Tribal body gives 48-hr Kandhamal bandh call on 25th Dec

Phulbani: A tribal body has given a call for a 48-hour bandh from Christmas Day in sensitive Kandhamal district, with the administration assuring that Christians could observe the festival without fear.

Kui Samaj Samanya Samiti (KSSS) leader Lambodar Kanhar said the two-day bandh was called to observe Martyrs Day on December 25 in memory of tribal leader Khageswar Kanhar who was allegedly stoned to death on Christmas Day.

Stating that the KSSS was not against celebration of Christmas, Kanhar said it wanted fulfilment of the 34-point charter of demands. "The state government has not yet fulfilled our demands made long ago," he said.

Vice-President of the outfit Artatrana Kanhar, however, said he was unaware of such a programme, while its central committee president Tirtha Jani said the KSSS did not support Lambodar's decision.

Bhimsen Pradhan eminent tribal leader of G Udayagiri said, "It is not fair to take such a decision without consulting other tribal leaders and core committee members."

Kandhamal District Collector B S Punia told reporters, "We assure the Christian community to celebrate the festival freely without any fear.

"KSSS has to withdraw its agitation. The district administration is ready to face any eventuality in order to maintain law and order," he said.

Superintendent of Police J N Pankaj said, "We have sufficient police forces to curb the activities of a handful people."

Riots had taken place in the district in 2007 and 2008. Altogether 38 persons were killed in the aftermath of Laxamananda Saraswati's killing in August, 2008.