The police on Thursday registered criminal cases against 17 sevayats (servitors) of the Jagannath Temple at Puri for misbehaving with several VIPs, including Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, in the temple premises on January 1. The sevayats allegedly scuffled with Patnaik, Assembly Speaker Maheswar Mohanty and three ministers while they were trying to enter the temple on New Year's Day. Patnaik and Mohanty were allowed entry into the temple but due to strong opposition from the sevayats, the ministers and some other VIPs accompanying them had to return from the entrance.
Puri SP Sanjeev Panda told HT: "Apart from showing very bad behaviour, the sevayats caused a nuisance outside and broke the metal barricades fixed by the police on the entry route to the temple for crowd control."
He said the police was investigating the allegations and the accused may soon be taken into custody.
In a separate incident, an assistant sub-inspector has accused several sevayats of assaulting him while on duty on January 1. Interestingly, the sevayats accused in the assault case belong to the same group of 17 facing criminal charges.
ASI Upendra Das has alleged in his complaint that a group of sevayats manhandled him and tried to snatch his revolver while he was on duty at the temple entrance. He sustained minor injuries in the attack.
Condemning the registration of police cases, some sevayat bodies demonstrated on the road in front of the temple and demanded withdrawal of charges.