Their village is as far as they can go. Ten days after a mob attacked and torched houses, Rudangia, 260 km from capital Bhubaneshwar, is a fortress, where paramilitary forces stand guard.
Sudhir Naik (47), a casual labourer to travelled 8km to a nearby town for work, hasn’t stepped out in days. Virtually a prisoner in his village, he fears once he leaves it, he would end up dead. He now has to queue up for food, provided by the administration.
On September 30, a 4,000-strong mob torched houses and prayer halls in Rudangia, a predominantly Christian village in Raikia block of Kandhamal district.
A Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) platoon was moved in when violence broke out in the state. It, however, failed to deter rioters, who stuck at around 5 a.m. during a shift change. A woman was killed, eight persons were injured and 70 houses torched.
“I saw a mob burning houses and attacking people. Some climbed tress and others ran into the jungle. They even fired at the police and told us to leave,” said Sudhir. The rioters felled trees and blocked entry to the village. It took eight hours for security personnel to reach the area.
“They want us to leave. This is our land, we wouldn’t give in to their demands. Though, we’re really scared at night and can’t go beyond the village boundary… town is a distant dream,” said Satapati Naik. Satapati, hit on head with tangiya, a sharp-edged weapon, returned from hospital on Friday. “I was shocked to see my family living in a tent. We’ve been advised to stay in a group—it’s easy for security personnel to protect us,” Satapati said.
Villagers say most of the rioters are still hiding in the nearby jungle. “We know many of them are hiding in the jungles. We are safe as long as the police are here, what’ll happen once they are gone?” asked Gopal Pradhan.