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Tight patrol to ensure peace

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 24: Security was tightened throughout the communally sensitive Kandhamal district today ahead of Christmas celebrations with intensified patrolling and checking on entry points by police.

More than 50 platoons of police have been deployed in the district, which was witness to one of the worst riots in the history of Odisha in 2007 and 2008. The killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Laxmananand Saraswati along with four of his associates at his ashram in Jalaspeta triggered the communal violence in 2008.

“Things are good this time and no strike, as rumoured, is being organised by the Kui Samaj Samanvaya Samiti. But, they will organise a Shaheed Divas,” said Kandhmal superintendent of police Jay Narayan Pankaj. He said the samiti and the Pana Samaj of the district had struck an understanding to ensure peace.

Nonetheless, the administration was not taking any chances with heavy police deployment at sensitive points, including places of worship, which the rioters had targeted during the violence. “We have deployed more than 50 platoons of police, including jawans of the Special Operations Group,” said deputy superintendent of police Gupta Chandra Behera.

Though district borders have not been sealed this time, checking of vehicle and people is going on at all entry points with a few to preventing the possible infiltration of mischievous elements. A vigil is also being maintained in areas around Phulbani, the district headquarter town, which has been prone to violence.

People, however, are happy that the rumours of a strike called by the samiti have been scotched effectively and will help allay public fears. For the past few days, there have been rumours that the tribal outfit would issue a strike call on December 25 and 26. However, both senior officials of the district administration and the samiti leaders have sought to put down the rumours.

Sources said the samiti would organise Shaheed Divas with a few memorial meetings recalling the death of a tribal, who was killed on December 25 during 2007 riots. “But, it is going to be a peaceful affair. It is unlikely to disrupt peace in any manner,” said an official, adding that precautionary measure had been taken to ensure a peaceful Christmas.