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Police arrest 90 after eight burned alive

Church appalled by 'barbaric act' after feud in remote district of Orissa state

  • Ajay Kumar Singh, Bhubaneswar
  • India
  • May 2, 2011
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Tensions are running high in Orissa after around 90 people were reportedly arrested for burning alive eight people as the result of a feud at a quarry. The dead included a woman.

Church people reacted with horror to the attacks, with the local bishop describing them as "barbaric."

“People indulge in such acts as there is no stringent action. The governance system in the state has collapsed,” Sister Justine Senapati, a human rights activist, said.

The Sisters of St. Joseph’s of Annecy nun said murders by setting people alight had begun with the killing of Australian missioner Graham Stuart Staines, in 1999.

Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak of Berhampur said the attacks in Badaguda, a village in Ganjam district on Friday, should be condemned no matter what the cause.

A long-running feud between villagers and the owners of a stone crushing unit there reportedly led to the incident. Three quarry owners were among those murdered.

Some 200 armed villagers chased the victims into a building and locked the doors, doused it with petrol and kerosene and set it ablaze.

Bishop Nayak says such tragedies show why people should take recourse to democratic systems to resolve their disputes.

“We cannot take away somebody’s life. We are not the authors of life,” said the prelate whose diocese covers the village.

Father Santosh Digal, pastor of nearby Sarod parish, said the villagers had opposed leasing hills for stone quarrying as it polluted the area and deprived them of their livelihood.

R. K. Sharma, a senior police official in the area, told reporters that his men knew nothing of  the dispute.

The quarry owners, who came from outside the district, used force to continue their business which had no clearance from pollution board.

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