No internet, large gatherings banned in Odisha city after clashes at Ram Navami rally

Section 144 has been imposed in Joda town in Odisha and internet services have been shut down after clashes were reported during Ram Navami celebrations.

Police teams patrol the area (representational)

Odisha’s Keonjhar district administration on Tuesday suspended internet services and extended section 144 restraining orders until 10 a.m. tomorrow, following clashes between two groups during celebrations for Ram Navami.

According to reports, a religious group was planning to hold an ‘akhada’ procession to a Shiv temple in the district’s Joda town. However, the district administration refused them permission because it was late at night and the group wanted to wield swords during the procession. Police feared clashes could break out if people armed with swords crossed the minority-dominated area.

Participants in the procession were asked to hoist the flag at the temple the following morning.

On Monday, the police agreed to allow only five people to enter the temple without swords or weapons. Annoyed by this, the group blocked the road near the Hanuman Temple.

As the group proceeded to the temple with the flag, it was opposed by another group, resulting in a violent clash between the two communities involving rocks and bottles. Several police officers and journalists were injured.

Police and administration officials rushed to the scene and used lathi-charge to disperse the crowd. Many were injured in the violence, following which restraining orders were imposed.

Meanwhile, 14 police platoons have been deployed to the area.

Speaking to India Today TV, Keonjhar District Collector Ashish Thakare said the situation was under control and police teams were patrolling the area. “We are monitoring the situation closely,” he said.

Schools, colleges, shops and commercial establishments have been ordered to remain closed until Wednesday.

Watch: | Muslims sprinkle flower petals on the Ram Navami procession in Rajasthan

Sara H. Byrd