India: Maoist, fundamentalist violence deadly mix in Orissa

Hindus and Christians clashed in Barakhama village in Kandhamal district of India’s Orissa state Aug. 25 and the ensuing gunbattle resulted in the death of four local residents, including one woman. A curfew has been imposed in much of the district, and paramilitary police have been sent in. Sporadic incidents of arson attacks on churches continue to be reported across the district. An orphanage run by Christian missionaries in Khuntpali village, Bargarh district, was set ablaze on and a woman was burnt alive inside. A paralytic patient was also lynched and burnt. India’s bishops have announced a day of prayer and fasting for peace. (CathNews, Aug. 27; IBN, Aug. 25)

The violence was sparked by an Aug. 23 attack on a Kandhamal ashram in which Laxmanananda Saraswati, a local leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council, VHP) who was leading a drive to get local villagers to abandon Christianity, was killed along with five others. The attack was initially blamed on Maoist Naxal guerillas, but local Hindu militants blamed it on Christians residents. Thirty gunmen threw grenades and fired indiscriminately at the Ban Basi Kalyan ashram for girls when Janmashtami celebrations were taking place. (NYT, Aug. 25; IBN, Aug. 24)

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