Orissa: More arrests over Hindu leader’s death

Police in the trouble hotspot of Orissa in India say they have arrested more people in connection with the murder of a radical Hindu leader.

The head of the police in Orissa, Arun Kumar Ray, said four people were arrested on Sunday, taking the total number of people arrested over the killing to seven.

The murder of Swami Laxmananda Saraswati on August 23 triggered the largest wave of attacks on Christians in Indian history, leaving more than 100 people dead and forcing tens of thousands to flee from their homes. Although peace has returned, thousands remain in makeshift government camps where conditions are said to be poor.

Although Moaists took responsibility for the leader’s death, the perpetrators of the attacks continue to blame Christians.

Hindu radicals have issued an ultimatum to the state government threatening a ‘bandh’, or day of strike or protest that shuts down the whole of society, on December 25 if the leader’s killers are not caught. The threat has sparked fears among the Christian community of further violence this Christmas, while memories of attacks on hundreds of Christian homes, churches and businesses in December 2007 are still fresh.

Home Minister P Chidambaram assured a delegation led by Delhi Archbishop Vincent M Concessao last Wednesday that the central government was taking steps to ensure the safety of Christians in Orissa this Christmas.