Puri DM files FIR against priests, 1 held for attacking journalist during Rath Yatra

PURI: District Collector of Puri, Aravind Agarwal, today lodged an FIR against some servitors who allegedly abused him, while a priest was arrested on charge of launching an attack on journalists during the final ‘Pahandi’ ritual of Lord Jagannth’s Ratha Yatra festival.

Agarwal, who was present at the site during the ritual last night, objected to Damodar Mahasuara who was taking his daughter onto the chariots defying an Orissa High Court order.

The High Court in 2014 had ordered that none other than the authorised servitors could climb the chariots.

Apart from taking his daughter to the chariots, Mahasuara also provoked others to take law into hands.

“I was abused in filthy language by a group of servitors led by Mahasuara when I objected to his act of taking his daughter on to the chariots,” Agarwal said in the FIR which was handed over to Puri S P Sarthak Sadangi.

Agarwal said he remained silent at the spot as the Pahandi rituals were going on for taking the deities back into the temple.

“I chose not to take any action on the spot as they (servitors) threatened me to stop rituals,” Agarwal said adding he lodged the complaint after the first ‘Abadha’ (cooked prasad) came out of the temple kitchen today after a gap of about one month in view of the annual car festival.

The District Collector has also sent copy of the FIR to the Revenue Divisional Commissioner (RDC) to bring the matter to his knowledge.

Asked about the intention of a section of servitors, Agarwal said “They try to arm twist the administration by threatening to stop rituals of the Lord. Therefore, we were under pressure while taking action against erring servitors.”

Sources said Agarwal has filed two FIRs with the SP. While one FIR deals with misbehaviour and threatening him, another was on hurting the religious sentiments of devotees by stopping Pahandi ritual mid way.

The district magistrate has named six servitors in the two FIRs, they said.

Voicing concern over the episode, Gajapati King of Puri, Divya Singha Deba, in a statement said “I am hurt and worried over chaos during the Ratha Yatra. The administration should ensure that such incidents are not repeated in future.”

Meanwhile, the police arrested a servitor of Shri Jagannath Temple for physically assaulting and mounting attack on media persons during the final ritual of the festival.

The servitor, identified as Madan Khuntia, was arrested on attempt to murder and other charges after around 25 journalists lodged an FIR at Simhadwara Police Station about the incident that took place last night, said Additional Superintendent of Police, B B Sahu.

While Khuntia was identified and arrested after examining the CCTV footage, search was on to nab some others for the incident that took place before the deities were slated to be carried from the chariots in ‘Pahandi’ into the 12th century shrine during the Niladri Bije ritual, he said.

As a group of servitors including Mahasuar forcibly took their family members on to the chariots in violation of the High Court directive, unruly scenes were witnessed before the Pahandi ceremony for Niladri Bije, marking culmination of the annual festival that began with Ratha Yatra on July 6.

The servitors allegedly misbehaved and abused the government officials present at the site. Some of them allegedly attacked media persons present on the spot to cover the event.

A team of journalists later lodged an FIR with police demanding action, police said.

Source: PTI