Midnight mass peaceful

Helicopter hovers over Kandhamal
- Celebrations uneventful in Orissa’s coastal areas
Bhubaneswar, Dec 27 : Midnight mass and Christmas celebrations passed peacefully in Kandhamal and parts of Orissa amid tight security.
“We had a peaceful Christmas at Kandhamal and along the coastal districts,” said archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar diocese Raphael Cheenath. The only glitch, he said, was that fear and tight security prevented residents of five Kandhamal villages from attending the midnight mass.
“As things stand now, I don’t apprehend any violence tonight,” said the visibly relieved church leader, who had sought tight security for state churches from chief minister Naveen Patnaik.
He wasn’t the only one who was relieved by the uneventful day. “Prayers in Kandhamal were incident-free,” said director-general of police (DGP) Man Mohan Praharaj, talking to The Telegraph over phone. No report of violence was received from other communally sensitive areas, he added.
DGP Praharaj went for an aerial survey on a helicopter, provided by the Centre, in Baliguda, Brahmanigaon, G-Udaygiri, Tiakabali and Raikia — in Kandhamal and bordering Gajapati.
Additional director-general Deshraj Meena and director of intelligence R.P Singh accompanied Paharaj.
The state police chief also visited Barakhama in Kandhamal that had witnessed fierce riots last Christmas in which two persons were killed.
In the morning, there was a brief moment of tension in the district as Kui tribals held a congregation under the banner of Kui Samaj Samanwaya Samiti today to commemorate the “martyrdom” of Khageswar Mallick, killed in the pre-Christmas clash between community members and non-members in 2007.
Sensing trouble, district administration clamped prohibitory orders on the area and persuaded the samaj to hold its congregation at a place away from non-Kui members, said special administrator M.S. Padhee.
The rally turned out to be a low-key affair and concluded peacefully, confirmed Kandhamal SP S. Praveen Kumar who was camping at the spot. Kumar said more than 60 churches were provided security before midnight mass, though 30 were initially identified for the purpose.
The state had witnessed widespread communal violence during August-September 2008 triggered by the murder of VHP leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, there were fears of a troubled Christmas.
Union home minister P. Chidambaram had called chief minister Naveen Patnaik yesterday urging him to ensure a peaceful Christmas. Prodded by the Centre, Naveen had directed police administration to take all possible steps to make the day event-free.
Security was also tightened around churches of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.