Kendrapara, Jan. 11: The state forest department today declared Bhitarkanika National Park closed for tourists and visitors, in the wake of attack on forest staff by a group of drunken youths on January 9 night.
The forest department has asked the district administration to deploy armed policemen at the park and provide security to forest personnel.
The police have taken 11 persons in custody for allegedly assaulting forest guards and destroying forest property. Five forest guards were injured in the attack.
Sudden closure of the park has left tourists and travel operators high and dry. Over 500 advance bookings made to the park, stood suspended following the closure notice.
We are forced to close the national park during peak season. It will definitely cause inconvenience to tourists. But we are laying priority on safety of both the staff and visitors.We are trying to ensure that such an incident does not happen again, said Manoj Kumar Mahapatra, divisional forest officer, Rajnagar mangrove forest.
It is alleged that the group of youth, owing allegiance to the Biju Janata Dal, had attacked the forest guards when they were denied entry to the tourist complex on the night of January 9.
As the park closes at 5pm and the group did not have the required permission to stay at the tourist complex, the guards had turned down their request to enter the complex. Infuriated over the denial, the youths, who were allegedly drunk, assaulted the forest guards, and damaged property. During the incident, there were nearly 200 visitors staying in the complex.
Inspector, Rajnagar police station Mrutyunjay Swain, said: A havildar of state police besides 10 other people have been arrested. They were produced in court under sections 147, 148, 353, 332, 353, 294, 307, 506, 149 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 3 of The Prevention of Destruction to Public Property Act.