The Odisha government has blocked internet in curfew-hit Bhadrak and other parts of the state for 48 hours from 7 pm today. It had on Friday imposed a curfew in Bhadrak after communal clashes were reported over allegedly derogatory comments about Ram and Sita on Facebook. The restrictions had been extended to the towns of Dhamnagar and Basudevpur and were initially supposed to be in place till 8 am on Sunday, but was later extended to 7 am on Monday.
So far, 10 people have been detained in connection with the violence that erupted in Bhadrak, and 35 platoons of police officers have been deployed to maintain law and order, according to ANI.
Tension began to brew after members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal blocked roads and staged demonstrations outside the local police station on Thursday to demand the arrest of three Muslim youngsters, who were believed to have posted the controversial comments. The Bhagat Sena Ram Navmi Samiti lodged a complaint against the three after they allegedly shared insulting comments on Bajrang Dal activist Ajit Kumar Padhihari’s Facebook timeline, The Indian Express reported.
Superintendent of Police Dilip Das said a mob had blocked traffic near Nua Bazar square, while members of the local Hindu and Muslim communities held a peace committee meeting. Four police officers were injured after clashes broke out, and around 60 shops were set ablaze, The Times of India reported.
Rioters also damaged a Hanuman Temple on Friday. No untoward incident has been reported on Saturday. Meanwhile, state authorities have removed District Collector LN Mishra and appointed Cuttack Municipal Commissioner Gyana Ranjan Das to the post.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik made a public appeal for peace, saying stringent action would be taken against those attempting to cause chaos. Patnaik, who is also the state home minister, is currently in Delhi to attend an inter-state council meeting.
A college in the locality where the clashes broke out postponed its scheduled exams in view of the prevailing violence, OTV reported. Union minister Krishan Pal Gurjar has cancelled his trip to Bhadrak.