Protests in Orissa as Togadia barred from Kandhamal



Protests in Orissa as Togadia barred from Kandhamal Bhubaneswar: Thousands of people held demonstrations in several parts of Orissa on Saturday against Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Praveen Togadia being arrested and prevented from entering Kandhamal district.

Activists of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and VHP staged protests in front of the additional district magistrate's office in state capital Bhubaneswar.

Numbering in hundreds, they shouted slogans against the government and also burnt an effigy of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

Similar protests were also reported from places like Rourkela, Cuttack, Balasore, Berhampur, Phulbani and Bolangir, a police official told a news agency.

"Denying permission to Togadia is unconstitutional, unreasonable, arbitrary and a deliberate affront against Hindus. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik would remain squarely responsible for any untoward incident that might erupt due to this blatantly discriminatory treatment which is highly provocative," said Jual Oram, president of the BJP's state unit.

Togadia was arrested late Friday near Charichhak in Boudh district along with several other VHP activists as they tried to head to Kandhamal, which witnessed large-scale communal violence last year, despite a ban imposed by the district administration on his entry.

Protesting the government ban on his movements, Togadia squatted on the road along with his supporters, asking why he could not enter Kandhamal when an European delegation was allowed to visit the district.

Togadia and his supporters were, however, released early Saturday on personal bonds. After his release, Togadia left for neighbouring Ganjam district, where he was scheduled to attend several programmes of the VHP.

The VHP has called a 12-hour shutdown in Kandhamal Saturday, protesting the government's move but police said it had not affected normal life.

The Kandhamal district administration banned Togadia's entry fearing that his visit may disturb peace in the region, where at least 38 people, mostly Christians, were killed in months of communal violence following the murder of VHP leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati Aug 23, 2008.

IANS