More than 100 families, who had fled the riot-hit Kandhamal district, have reached Bhubaneswar after spending over three days in jungles.
Some of them, who managed to find an accommodation at the local YMCA, said they had initially fled to the jungle after their houses in Rupagaon village were torched by assailants who were protesting the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Laxmananda Saraswati.
After spending three days and three nights in hideouts, hunger and thirst forced them out. Afraid of returning to the village or to relief camps set up by the Orissa government, they decided to move to the capital city. Most of them walked to Daspalla in neighbouring Nayagarh district, a distance of about 40 km, before catching a bus to this city.
While 37 families were lodged at the YMCA, others took refuge at their relatives' houses in the city, said Rabinda Pradhan, one of the villagers who lost a brother in the riot.
"The miscreants set fire to the entire village," they said. Narrating the ordeal with tears rolling down her cheeks, Gitanjali said her brother Rasananda was burnt to death in front of the terror-stricken family members.
"On the night of August 24, a day after Swamiji's killing, nearly 100 armed people came to our village and asked us to come out of the house. Though three of my brothers managed to ran away, Rasananda could not come out as he had a broken leg," she said.
Her three brothers and four sisters-in-law have also taken shelter here. The tales of woe narrated by Bhagabati Pradhan, Basanti Pradhan, Jagabandhu Pradhan and others were similar.
All the attackers were locals and knew where the villagers were hiding, said Dambarudhar Pradhan.
"Therefore, we did not feel secure even in the jungles," he said, adding the victims would not be returning to Rupagaon unless peace was completely restored in the district.
Ajit Pradhan of Raikia, who too had fled to the jungle along with his family, is now camping at the government camp set up in the village. "I spent three days in the jungle. But I lost contact with my family members after entering the jungle and stayed back while others left for Bhubaneswar. I am waiting for my mother, wife and two kids," he said while expressing fear that they might have been killed or kept in captivity by the assailants.
Khurda district administration has deployed security personnel around the YMCA building in Bhubaneswar to instill confidence among the people.