09/26/2008, 00.00
INDIA
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Kandhamal (Orissa): man killed, dozens of Christians' homes burned

The police have sent an additional 700 officers, but the violence continues. Interior minister: the attacks against the Christians are "systematic". It is feared that the violence is also motivated by the upcoming elections, and could last until May of 2009.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - A man was killed, and dozens of homes belonging to Christians were burned yesterday in a new flareup of violence against Christians in Orissa.

Various incidents took place in Raikia, Tikabati, and G. Udaygiri, in the district of Kandhamal, the epicenter of the attacks that began a month ago. Groups of Hindu radicals have blocked dozens of streets with felled trees, to make it harder for police to reach the area and to continue the pogrom against the Christians. Yesterday, in the village of Sirsipanga, Hindu fundamentalists set fire to dozens of homes belonging to Christians. One group of Christians reacted and there were clashes, without any intervention by the police. Two people were wounded, one seriously, who later died at the hospital. According to the newspaper The Hindu, the dead man was one of the fundamentalists, while the other man wounded was a Christian. But the Times of India reports the statement from a policeman according to whom the dead man was a Christian. Later in the day AsiaNews sources have confermed that the man killed was one of the Hindu mob who wanted to destroy the Christian village.

The Christians of India continue to hold demonstrations, calling for intervention by the authorities of Orissa and of the national government, to put an end to the destruction and killing (see photo). The government of Orissa (dominated by the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party) is suspected of complicity with the violence. The police sometimes seem to be supporting the attacks, or at least incapable of stopping them.

After yesterday's destruction, the inspector general of the police in Orissa said that he has sent 700 more paramilitary troops to the district of Kandhamal, in addition to the 3,000 already deployed. But the violence continues.

M L Kumawat, a representative of the national interior ministry, says that the attacks against Christians in Orissa are "very systematic", and describes the state as a place where "lawlessness" is rampant.

The All India Christian Council (AICC), which includes thousands of Christian groups and associations, in a statement released today, says that the Christians of India are "disillusioned" at seeing that a month after the violence began, there has been no "significant action" on the part of the central government and of Orissa. The AICC is afraid that "premeditated" violence could last until the general elections next year, which are supposed to be held by May of 2009.

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