India: blast near Orissa relief camp kills one, injures four

At least one person was killed and four injured on Sunday when a bomb exploded near a camp that houses Christian victims of last year's riots in Orissa state.

Church people in the state capital, Bhubaneswar, said they suspected Hindu extremists were behind the blast and that it was designed to destabilize the Christian community that had begun to recover from their trauma.

The explosion happened just outside the Nandamaha refugee camp in Kandhamal district. The camp, situated in a forest, is home to 21 families, comprising about 100 Christians from violence-affected Betticola parish in Kandhamal district.

There were few details available about the deceased who did not live in the camp. The four injured are Christians, however.

Police detained for questioning the four Christians who reported the blast, Church sources said.

Those living in the camp are unable to return to their homes as Hindu extremists have threatened to kill them if they return without converting to Hinduism.

The state administration had offered them alternative land inside the forest to re-settle.

The Christians in the camp, including Catholics and Protestants, were busy clearing up the forest and building homes for each family, Church people said.

Sources in Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese, which covers Kandhamal district, said they suspect the extremists do not want to see Christians "live in peace" even inside the forest. A Church source said the Christians were just beginning to settle down a year after the violence.

Police in G Udayagiri town, which covers the area, have reportedly begun an investigation. Church sources said police have recovered guns near the camp.

Tribal-dominated Kandhamal district was the focus of the violence that began after Maoists gunned down Hindu leader Laxmanananda Saraswati on Aug. 23, 2008. Hindu radicals had blamed Christians for the murder.

The four-month long riots that began a day after Saraswati's murder left 90 people dead and displaced some 50,000. As many as 5,000 Christian homes were burned and 294 churches, chapels and prayer halls, eight convents, eight presbyteries and 12 hostels were destroyed.

As the Hindu extremists continue to force the displaced to convert to Hinduism, hundreds of them have either left the state or moved to other districts in Orissa.

Betticola parish had witnessed tension for several years before last year's violence and was severely affected in last year's flare-up.

Source: UCAN

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