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Protest Turns Violent in Orissa; Churches attacked

By Jeremy Reynalds
Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

8/25/08 ORISSA, INDIA (ANS) – Orissa was in turmoil Monday during a major protest called by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal groups in protest against the killing of VHP leader Swami Lakshmanananda.

A story published in the Hindu Online reported that protesters burned alive a 20-year-old woman in an orphanage at Khuntpalli village in Bargarh district. In Kandhamal district, where the Swami and four others were killed by suspected Maoists on Saturday night, a villager was burned to death.

According to the Hindu, numerous churches, prayer houses and other Christian institutions were attacked in a variety of districts. At least two prayer houses were damaged in the capital city.

A police commander said the woman killed in the orphanage was a student. Asked whether the victim was a nun, he said it was yet to be determined.

According to the Hindu, when asked about the death of the villager in Kandhamal, the police commander said the police had received information, but had yet to access the area.

Unconfirmed reports said the victim was suffering from paralysis and was unable to escape when many houses in the mainly Christian village were set on fire.

The Hindu reported that road and rail traffic was affected all over the State during the protest. Banks, markets and business establishments remained closed, while government offices reported many absent workers. Schools were closed.

According to the Hindu, in the government assembly, the Naveen Patnaik government faced an embarrassing situation when Bharatiya Janata Party legislators interrupted the proceedings and demanded the immediate arrest of those involved in the killing of the Swami.

The Hindu reported the opposition congress demanded a discussion on what it called the “deteriorating” law and order situation. They demanded the resignation of the Biju Janata Dal-BJP coalition government for what they dubbed its failure to maintain law and order.

According to the Hindu, Speaker Kishore Kumar Mohanty adjourned the House for the day after he failed to persuade the BJP members to allow the proceedings to continue.

The Congress, however, gave notice for moving a no-confidence motion against the government on Tuesday.