BHUBANESWAR: As the situation was yet to turn normal in riot-hit Kandhamal, the Orissa government on Thursday decided not to scale down the presence of paramilitary personnel in the district despite beginning of the phase-wise withdrawal of Central forces from the State.
“We will not decrease the presence of Central Reserve Police Force in Kandhamal district at the moment,” State Director-General of Police Manmohan Praharaj told The Hindu.
According to Mr. Praharaj, a total of 10 companies of CRPF were withdrawn from the State during the day, including seven from Kandhamal. However, five companies of CRPF that were deployed in other parts were moved into Kandhamal, he added.
Two more companies of Central forces were to be moved into the district soon.
“The deployment of around 35 companies of CRPF will continue in Kandhamal,” Mr. Praharaj said.
As many as 53 companies of additional Central forces were deployed after anti-Christian violence broke out in the aftermath of the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Lakshmanananda and four others in Kandhamal on August 23 last. While 38 companies were deployed in Kandhamal, the remaining were positioned in other parts.
According to police sources, the Centre earlier issued instructions for withdrawal of all the 53 companies by March end.
However, the Centre subsequently agreed to extend the deadline for withdrawal of all the companies after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik requested that at least 20 companies of CRPF deployed in Kandhamal should continue till the end of the forthcoming general elections.
Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India demanded that the deployment of Central forces should not be scaled down in Kandhamal and adjoining districts.
Secretary of CPI(M) Orissa State Committee Janardan Pati also demanded that the administration should continue to run the relief camps in Kandhamal where thousands of riot-affected Christian people had taken shelter.
Those living in the relief camps should not be asked to leave the place until the government helped them rebuild their homes that were damaged or burnt down during the communal violence, Mr. Pati said.
At least 6,000 people belonging to Christians are presently living in different relief camps in Kandhamal.