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More Christian homes burn in India's east

BHUBANESWAR, India, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Hindu crowds angry at the shooting by police of a protester over attacks on Christians in India’s east burned more Christian homes and rioted with police, officials said on Thursday.

Police said they came under attack through Wednesday night in Orissa’s Kandhamal district. Hindus have been have been demanding the release of their leaders arrested on charges of attacks on Christians.

The violence is the latest in a string of attacks on Christians in three Indian states that has left at least 20 people, mostly Christians, dead and dozens of churches damaged.

The attacks in India have been condemned by Pope Benedict and Roman Catholic bishops have urged the European Union to treat persecution of Christians as a humanitarian emergency.

But violence has continued, especially in Kandhamal where thousands of Christians now live in government camps because their homes are destroyed or they are too fearful to return.

“Some houses were damaged overnight,” Krishan Kumar, Kandhamal’s chief administrator, told Reuters.

He said there was tension in the area. Police and central forces chased away a mob of hundreds when they were trying to set fire to some houses in the area.

India does not have a long history of attacks on Christians, but intolerance has risen in the past two decades with a revival of Hindu nationalism.

Many Hindu nationalists say they are determined to fight Christian missionaries they accuse of converting poor Indians. Christians say lower-caste Hindus convert willingly to escape discrimination.

In the southern state of Karnataka, at least 20 churches have been burnt by Hindu mobs in the past 10 days and authorities said they were still trying to restore order in some areas.

Hindu nationalists rule outright or share power in the three states where Christians have come under attack.

The central government in New Delhi has asked the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party state government in Karnataka to do more to stop religious violence. (Writing by Krittivas Mukherjee; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Valerie Lee)