Curfew on Sunday relaxed for four hours as the situation improved in Bhadrak town which had witnessed violence triggered by alleged abusive remarks against Hindu deities. The curfew, that was imposed on Friday, was relaxed from 8 am to 11 am today but later extended till 12 noon to allow people to procure essential commodities, even as security forces kept a close vigil, a senior official said.
“People queued up at shops to purchase essential items following improvement in the overall situation in the strife-torn town,” they said, adding that the curfew would continue for some more time after the brief relaxation. Meanwhile, the crime branch has launched an investigation into the rumours circulated through social media following directions by Chief Secretary A P Padhi, who has appealed to people not to believe in such rumours.
The cyber police cell would seek information from people to track miscreants spreading hate messages on social media and strict action would be taken against them, Special Director General of Police (Crime) B K Sharma said. Three companies of Rapid Action Force (RAF) and two companies of CRPF have arrived to assist police in maintaining law and order in the town, Bhadrak SP Dilip Das said.
Additional forces, including armed police, were deployed as part of an effort to restore peace in the town which had witnessed violence on Thursday and Friday, Das said, adding 36 platoons of police force have been deployed in the area. Senior officials, including Home Secretary Asit Tripathy and Director-General of Police K B Singh, have been camping in Bhadrak to monitor and supervise the peace operation.
As many as 40 people have been arrested so far in connection with the violence which left several shops gutted and vehicles damaged, Bhadrak PS in-charge Jadunath Jena said. Prohibitory orders under section 144 of CrPC remained in force in nearby Dhamnagar and Basudevpur as a precautionary measure to prevent spread of violence, a police official said. He said the decision to relax the curfew for four hours was taken after reviewing the situation that showed signs of improvement with no untoward incident being reported from any part of the town since yesterday.
Violence had erupted in Bhadrak on Thursday after a group staged a demonstration near the town police station demanding immediate arrest of those involved in posting alleged offensive remarks against Hindu deities on social media. Though the district administration clamped prohibitory orders, tension persisted and fresh violence erupted on Friday despite a peace meeting called by the administration to restore normalcy. The escalation in tension prompted the administration to impose curfew on Friday, while security men held a flag march in the town yesterday to dispel fears from the minds of the people.