Hanuman Jayanti was observed on April 14, with hundreds of worshippers participating in processions in the western Odisha city amid strong security measures throughout the violent Sambalpur.
The authorities permitted a Hanuman Jayanti parade and were given heavy police deployment. Before the evening march, the state government stationed roughly 1,500 security personnel in the city.
An official said the ‘Maha Arati’ event, which served as the main attraction of the celebrations, was staged in the presence of a sizable posse of security personnel, an official said. The parade, which began at the Brukspal Hanuman temple in the evening and travelled through sensitive regions, included 35 groups celebrating Hanuman Jayanti. To ensure peaceful processions, senior officials such as District Collector Ananya Das and DIG (North Central) Brijesh Ray and Sambalpur SP B Gangadhar were on the streets to ensure law and order. Das said, “I have been assured by leaders of organisers that there will be no untoward incident during the festival. I have also cautioned all participants that stern actions will be taken against those who will create disturbances”.
Still, there were complaints of arson since a number of stores were purportedly set on fire by miscreants. A curfew and further restrictions were put in place in Sambalpur, Odisha, as a result of reports of violent incidents that occurred during Hanuman Janmotsav processions. Several shops were burned down during the city’s Hanuman Janmotsav celebration. On Maha Vishuva Sankranti (New Year), which fell on April 14 this year, Hanuman Janmotsav is observed in Odisha.
The district administration ordered a curfew, which is in effect until further orders, said officials. Schools & offices are closed, though people are allowed to buy essential items. In a notification, “a state of Curfew U/S- 144(1) CrPc is hereby declared with immediate effect until further orders”, said the Sambalpur sub-collector.
People are allowed to go shopping for essential items between 8 and 10 am and 3:30 to 5:30 pm. According to Sambalpur District Collector Ananya Das, all educational institutions, public and private offices, and commercial establishments were to remain closed. The authorities have appealed for peace and normalcy. The collector pleaded with the people to assist the district administration so that order & peace would be restored in the city at the earliest. Despite heavy police presence and Section 144 being enforced in several areas, violence broke out during the Hanuman Janmotsav rally on April 14.
The eruption of violent incidences started on April 12, during a biker rally in the city which resulted in ten police officers, one of whom was a woman, being hurt. The bike rally was conducted to celebrate Hanuman Jayanti. All six of the district’s police station areas were subject to Section 144. After the violence, 32 persons were detained.
The District Magistrate said the entire city is “under CCTV surveillance to monitor the movement of mischief mongers”, and the internet services have been suspended since April 13 to prevent the spread of violence in the area. The reason for suspending internet services in an official order by the state’s home department was that the situation was critical & miscreants could use social media platforms to spread fake news to incite more violence in the region. Even the security forces conducted a flag march, and foot patrolling was carried out on April 13. An officer said drones in selected sensitive areas were also used to watch the movement of mischief mongers.
Still, on April 14, violence erupted, which was followed by a curfew in the affected area. In the coming days, we need to see how normalcy is brought in Sambalpur.