Bhubaneswar, April 7 At least 4,000 people have been identified as possible trouble makers ahead of polls in Orissa’s Kandhamal district, which saw communal violence that killed at least 38 people last year, an official said Tuesday.
The polling for one Lok Sabha seat and three assembly seats in the district is just nine days away and district authorities say all necessary steps have been taken to ensure peaceful polls.
“We have identified at least 4,000 people of different religions and communities who could create trouble. We have asked them to sign bonds that they will maintain peace and harmony,” District collector Krishan Kumar told media.
“Already, 2,600 people have signed the bonds. We have served notices to the others and hope they will also sign it in the next few days,” he said.
Kandhamal, about 200 km from here, witnessed widespread communal violence after the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram Aug 23, 2008.
At least 38 people were killed in the state and more than 25,000 Christians were forced to flee their homes after their houses were attacked by rampaging mobs. At least 3,170 people are still living in government relief camps.
There are apprehensions of renewed tension in the region with all major political parties making the VHP leader’s killing and the subsequent violence a major poll issue.
Orissa Archbishop Raphael Cheenath had last week appealed to the Election Commission to postpone the polls in the region as he said the situation in the area was still “tense and abnormal”.
Kumar, however, said there was no fresh communal violence in the region since October last year.
“Most of the people who have gone back home are living peacefully,” the collector said.
Around 750 people were arrested soon after the violence. While a few have secured bail, some are still lodged in prison.
The district has around 900 licensed guns and authorities have asked their owners to deposit the weapons with the police.
“At least 70 percent of the guns have already been deposited,” Kumar said.
Orissa goes to polls April 16 and 23 to elect 147 members to the state assembly and 21 members to the Lok Sabha. Polling in Kandhamal will take place in the first phase.
“Around 3,000 security personnel have been deployed in the region after the communal violence last year. They will remain there till the elections are over. Some more forces are also likely to reach (Kandhamal,” the official said.
“We have also set up a helpline for providing assistance to riot victims. Anyone can call the toll free number 18003456768 between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. for poll-related assistance,” Kumar said.