Peaceful Christmas celebrations at Kandhamal

Kandhamal (Orissa): People in Orissa's Kandhamal celebrated Christmas with joy and enthusiasm amid elaborate security arrangements on Sunday, shedding fears of riots that had rocked the communally-sensitive district in 2007 and 2008.

After performing mid-night mass at different churches in the tribal-dominated area, Christians thronged their places of worship in colourful attires this morning as people belonging to all communities joined the celebrations showing a spirit of camaraderie and brotherhood.

The celebrations remained peaceful as elaborate security arrangements were made to prevent any untoward incident.

Security personnel were deployed in strength at places of worship, prayer halls and Christian-inhabited areas, while streets were being patrolled and anti-riot vehicles remained in a state of preparedness to meet any eventuality, a senior police official said.

Steps were taken for thorough checking at all entry points to the district to prevent mischief mongers from entering, he said.

"Strict vigil is being maintained across the district which witnessed communal violence during Christmas in December 2007 and after the killing of VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati in August 2008," he said.

Meanwhile, in a major relief for the administration, Kui Samaj Samanwaya Samiti (KSSS) which had called a four-day district bandh from yesterday has cut short its plan and decided to observe only a day-long shut-down tomorrow.

The tribal outfit decided to cut short the bandh plan after a meeting with senior officials who promised to fulfil our demands, said a KSSS leader.

They have been demanding action against people enjoying tribal benefits with the help of fake certificates.

KSSS had also planned a procession and public meeting here.