BHADRAK/BHUBANESWAR: Even as no violence was reported from anywhere in communally-charged Bhadrak town for the last two days, the State Government on Sunday shut down internet services in the area for the next 48 hours to prevent the spread of rumours through social media.
In its continuous efforts to restore peace and harmony, the State administration decided to invoke Section 5 of The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 at a high-level meeting chaired by Chief Secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi and attended by Special DG (Crime Branch) B K Sharma.
Internet providers were asked to stop their services till Tuesday evening so that rumour mongers cannot operate social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook, which help in fanning communal tension.
On Saturday, Sharma had urged people to share credible information on misuse of social media following which the Crime Branch was reportedly flooded with video clips and information that had been on circulation in the district since Friday.
“We have already started investigating into the alleged offensive remarks on Hindu deities on social media. Those responsible for spreading rumours will also be booked. The WhatsApp group admins have been asked to share information on the users who were exchanging messages, pictures and video clippings on the violence,” he said.
The district administration, which had relaxed curfew for four hours from 8 am to 12 noon to allow locals to purchase essential commodities under the close vigil of security forces, later extended it till 7 am on Monday to avoid any untoward incident.
A control room has been set up with toll-free number - 1077 and helpline number 06784-251881 to assist the residents in violence-hit Bhadrak town. People have been urged to seek help whenever they require, till normalcy is restored.
While 43 people have been arrested so far in connection with the violence which left several shops gutted and vehicles damaged, Inspector-In-Charge (IIC) of Bhadrak Town police station Jadunath Jena was replaced by Manoj Rout, who was IIC of Tihidi police station. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC remained in force in sensitive areas of nearby Dhamnagar and Basudevpur blocks as a precautionary measure to prevent spread of violence.
The administration has also initiated damage assessment and directed to keep all educational institutions in the town shut on Monday. Additional forces, including two units of Rapid Action Force (RAF) and two companies of CRPF along with 35 platoons of armed police were deployed as part of efforts to restore peace.
As curfew was relaxed following improvement in the overall situation in the town, people queued up at shops to purchase essential items. Power supply, which was snapped as the service wire and main line were damaged due to fire, was also streamlined in Santhia, Nangamahala, Kajumahala and Chandanpur areas.
Home Secretary Asit Tripathy, who is camping in the town along with senior officials, including DG of Police K B Singh and ADG (Law and Order) Binayanand Jha, said the situation is under control and peace is returning in the area.
He said the decision to relax the curfew for four hours was taken after reviewing the situation that showed signs of improvement with no untoward incident being reported from any part of the town since Saturday. “Forces have been deployed to maintain communal amity,” Tripathy said. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who attended inter-State council meet at New Delhi, apprised Home Minister Rajnath Singh about Bhadrak situation and urged him to provide additional two companies of RAF and CRPF each.
Violence had erupted in Bhadrak town on Thursday after a group staged a demonstration near the town police station demanding immediate arrest of those involved in posting offensive remarks against Hindu deities on social media.