BALASORE: The Chadak Mela ground at Chandaneswar, about 90 km from Balasore, turned into a battle ground on Thursday when police allegedly resorted to lathi-charge following a scuffle with devotees.
As many as 50 persons, including a dozen police personnel, have been injured in the clash. Aggrieved over police ‘excesses’, the devotees set a police van afire. Sources said District Collector Akhila Bihari Ota had to turn back from the venue as the irate people pelted coconuts at his vehicle. He was there to bring the situation under control.
It started during the Mela Chandani Parva, a ritual in which devotees throw mud and sandalwood paste at each other. The cops allegedly beat up a couple of devotees mercilessly as the mud fell on them.
The devotees alleged that the cops resorted to lathi-charge when they chased them. “No one had thrown mud on them. The mud aimed at another devotee unfortunately fell on them which made the cops furious. Though we apologised, they beat us up,” said a devotee.
The police, however, said the scuffle started after some devotees misbehaved with a Bengali girl who had come to witness the festival along with her family.
SP Rajesh Kumar said when the devotees started molesting the girl her father approached the police for help. “The devotees attacked the police when the latter chased the crowd to rescue the girl. The crowd even torched a police van and left a few cops injured,” he said.
Rituals at Chandaneswar Shiva temple and the festival were delayed for hours following the incident. Normalcy was restored in the evening after a meeting between the temple managing committee members and the administration.
The SP and the Collector urged the crowd to maintain peace.