In an unpredented move, the district administration in Odisha’s Kandhamal district today refused permission for VHP international general secretary Pravin Togadia’s scheduled public meeting here on Saturday and clamped prohibitory orders under Section 144 on his visit anywhere in the district for seven days beginning today.
“We have imposed Section 144 on Mr. Togadia’s visit for seven days from today in view of the apprehensions of a breach in peace and public order,” Collector N Thirumala Nayak announced here today.
Superintendent of Police (SP) Dr KB Singh said security had been beefed up throughout the district to prevent a law and order situation.
As if on cue, patrolling has been intensified and frisking of vehicles has started all over the district with policemen in large numbers deployed at all sensitive places.
Vociferously protesting the district administration’s decision to deny permission for the rally, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the host of the Togadia event, announced a Kandhamal bandh on Saturday.
“It is an infringement of the right to religious freedom enshrined in the constitution imposed by the Naveen government,” VHP leader Bhagaban Mohanty told OST.
“In the past, the district administration has allowed Christian missionaries to have meetings here. It allowed the Pope’s representative to have a meeting in Raikia. It even arranged for a helicopter for a gathering of Christian missionaries at Daringbadi, where the BJD MP was present. How can it now deny the same courtesy to a Hindu leader?” the VHP leader asked.
Signs of a confrontation were evident earlier in the day when a four-member VHP delegation walked out of a meeting convened by the collector in an effort to persuade the hardline Hindu organisation not to host Togadia.
Mohanty pointed out that the district administration had already given permission for the meeting, including a permission to use loudspeakers. “We had made it abundantly clear while seeking permission that Togadia will address the meeting . How can it now ask us not to have him?”he asked.
Raising the temperature in this communally volatile district, influential tribal leader Lambodar Kanhar served a dire warning to the district administration.
“The poor handling of the situation by the administration led to riots in 2007 and 2008. If the administration trips again this time, it could lead to another riot,” he thundered.
With the rise in communal temperature, the new headache for the authorities is the district wide bandh called by the VHP.