Orissa: Kandhamal limping back to normalcy

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Bhubaneswar, Dec 29: The situation in Kandhamal, which witnessed communal clashes between the tribals and Christians during the last five days, improved a lot today with no untoward incident reported from anywhere in the district.

With the situation fast becoming normal, the authorities relaxed the curfew in Phulbani, Daringibadi and Baliguda divisions from morning 0900 hours to 1900 hours in the evening. However, the Prohibitory orders imposed in nine other blocks of the district were in force. Nearly 40 platoons of Orissa State Armed Police (OSAP) force had been deployed in the strife-torn district. Three companies of paramilitary forces had already been deployed in the sensitive areas while the state government had sought five more companies of the CRPF and Rapid Action Force to tackle the situation.

District officials suspected the presence of naxalites in the area as gun shots were fired at the police and some police stations were ransacked, taking advantage of the situation prevailing in the area.

Meanwhile, one company of CRPF was today deployed in Brahamnigaon village, the epicentre of the clash, to ensure peace in the area and Inspector General of Police H S Hansda was camping in the village to monitor the situation.

The Orissa government today ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident by a retired High Court judge and transferred Kandhamal District Collector Bhagirathi Mohapatra.

The government claimed that so far two people had died in the strife-torn district following the clash while the rioters had set ablaze several houses and over a dozen places of worship.

The trouble started on December 24 when the tribals opposed the erection of a gate by the Christians on a disputed land in Brahamanigaon village to celebrate Christmas. Both the communities indulged in hurling brickbats and the situation took an ugly turn when three tribals sustained bullet injuries during the clash.

The situation worsened when Swami Laxamananda Sarswati of Chakapada Ashram was attacked by some miscreants while he was proceeding to the scene with some of his followers to enquire about the incident.

The authorities clamped curfew on December 25 after the death of a tribal sparked off tension leading to large scale violence at various places in the district in which the rioters indulged in torching the churches, houses and police stations.

Orissa Steel and Mines Minister Padmanav Behera, who represented the Phulbani (SC) constituency, however, tendered his resignation today on moral grounds for large scale violence in his home district which was accepted by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.


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