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Tension grips Kandhamal district

Staff Reporter

Clash over erection of arch and attack of VHP leader the trigger



VHP calls district bandh today

It coincides with bandh call given by Kui tribals



BERHAMPUR: Kandhamal district is in the grip of tension on Christmas-eve following communal clashes and separate bandh calls given by the VHP and the tribal organisation Kandhamal Zilla Kui Samaj (KZKS).

It all began following a clash over erection of a decorative arch at Brahmanigaon on Monday morning. Two persons were injured in the incident. The situation aggravated when adviser of the Central Committee of the VHP Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, who was on his way to Brahmanigaon, was attacked by some miscreants near Dasingbadi on the way. The VHP leader, his driver and the police bodyguard accompanying him were injured in the attack.

The VHP immediately called bandh in all blocks of Kandhamal district following which activists of the Sangh staged demonstrations. The police had to resort to mild lathi-charge at Baliguda to disperse an angry mob of VHP supporters. The VHP also gave a bandh call in the district on Tuesday, the day of the festival. It also called four-hour bandh from 8 a.m. throughout the State.

The district was already facing tense moments after the KZKS gave a 36-hour bandh call from Tuesday.

Tribals’ contention

On Monday, the Revenue Divisional Commissioner (RDC), southern division, Satyabrata Sahu and Deputy Inspector-General (DIG) of police, southern range, R.P. Koche held discussions with the KZKS leaders in an effort to restore peace. But the talks failed.

The Kui tribals were agitating for past five months to protest against alleged attempt by some organisations and leaders of the district to accord Scheduled Tribe status to harijans of the district. Their demands included action against State Minister Padmanabh Behera and MP R.K. Nayak and an organisation named Kui Jan Kalyan Sangh, who according to the tribal organisation, were fanning communal tension between tribals and harijans in the district.

Speaking to The Hindu, convener of the KZKS Lambodar Kanhar said their bandh call would not attempt to disrupt Christmas celebrations but they would only allow two wheelers and medical vehicles to ply in the district. The organisation would also not allow any shops other than medicine stores open their shutters during the bandh period.

The RDC and the DIG rushed to the district to monitor the situation. Mr. Sahu said 14 platoons of armed police force were deployed in the district and by Tuesday morning another 10 platoons would be in position in different parts of the district.

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