack food and shelter.
This morning a Catholic church and five Christian homes were set on fire in the village of Badimunda.
Father Dibakar Pariccha, from Justice and Peace’s Bubaneshwar chapter, has drawn up a list of violent episodes (reported elsewhere). He described to AsiaNews the urgency of the situation, saying that “throughout the state, especially in the district of Kandhamal, many families are without food, shelter and in some cases even clothing. Last night many people were hiding in the forests out in the open as heavy rain poured out of the sky. Conditions for children and women are indescribable: children cannot go to school and are traumatised by the violence; women are exhausted by the destruction of their homes and families.”
Police forces and the army are trying to restore law and order, but raids and sieges continue today, after radical Hindus called for a strike yesterday that brought traffic in the state of Orissa to a standstill.
An indefinite curfew was imposed on the district of Kandhamal. Anti-riot units have been deployed around sensitive targets like Christian institutions, schools and colleges.
Police suspects that Maoist groups are behind the assassination of Swami Laxanananda, but radical Hindu groups and leaders, especially a woman VHP member named Nivedita Miyar Cuttak, blamed Christians for his death.
Following the murder some Hindu leaders harangued crowds of fanatics, shouting slogans like “Kill Christians and destroy their institutions.”
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Vikram Nayak was killed, and then cut to pieces. Two Christians die two days after suffering serious injuries. Unrest by radical Hindus continues as police is ordered to shoot on sight those who break the curfew. Two nuns who were attacked tell their stories; Catholic schools to close for a day; the faithful are called to observe a day of prayer and fasting.
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