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Tension prevails at Jagannath temple over queue system

Irate mob attempted to barge into the 12th-century shrine, removed the barricades

Bhubaneswar.

Tension prevailed on Wednesday at Jagannath temple in Puri as a 12-hour dawn-to-dusk shutdown to protest against the introduction of a queue system for ‘darshan’ turned violent.

An irate mob attempted to barge into the 12th-century shrine, removed the barricades erected near the temple and ransacked the office of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA).

The bandh call was given by socio-cultural organisation Jagannath Sena against the newly-introduced queue system in which the devotees have to enter the shrine by forming a queue at the Singhadwara, which is the main entrance to the temple. After having a ‘darshan’ of the deities, they have to exit through three other gates.

As part of their protest, they also ransacked the house of local MLA and Revenue Minister Maheswar Mohanty and hurled stones at Puri Superintendent of Police (SP) Sarthak Sarangi’s official residence, police said.

Police said the protesters also ransacked a police outpost and an information centre near the Singhadwara.

The agitators staged a road blockade on the Bada Danda (Grand Road) by burning tyres, bringing vehicular movement to a grinding halt.

Police took Jagannath Sena convener Priyadarshan Patnaik under preventive detention.

"Ask the police why they have arrested me. I am ready to die for Lord Jagannath. The protests you have witnessed today is just the beginning. We will intensify our agitation further," Patnaik told the media persons.

In order to disperse the protesters, the police resorted to mild lathi charge and lobbed tear gas on the grand road.

Puri Collector Jyoti Prakash Das said the administration took quick steps to bring the situation under control and prevent any further flare up.

He said a peace committee meeting will be held to sort out the issue.

"We appeal to the people to maintain peace. The protesters became violent by being emotional. The district administration will sit with them and resolve the issue," said Central Inspector General Soumendra Priyadarshi.

He said while the queue system was introduced for the public on an experimental basis, a review would be done as locals opposed it.

Meanwhile, police conducted a flag march on Puri Grand Road after the law and order situation deteriorated over the introduction of the queue system.

Director General of Police (DGP) R.P. Sharma also reviewed the situation.

The queue system was implemented for the first time by the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) on an experimental basis on October 1 as part of the reform measures suggested by the Supreme Court. However, devotees have expressed displeasure over the system.

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