At least seven companies of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), comprising 700 personnel, were withdrawn on Thursday from Orissa's Kandhamal district that had witnessed communal violence last year, an official said.
“The CRPF companies were deployed in areas such as Belghar, Baliguda, Pabingia, Mandashore and Katingia. They have started moving out from Thursday," a district police official told IANS on phone.
At least 4,000 central security personnel were deployed in the district, about 200 km from in Bhubaneswar, in the aftermath of the communal violence that erupted following the murder of Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides on Aug 23.
"The remaining forces will be redeployed in sensitive places. Some will be withdrawn in February and others at the end of March," the police official said.
The central government had directed the state to initiate the withdrawal of forces from Thursday since no violence has been reported from the region since October.
"Only 6,000 people are now in relief camps. They will also return home soon,” district collector Krishan Kumar told IANS.
About 40 people were killed and thousands of Christians were forced to flee their homes in the district after being attacked by rampaging mobs after Saraswati's murder.
While police blamed Maoists for the killings, some Hindu organisations held Christians responsible for the crime and launched attacks on the community. However, Christian organisations have repeatedly denied their involvement in the murder.