Nine policemen were injured as violence broke out Wednesday during a 12-hour bandh called by a socio-cultural organisation protesting the introduction of a queue system for devotees visiting the Jagannath Temple, the police said. The dawn-to-dusk shutdown in the seaside town called by Sri Jagannath Sena turned violent as a mob barged into the 12th-century shrine, uprooted barricades erected on Baisi Pahacha and near Singhadwara and ransacked the office of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA), they said.
The protesters ransacked a police outpost and an information centre near the Singhadwara as well as the town police station, besides burning tyres and indulging in stone pelting, they said.
While around nine police personnel were injured in stone pelting, many structures suffered extensive damage in the mob attack, prompting the police to use mild force in order to control the situation, a senior police official said. Soon after the queue system was introduced in the temple on Monday on an experimental basis, Sri Jagannath Sena had given a call for Puri bandh to oppose the move.
The agitation turned violent after the police picked up Sri Jagannath Sena convener Priyadarshan Patnaik and held him under preventive detention. Asserting that the stir would be further intensified, Patnaik said the manner in which the new system was introduced had hurt the sentiments of a large number of devotees. Angry over his detention, activists of Jagannath Sena and locals held a demonstration demanding the immediate release of Patnaik. They also blocked the Bada Danda – The Grand Avenue – by burning tyres in a number of places.
The agitators allegedly pelted stones at the residence of the district SP and local MLA and a minister, police said. Normal life was crippled in the holy town as shops and business establishments, as well as an educational institution, were shut, while traffic came to a halt with protesters holding picketing and blockade at many places, police said.
Adequate police force was deployed in order to restore normalcy in the pilgrim town where the situation remained tense, the police said.
Puri Collector Jyoti Prakash Das said quick steps were taken to bring the situation under control and prevent any further flare up. An official said the queue system was introduced on an experimental basis and a review would be done as locals and servitors opposed it.