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Kandhamal rises above violent past on Christmas

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Celebration held amid peace and harmony

Christmas was joyously celebrated in the communally sensitive Kandhamal district of Odisha on Wednesday, a sign that peace and harmony has returned to the area.

Forgetting the riots in 2007 and 2008, residents of Kandhamal gathered in churches for midnight mass on Tuesday and for prayers on Wednesday.

High security

As a precautionary measure, security had been stepped up across the district. According to sources, apart from the regular police force posted in the district, additional 25 platoons of armed police force had been deployed in Kandhamal since the past few days. Mobile parties, static and striking forces of police were busy maintaining law and order. Patrolling had been intensified in areas with history of communal tension as well as Maoist-prone regions. All churches and prayer houses were under heavy security cover.

According to Kandhamal Superintendent of Police Prateek Singh, ahead of Christmas, peace committee meetings had been held in all police station areas. Till Wednesday evening, no untoward incident had been reported from any part of the district.

This year, the Kui Samaj Samanwaya Samity, the organisation of Kui tribals of Kandhamal led by Lambodar Kanhar, had refrained from giving a bandh call on Christmas day. Earlier, this organisation used to give a bandh call on Christmas and withdraw it at the last moment under pressure from the police and district administration. Since last three years KSSS has not opted for such calls.

Representative of All India Christian Council for Kandhamal, Arup Jena, who also happens to be the president of Kandhamal district United Citizens’ Forum, said, “We feel a majority of inhabitants of Kandhamal have realised the futility of animosity and violence. Hence we are returning to times of peace and harmony.” At most places in the district, people from all communities got together to enjoy Christmas festivities. Midnight mass was held at all churches of Kandhamal. All churches and prayer houses throughout the district bore decorated look.

Out of around 8,40,000 population of Kandhamal district, around 1,30,000 are Christians.

According to Mr. Jena, there are around 1,000 churches and prayer centres in Kandhamal and of them, around 120 are big churches. Communal riots had erupted in the district during Christmas in 2007. The riots happened again the next year following the assassination of senior VHP leader Swami Laksmanananda Saraswati on August 23, 2008.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 9:35:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/kandhamal-rises-above-violent-past-on-christmas/article30398875.ece

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