It had been marred during past two years due to communal tension
Christians attend midnight mass without fear, says president of the Phulbani Baptist church
There was tight security in and around Kandhamal to avoid any untoward incident
BERHAMPUR: Peaceful festivities marked the celebration of Christmas in Kandhamal district on Friday.
It hinted that peace is returning back to this communally volatile area after a gap of two years.
The Christmas celebrations had been marred in the district during past two years due to communal tension. In 2007, communal violence had erupted in the district just before the Christmas. In 2008, the district had experienced repeat of communal violence following the murder of VHP leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati on Aug. 23. The Christmas celebrations had lost their sheen due to a bandh call given on Dec. 25, by some activists of Sangh Parivar. Later the bandh call was called off but it had marred the Christmas festivities in the district.
But this year the inhabitants of the district tried to forget the riot marred agonising past and took part in midnight masses and other festivities.
The Kandhamal district Collector, Krishna Kumar also expressed his happiness over the peaceful celebration of Christmas without any report of untoward incidents. “We are happy that the people again joined hands to celebrate Christmas in Kandhamal”, he said. In a statement to media the president of the Phulbani Baptist church, Arup Jena also said the Christians had attended midnight mass last night without fear.
But there was tight security in and around Kandhamal to avoid any untoward incident during Christmas celebration.
According to Kandhamal Superintendent of Police Praveen Kumar, 34 platoons of personnel from the Orissa Special Strike Force, India Reserve Battalion, Orissa Special Armed Police, Special Police Officers and the State police were deployed throughout the district during the period. Vigil was strict in communally volatile areas like G. Udaygiri, Tikabali, Raikia, Baliguda, Daringbadi and Kotgarh.
All roads to the district were under close watch not to let any miscreants with ill motive enter the district. Security personnel had conducted a flag march at communally sensitive areas including G.Udaygiri on Thursday. Meetings of peace committees at panchayat, block and district level had been conducted before the Christmas for enhancing communal harmony in all areas.
During past eight months there have been no reports of communal tension from any part of the district. Meanwhile there has been phased withdrawal of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel from the district without any reports of untoward incidents.
At least 38 persons had died and more than 25,000 people had become homeless due to the communal riots in the district in 2008.