Normalcy returned to Puri Thursday, a day after the pilgrim town in Odisha was rocked by a clash between members of a socio-religious outfit and security forces during a shutdown over introduction of queue system at Jagannath Temple, police said. More than 30 people, including police personnel, were injured when a mob, comprising members of Sri Jagannath Sena, clashed with security forces during the 12-hour shutdown, DGP R P Sharma.
The preventive detention of the outfit’s convener, Priyadarshan Patnaik, had triggered the clash. The outfit had given a call for shutdown in Puri Wednesday, seeking immediate revocation of the queue system. “Normalcy has been restored in Puri and devotees can now offer prayers at Jagannath Temple without any hassle,” Sharma said. The DGP, who visited the 12th-century shrine for a review, said extensive damage was caused to the properties of the government and the temple by the unruly mob. He urged people to maintain peace and prevent “anti-social elements” from creating lawlessness.
The mob uprooted barricades erected on ‘Baisi Pahacha’, the 22 steps leading from the main gate to the shrine and near the ‘Singhadwara’ (the Lion Gate), and ransacked the office of the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA). Talking to media, P K Mohapatra, the chief administrator of SJTA, said the violence would bring a bad name to the seaside town. “What happened Wednesday was unfortunate. It would bring a bad name to Puri as well as Odisha,” he stated. Supreme Court-appointed amicus curiae Gopal Subramanium, who visited Puri last month for discussion on implementation of various reform measures, has voiced deep concern over the incident, Mohapatra said. “The CCTV footage of the incident will be examined and stringent action initiated against those who indulged in vandalism. A detailed report along with video footage would be sent to the amicus curiae,” he said, adding that Subramanium would visit Puri soon.
Inspector General of Police (Central Range) Soumendra Priyadarshi, who accompanied the police chief, said more than 10 police personnel were injured in the violence. Adequate police force has been stationed in the pilgrim town as a precautionary measure, he added.
Puri District Collector Jyoti Prakash Das said Thursday the temple administration has decided to allow entry of local devotees through all four gates — Hathidwara, Vyaghradwara and Ashwadwara and Singhadwara. A peace committee meeting of representatives of SJTA, district administration and other stakeholders decided Wednesday evening to open all four gates to local people, the district collector said. “Outsiders will be given entry only through Singhadwara, but local devotees can enter through all four gates if they produce necessary ID proof,” he added.