Kandhamal: A day after Christian groups demanded a ban on the proposed visit of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) chief Praveen Togadia to Phulbani, the administration has denied permission for his entry and slapped a prohibitory order under Section 144 across the district which will remain in force for a week.
In response, the VHP has called for a 12-hour bandh in the district on February 28, the scheduled date of Togadia’s visit. The VHP top brass is scheduled to address a gathering of its supporters at Phulbani, the district headquarters town, on February 28.
"He (Togadia) will not be allowed to enter the district. The ban is valid for next seven days," said Kandhamal's Superintendent of Police Kanwar Vishal Singh.
Indian Christian Voice president Abraham Mathai had written a letter to chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday urging him to intervene into the matter.
At least 38 people were killed and thousands had to flee their homes following widespread communal violence in the region in 2008 after the assassination of VHP leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati suspectedly by pro-Church activists.
"Since Togadia is known for instigating such violence, allowing him to take part and address a gathering in the region is reason enough for genuine concern for the Christian community to fear for their safety," Mathai had said in the letter.
"I beseech you on behalf of the helpless and fearful Christian community, who are a minority in Kandhamal, to intervene immediately and prevent this dubious and ostensible celebration from taking place at all in such a communally tense backyard," the letter further stated.
Similalry, a social activist had also moved the local administration here seeking a ban on Togadia's visit to the area. Ramakant Baliyarsingh, a Christian resident of Brahmanigaon in the region, urged the district magistrate on Tuesday to invoke prohibitory orders at the proposed meeting venue as Togadia's fiery speeches might upset the fragile peace between communities here.