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Monday, September 6, 1999 Published at 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK


World: South Asia

Strike over priest killing

A burnt out church after an attack last year

Nageshwar Patnaik in Bhubaneshwar

Schools were closed, shops were shut, and rail and roadway traffic interrupted in response to a strike called for by the state's governing Congress in the eastern Indian state of Orissa.

It came after the murder of Catholic priest, Father Arul Dass last week.

The call to strike affected the state capital, Bhubaneshwar and the district headquarters of Mayurbhanj.

Father Arul Dass was murdered in Jambani village, part of Mayurbhanj district.

A few banks in both places responded to the strike and groups of strikers blocked main roads in Bhubaneshwar with burnt rubber tyres.

State authorities say more than 500 strikers have been temporarily arrested - and will be released later this evening.

Pointing the finger

The Congress party had called for a strike about a week ago protesting at the gruesome killing of a Muslim trader by what they suspected was the right-wing Hindu group - the Bajrang Dal - also in Mayurbhanj district.

All major parties had responded to the call - apart from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its principal ally in the state - the Biju Janata Dal.

Congress leaders have since maintained that the two parties patronise the Bajrang Dal.

They also allege that the person accused in the Graham Staines murder case - Dara Singh - is involved in the most recent incident of violence in the state.

Staines murder unresolved

The Australian missionary Graham Staines was burnt alive in his car with his two sons in the same area earlier this year.

A judicial commission which released its report recently held Dara Singh responsible for the killing, but did not identify any organisation for its involvement in the incident.

Congress continues to allege that the BJP and the BJD are protecting Dara Singh and that all these incidents of violence are closely linked to his involvement.

The BJP and BJD allege in turn that Congress is responsible for these incidents - which it says are failures in maintaining civil law and order. Ends.



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