Orissa wants central forces to stay on in Kandhamal

Bhubaneswar, April 20 (Inditop) The election in Orissa’s troubled Kandhamal district went off peacefully last week, but state authorities want the central forces deployed in the communally-sensitive region to stay on for a while longer, officials said Monday.

The central government wants to withdraw the 45 companies of paramilitary forces, including the forces deployed in Kandhamal after the communal riots last year. It wants the forces to move to West Bengal where elections will begin April 30, said Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Arun Sarangi.

“We have asked the centre to keep at least 15 companies of forces in Kandhamal district,” Sarangi told IANS.

At least 40 companies of paramilitary forces were deployed in Kandhamal, about 200 km from here, after the communal riots in August and September last year in which 38 people were killed.

“By April, around 22 companies were withdrawn and 18 are still deployed in the district,” said District Collector Krishan Kumar.

“We want them to stay for the time being,” he said, adding that many people were still staying in relief camps.

“We have asked the government to extend the stay of at least 15 companies of forces for some more time,” Kumar added.

Kandhamal witnessed widespread communal violence after the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides Aug 23.

At least 38 people – most of them Christians – were killed in the state and thousands of people were forced to flee their homes after their houses were attacked by mobs.

Elections for one Lok Sabha seat and three assembly constituencies in the district were held April 16. The polls went off peacefully with nearly 66 percent voter turnout, the collector said.