A shutdown called by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) threw normal life out of gear in Odisha’s communally sensitive Kandhamal district on Saturday, police said.
Roads were deserted, shops were closed and government offices wore an abandoned look due to the shutdown in protest against the local administration’s decision to bar VHP’s international president Pravin Togadia from entering the district, stopping him from addressing a scheduled meeting.
VHP and Bajrang Dal activists, seen picketing in front of government offices and commercial establishments, however exempted emergency services and school students from the shutdown.
“We have deployed personnel at sensitive areas to maintain law and order and are keeping a watch on the situation,” Kandhamal superintendent of police KV Singh said.
VHP leader Paresh Mahapatra said the administration was biased against them to appease Christian missionaries. “The administration banned Togadia, when in the past they have allowed Christian leaders to hold meetings,” Mohapatra alleged.
The district, having a sizable chunk of Christian population, has a history of communal violence. Anti-Christian riots left at least 38 dead and thousands displaced in 2008 after the murder of VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati.
The district administration had clamped a seven-day ban on Togadia’s entry from Thursday evening after a Christian group wrote to chief minister Naveen Patnaik, opposing the hardline Hindu leader’s address in Kandhamal’s district headquarter.
Collector N Thirumala Nayak said the ban was imposed in view of breach of law and order and past history of the district’s communal tension.