India Hindu Militants Prevent Palm Sunday Procession

John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Council (AICU), an influential church group, said in a statement from Kandhamal district that an armed mob prevented 180 Catholic families of the Betticola Parish in Tiyangia village to hold the traditional procession to mark Palm Sunday.

Dayal quoted Betticola Parish priest Praful Sadhapati as saying that that when he arrived to hold a Palm Sunday mass, he saw a "huge crowd of people carrying arms" and shouting slogans asking Christians to leave the area.

The mob was allegedly using a loudspeaker to gather more people. Police soon arrived at the scene after requests from the Catholic clergy, but the procession could apparently not go ahead as planned.

HINDU "EXTREMISTS"

Dayal said local Christians believe the crowd was organized by a local extremist Hindu group seeking to take away land set apart for a Christian graveyard outside the village. "Christians are apprehending violence, and tensions have gripped the Tiyangia village and surrounding areas," Dayal said in published remarks.

The latest incident came just over two months after thousands of people were displaced during an outbreak of anti-Christian violence in Orissa's Kandhamal District area, which killed at least six Christians and burned over 700 houses and nearly 100 churches, according to church sources. Others reports spoke of up to nine people killed.

The United Nations Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion, Asma Jahangir, visited the region over the weekend, to investigate the clashes, which began December 24, 2007 and lasted for more than a week. Thousands of displaced Christian refugees remain in various relief camps set up by Orissa's state government.

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