Bhubaneswar, Aug 25: Normal life was disrupted across Orissa on Monday, Aug 25 as thousands of people staged demonstrations in several places as part of a statewide shutdown called by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to protest the killing of a leader of the outfit on Saturday, Aug 24.
Thousands of protesters staged demonstrations and burnt tyres in several villages, towns and on national highways. Almost all shops and petrol pumps remained closed. Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, a member of VHP's central advisory committee, and four other people were killed at his Jalespata ashram, some 340 km from here, Saturday, Aug 23 evening after more than 30 suspected Maoist rebels opened fired on them. The ashram is in Kandhamal district.
The attackers used 'sophisticated rifles and AK-47', said the Director General of Police Gopal Chandra Nanda.
Saraswati was leading a campaign against cow slaughter and religious conversion in the communally sensitive Kandhamal district. The district, with a population of around 600,000 including 150,000 Christians, has witnessed numerous clashes between Hindus and Christians in the past.
Saraswati's supporters have been holding protests since Saturday night, blocking trains and vehicles. His last rites will be held later in the day and will be attended by a host of dignitaries, including senior VHP leader Praveen Togadia
On Sunday, at least three prayer houses were burnt by a mob in Kandhamal and a police outpost was attacked. Ten houses in Rupagaon village were also set on fire.
The State government has ordered judicial probe into the killing of VHP leader Swamy Laxmananada Saraswati and his followers in Kandhamal district. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik announced this after a high-level meeting in Bhubaneswar on Sunday, Aug 25.