BHUBANESWAR: The strife between two communities in Soro town of Balasore district has exposed the poor intelligence network of police who are now being blamed for lack of foresight to gauge the gravity of group clash that led to communal tension.
As the town is in turmoil for the last four days following a group clash during immersion of Ganesh idols, Balasore Police is in the dock for failing to contain the melee despite prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPc and night curfew.
According to reliable sources, the present scenario in Soro, which has a sizeable population of minority community, is a result of callous police administration, which despite reports of sporadic violence across the country, preferred not to make arrangement during the immersion procession that was to pass through a communally-sensitive area.
An altercation ensued between two communities when the immersion procession was passing close to a masjid at Pathan Mahalla at around 9 pm on September 9. It aggravated when a youth from the minority community tried to overtake the procession. The two communities clashed with each other leading to brick batting and pelting of stones and bottles leaving eight injured.
The violence, which could have been tamed from the first day, flared up further as the police failed to assess the communal disharmony prior to the festival. Local intelligence apparatus also failed to provide inputs regarding possible trouble spots.
Local police remained complacent despite the fact that Soro had experienced communal riots in 1991 during Ram Mandir agitation at Ayodhya. The 1991 riots had claimed two lives.
Precious little was done to deploy police force at strategic points of the communally-sensitive place during the Ganesh Chaturthi celebration or immersion processions. No police deployment was made during the processions.
Soon after the strife and following prohibitory order, police were probably waiting for a go ahead signal to be on hot pursuit against mischievous elements from both the communities. The near curfew-like situation could have been clamped from day one itself with strong action against the communal elements.
A senior administrative official, who is camping at Soro, admitted that there was no police arrangement at all in sensitive areas, which was a major lapse on the part of police.
“A probe will be conducted and action will be taken against officials responsible for the lapses after normalcy is restored,” he assured.
However, Balasore SP Niti Sekhar said, “Though police personnel were deployed during immersion procession, their number was less.”
Soro NAC has a population of 32,531 (as per 2011 census) of which 79.32 per cent are Hindus, 20.58 per cent Muslims and 0.02 per cent Christians.