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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 January 2008, 14:12 GMT
Indian minister in Orissa visit
Shivraj Patil
Mr Patil is the first central minister to visit Orissa since the violence
Indian Home Minister Shivraj Patil has visited part of the eastern state of Orissa which has seen recent fighting between hardline Hindus and Christians.

He is the first central minister to visit the state after violence last week killed at least four people.

Mr Patil visited the trouble-torn Kandhamal district, which was at the centre of the violence.

Tension between the two groups erupted over the issue of Hindus converting to Christianity.

'Safeguard rights'

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged to curb fighting between the two groups.

Be assured that we will not tolerate any efforts aimed at disturbing the communal harmony or secular fabric of our country
Manmohan Singh

At the same time, police said that they had recovered quantities of guns and ammunition on Monday in the town of Brahmanigaon, in Kandhamal district.

The BBC's Sandeep Sahu in Bhubaneswar says that Kandhamal district is slowly returning to normal, with no recent incidents of serious violence.

A letter sent on 30 December by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the widow of a Christian missionary killed by Hindu hardliners in Orissa in 1999 promised to uphold India's secular constitution and "safeguard the fundamental rights and liberties of all sections of our society".

Hindu leader, Swami Laxamananda, in hospital earlier this week in Orissa
Hindus say Christians attacked one of their leaders

"We are taking all steps to ensure the restoration of normalcy and to bring about harmony and peace in the affected areas," Mr Singh wrote to Gladys Staines of Australia.

Mrs Staines is the widow of missionary Graham Staines, who was killed in 1999 along with his two sons when his vehicle was set on fire.

"Please be assured that we will not tolerate any efforts aimed at disturbing the communal harmony or secular fabric of our country," he said.

'Outcasts'

Orissa, which is mainly Hindu and has a tiny Christian minority, has seen violence between the two communities in the past.

The state has a law obliging people to ask for police permission before changing religion - thought to be a measure aimed at Christian missionaries.

Hindus have accused Christian groups of forcing low-caste people to convert.

Christians say they often convert willingly because of their treatment as outcasts.



SEE ALSO
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