Judicial probe begins into Kandhamal violence

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Bhubaneswar, Oct 18 : The judicial investigation into the Kandhamal violence in Orissa has begun.

A one-man Commission headed by a retired judge of Orissa High Court, Sarat Chandra Mohapatra, is probing the incident.

Justice Mohapatra has held initial discussions with district officials and senior police officers in Phulbani before proceeding to the Jaleshapata Ashram, where Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides were found dead on August 23.

Since August 23, the region has witnessed communal violence wherein Christians and their places of worship in Kandhamal, some 200 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, have experienced mob attacks.

Over 650 persons allegedly involved in the violence have been arrested so far.

Maoist rebels have claimed responsibility for the murder, but some Hindu groups hold Christians responsible for it, despite repeated denials by Christian organisations.

Meanwhile, curfew has been lifted in parts of Kandhamal District of Orissa on Saturday, as normalcy is gradually returning to the region, according to police.

District Collector Krishan Kumar said, "We lifted curfew in four police station areas and Section 144 (which bans the assembly of four or more people in one place) in most parts of the district on Friday night as the situation has improved and there has been no violence over the past two weeks."

Now prohibitory orders will remain in force only in areas under five police stations and there will be curfew at night in towns in the same areas, Kumar added.

Curfew was imposed in all areas under the district's nine police stations and prohibitory orders under Section 144, were clamped across Kandhamal after communal riots broke out following the August 23 killing of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides.

ANI

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