Pradeep Pattanayak

The Intelligence officials (Special Branch) had warned about communal tension in Sambalpur ahead of the violence that occurred during Hanuman Jayanti celebrations. 

In the letter issued to the Sambalpur Superintendent of Police on April 11, the Special Branch SP had said that 600 members of Hanuman Jayanti Samanwaya Samiti have proposed to take out a bike rally at 3 pm on April 12. The rally will start from  Govindtola Petrol Bunk to Durga Mandir Gol Bazaar. 

In the letter, the SP was also informed that the rally would pass through Muslim-dominated areas like Bhutpada, Motijharan, Raza Nagar, Sunapalli, Kumbharpada, and Daliepada. The rally would pass through mosques like Risala Masjid, Noorie Masjid, Salafi Masjid, Sadar Masjid, and Mazar of Pirbaba. 

“The rally time may coincide with the Namaz time of different Masjids en route. Any anti-Muslim slogan by the members of the rally or anti-Hindu slogans by the people of the Muslim community may lead to communal tension. In view of recent communal tension in different parts of India, law and order situation may not be ruled out,” read the letter. 

“On the above backdrop, it is requested to remain extremely alert to the developing situations and necessary security measures/ adequate precautionary measures as deemed proper may be taken to maintain Law and Order and communal harmony during the observance of these festivals,” read the letter. 

While the Sambalpur Police was asked to be alert and take adequate measures to avoid law and order situation, the city witnessed widespread violence during Hanuman Jayanti celebrations.

Citing it to be a mindless lapse on the part of the police administration, the Opposition BJP and Congress targeted the BJD-led dispensation. 

BJP spokesperson Jatin Mohanty said, “In Odisha, the CM holds the Home Department portfolio. In spite of it, police arrangement was totally inadequate to control the situation. It suggests the department has no responsibility. It seems the department is orphaned. Who is to be thanked for this inactiveness?”  

On the other hand, Congress spokesperson held both the State and the Central governments responsible for Sambalpur violence. 

“The state and the central governments are equally responsible for what happened in Sambalpur. There is no denying that the local SP and the officers of the concerned police stations took the warnings lightly. The second thing is that the Central government issued the advisory and forgot its role. They (central government) didn’t follow up to see if the advisories were followed or not. If they had followed up, the situation would have been different,” said Congress Leader, Nishikanta Mishra.

No comments on the matter have been received from the concerned authorities or the ruling BJD.