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Kandhamal on the boil, again

Kandhamal district in Orissa is on the edge again as the Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati Sradhanjali Samiti remains obstinate on enforcing the Orissa bandh on Christmas Day, reports Soumyajit Pattnaik.

india Updated: Dec 18, 2008 01:09 IST
Soumyajit Pattnaik

Kandhamal district in Orissa is on the edge again as the Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati Sradhanjali Samiti remains obstinate on enforcing the Orissa bandh on Christmas Day.

The Samiti announced in a rally in Bhubaneswar on November 15 that an Orissa bandh would be observed on December 25 if the real killers of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati were not arrested in a month.

Even Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s announcement in the assembly of plans to come down heavily on those who will incite violence on December 25 has so far come a cropper.

Bhubaneswar-Cuttack Archbishop Raphael Cheenath told the Hindustan Times, “The chief minister’s announcement is a good decision, provided it is implemented.”

Meanwhile, the Kandhamal district administration has started taking written undertakings from different group and community leaders that they will not indulge in violence in the run-up to Christmas Day.

To keep outsiders away, the administration has decided to seal the district borders and screen all vehicles entering the area after December 21. District Collector Krishna Kumar said, “The administration will take all possible steps to maintain peace in the district.”

The killing of the swami sparked anti-Christian riots in which 39 lives were lost in Kandhamal and nearly 150 churches were damaged. During the next month, four suspects were arrested in connection with the swami’s killing. But it failed to pacify the bandh organisers.

The chief minister said in the state assembly, “No bandh will be permitted on December 25, 2008, which is Christmas Day. I repeat that days of religious festivals of every community should be days of amity and goodwill.”

“Orissa has a long history of communal harmony and peace. No one should do anything which will mar this image. Let not the shocking and tragic incidents of communal violence that took place in December last year and August this year ever be repeated again. The government will come down heavily on anyone who tries to create any violence,” he added.