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Saturday, 19 October, 2002, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Andhra police seek divine help
Indian police women on duty
The police have suffered casualties in the conflict

The police in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh are invoking the gods in their fight against left-wing rebels.

The state police have appealed to people of all religious faiths to pray for them and, so far, the move has evoked a positive response.

The unusual idea is being put to practice in the district of Karimnagar, which has been badly affected by the two decades of bloody left wing violence.

Special prayers have been held in mosques and Hindu temples following the police appeal.

Several churches in the district say they will also pray for the police on Sunday.

Sacrifices remembered

The main congregation was held at the grand mosque in Karimnagar city on Friday where the chief cleric, Maulana Umar Ali Baig Qasimi, led the prayer.

Bombed building
The rebel campaign has been destructive

More than 2,000 Muslims said "Amen" as the cleric prayed for the victims of violence.

Sixty-nine policemen and 319 civilians have been killed in the district in the past 15 years of left-wing violence, officials say.

Names of the policemen killed by the leftist guerrillas were read out in the mosque as a mark of respect for them.

"They have made the supreme sacrifice for society," Maulana Qasimi said.

"May Allah the almighty protect their families," the cleric said in his sermon.

Bridging the gap

Similar prayers were held at many of Karimnagar's 1,300 mosques.

These were followed by similar invocations in three prominent Hindu temples of the district on Saturday.

Hindu devotees assembled at Dharmapuri, Vemulavada and Kondagattu temples to pray for the victims.

The district police chief, RS Praveen Kumar, said the move was also aimed at bridging the gap between the people and the police.

He said police also wanted to make people aware of the sacrifices made by them.

Noble idea

It was Mr Kumar who called a meeting of religious leaders and requested them to pray for his men.

He said the police were fighting a tough battle in the state.

But unlike soldiers who were treated as martyrs when killed in action, his men got little recognition, Mr Kumar said.

Many of those who attended the prayers said there was nothing wrong in praying for the police.

But they said the men in uniform needed to change their attitude toward the people.

Andhra Pradesh has been fighting left-wing guerrillas for more than two decades.

The conflict has so far claimed the lives of 6,000 civilians and more than 400 policemen.

See also:

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