Bandh over VHP leader's killing affects life in Orissa

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Bhubaneswar, Aug 25 (UNI) Orissa bandh, in protest against the killing of senior VHP leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswati and four others, crippled life across the state today.

The curfew, clamped yesterday on three sensitive blocks of Kandhmal, was extended, in the wake of violence, torching of houses and churches in the district.

Apprehending large-scale violence during the bandh, the authorities had already promulgated prohibitory orders in Kandhmal and deployed paramilitary forces in all the sensitive areas.

Swami Laxamananda Saraswati and four others were murdered by armed assailants on the night of August 23 inside the Jalaspeta Ashram, located on the border of Kalahandi and Kandhmal.

The killings sparked off tension across the state and the irate VHP activists went on rampage at many places, attacking the houses and churches in Sundargarh, Kandhmal, Rayagada and Koraput districts.

Reports reaching the state capital said the bandh had paralysed life in almost all the districts.

While train services were badly affected following squatting by the bandh supporters at many stations, the East Coast Railway (ECoR) had to cancel several trains and reschedule long-distance trains at various stations.

Business establishments were also closed across the state, while the state government, apprehending violence, had ordered closure of all educational institutions.

Banks were closed following picketting by the VHP activists.

Stray incidents of damaging vehicles and ransacking shops were reported from many places during the bandh.

Official sources said the curfew, which was clamped on Phulbani, Baliguda and G Udayagiri till this morning, was extended, as tension continued to prevail in the districts.

Thousands of tribals took to the streets in Kandhmal to join the procession with the body of the Swamiji, being taken across the district since yesterday.

The body of Swamiji would be buried at his Chakapada Ashram which he had founded in the 1970s.

VHP International Secretary Pravin Bhai Togadia and several senior VHP leaders are expected to attend the ''Samadhi'' of the Swamiji this evening.

Sources said the police had detained two people in connection with the murder of Swamiji and launched intensive combing operation to track down the assailants.

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