India Soldier Hacked To Death For Protecting Christians; New Violence In Orissa

Several people, mostly women, sustained injuries when tense police dispersed a Hindu crowd blocking a road in Orissa’s Kandhamal district, the epicenter of attacks against Christians and security personnel in which scores of people were killed, Indian media said.

Protesters said they blocked the road to demand the arrest of those involved in a recent attack on Hindu villager Manoj Pradhan, who was shot and injured near his home at Laburigaon village late Saturday, October 15. Attackers fired five rounds, but only one bullet hit him, and Pradhan was undergoing treatment in a government hospital, media reports said.

The incident sparked fears of new attacks against Christians and security personel in Orissa. where bishops said at least 60 Christians were killed over the past two months, in retaliation for the murder of a revered Hindu leader and four of his followers. Authorities claim 36 people died so far.

HACKED TO DEATH

In one of the latest incidents, a paramilitary soldier assigned to protect Christians from Hindu violence, was hacked to to death and his body mutilated by a mob in Sisapanga village in Kandhamal district, last week, Monday, October 13, the Times of India (TOI) newspaper reported.

The murdered man was identified as 45-year-old Bakshis Singh of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). His death marked the first known time a member of security personnel was killed in Orissa in riots that have been raging for one-and-a-half months.

"Singh had been to Sisapanga village, accompanied by a driver, to buy provisions. A group of six-seven men attacked him from behind, dragged him into the jungle and hacked him to death," TOI quoted District Superintendent of Police S. Praveen as saying. "The driver fortunately managed to escape." 

Police suggested the murder was a message from mobs to security forces not to protect Christians. Several arrests have been made in recent days, but it was not clear Monday, October 20, whether those responsible for the murder of the paramilitary soldier were among those detained.  

GROWING PRESSURE

There is growing pressure on Orissa's government to further improve security in the state and to compensate churches at a time when tens of thousands of Christians have been displaced by the deadly violence, and new reports of attacks against churches.

However on Monday, October 20, the Orissa government rejected in the Supreme Court a plea seeking over $600,000 in compensation for demolition of churches in anti-Christian riots saying "it is against the secular policy of the State to pay any compensation to religious institutions".

Responding to the plea filed by the Archbishop of Cuttack, the state government said that "compensation towards religious institutions is not [part] of the secular policy of the Orissa government." 

NUN RAPED

Earlier the Orissa government on Friday, October 17, told the Supreme Court that the Archbishop of Cuttack must substantiate allegations that activists of the Hindu group  Bajrang Dal were behind the recent rape of a nun, an incident that came to symbolize some of the atrocities during the anti-Christian violence in Orissa's troubled Kandhamal district.

Some eight people were reportedly detained following the August 25 incident at a Non-Governmental Organization in Kanjamendi village, but investigations still continue. The nun has so far refused to come forward to identify any of the suspects, apparently for fear of retribution, but prosecutors told media they were hopeful of making their case.

In a related development, a judge probing the August 23 killing of Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides that speked the attacks on Christians, said Monday, October 20, his investigation could take one and a half years to complete.

SC Mohapatra, a retired judge of the Orissa High Court, is on a four day tour, visiting inmates and several villages where churches and houses were burnt. He also held discussions with district and administration officials, Indian media reported.   

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