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World

December 31, 2007

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Seven Christian girls missing in violence-hit eastern India

Seven Christian girls missing in violence-hit eastern India
BHUBANESHWAR, India: Seven teenage girls were missing in eastern India where Christian-Hindu violence left at least four people dead over the past 10 days, a state government official said on Sunday.

A boarding school informed police about the missing ninth grade students on Saturday, said Satyenbrata Sahu, a divisional commissioner. “We suspect they have run away out of fear,’’ he told The Associated Press, adding police were searching for the girls.

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 Christians held a protest in the Indian capital New Delhi on Sunday, urging the federal government to punish the attackers who they alleged belonged to the hard-line World Hindu Council and other organisations. They planned to submit a note to Prime Minister Manmohan Singhlater on Sunday, said Dominic Emmanuel, a spokesman for the New Delhi Catholic Archdiocese.

No new incidents of violence were reported on Sunday in the troubled rural district of Kandhamal, nearly 200 kilometres (125 miles) west of Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Orissa state, Sahu said.

Nearly 700 Christians fearing attacks by Hindu hard-liners have taken shelter in government-run relief camps since Friday, said Pradeep Kapoor, the inspector-general of police.

“Many priests, nuns and ordinary Christians are hiding in the forest to escape the wrath of Hindu activists,’’ said Emmanuel in a statement. Three people were killed on Thursday when police opened fire on a group of hard-line Hindus who set fire to a police station in Kandhamal district’s Brahmangaon village. They said police failed to protect them after a group of Christians burned down several Hindu homes in apparent retaliation for attacks on churches, officials said. Another person also died last week in communal fighting.

About 19 churches have been ransacked and burned and several homes have been destroyed.

At least 30 people have been arrested, Superintendent of Police Narsingh Bhol said. Hindu groups have long accused Christian missionaries of trying to lure away the poor and those who occupy the lowest rungs of Hinduism’s complex caste-system with promises of money and jobs.

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