Niladri Bije fiasco: 6 servitors arrested, 9 suspended from service

Puri: Six servitors have been arrested by the police for creating a ruckus and attacking media persons leading to disruption of the Niladri Bije ritual of Lord Jagannath and his siblings while nine other servitors have been placed under suspension from Srimandir service for violating the ban on climbing the chariots and misbehaving with Puri collector Arvind Agarwal on Sunday night.

The suspended servitors are Ipsita Pratihari, Rabi Das, Rabi Khuntia and Bhagirathi Khuntia, Damodar Mahasuar, Jaykrushna Mahasuar, Saina Khuntia, Bhimsen Palankadhari and Kashinath Khuntia.

They were suspended for delaying Niladribije rituals, misbehaving with the Collector and flouting the rules of chariot climbing, chief administrator of Sri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) Suresh Mohapatra said.

“We have examined the CCTV footage of the Niladri Bije and suspended nine servitors from duty under clause A and C of section 21 (B) of Sri Jagannath Temple Act 1954,” Mohapatra said adding that charges will be framed against them immediately and disciplinary action taken soon.

They had allegedly misbehaved with the Collector and helped some unauthorised persons to climb the chariot during the Niladri Bije ritual, Mohapatra added.

On the other hand, the six arrested servitors – Bapi Khuntia, Shankar Palankdhari, Bipin Patri, Papun Mohapatra, Baban Khuntia and Madan Khuntia – have been sent to judicial custody after the court of the sub-divisional judicial magistrate (SDJM) rejected their bail petitions.

Puri collector Arvind Agarwal had lodged two FIRs with the SP Sarthak Sarangi against the six servitors, who had misbehaved with him, abused him in foul language and even threatened to kill him during Niladri Bije of the deities on Sunday night. The six servitors against whom the FIRs have been lodged are Damodar Mahasuara, Jayakrushna Mahasuara, Bhimsen Palankdhari, Rabi Das, Ipsit Pratihari and Saina Khuntia.

Three fresh cases have been registered in this connection. Two have been filed based on the report of the Puri Collector, while another case has been registered based on the report filed by the on-duty ASI.

The servitor community is up in arms over the action taken by the SJTA and has threatened even greater disruption of rituals in future.

“This is just the beginning. The pahandi ritual was delayed by only one hour. But I am telling that the ritual would be delayed by six or seven hours in future. The rites and rituals might collapse completely,” thundered Jagannath Swain Mohapatra, the chief badagrahi (custodian) of Lord Jagannath.