More than 5,000 security men were deployed and a helicopter pressed into surveillance on Wednesday in riot-hit Kandhamal district of Orissa as Christians there prepared to celebrate Christmas amidst a feeling of insecurity.
The government sealed all entry points to Kandhamal, which witnessed large-scale violence following the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Laxmananda Saraswati.
"Besides adequate number of central forces, we have got a chopper for patrolling on Christmas day," Director General of Police Manmohan Praharaj said.
About 4000 paramilitary personnel, 1,000 state armed force and general police have been deployed in the district, official sources said.
Besides Kandhamal, the state government has identified Sambalpur and Sundergarh as sensitive districts where security arrangements have been made extensively.
"We have made security arrangement in 30 churches of Kandhamal for smooth celebration of the festival," Home Secretary Aditya Padhi said, adding that every possible step was taken to ensure an incident-free Christmas in the district.
The Hindu Jagaran Samukshya, which opposed conversion by missionaries, appealed for a peaceful Christmas but Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Rapheal Cheenath said tension continued to simmer in Kandhamal and people in remote areas of the district were apprehensive of trouble during Christmas.
Kandhamal Superintendent of Police Praveen Kumar said arrangements had been made to celebrate Christmas in relief camps where people had been staying ever since violence broke out in August.
The SP said negotiations were being held with leaders to conduct a peaceful tribal congregation at Barakhama in Kandhamal on Thursday. The administration had already imposed prohibitory order for the purpose.
The state government has asked collectors and SPs of all districts not to leave the headquarters till the festival was over.
An Additional Director General of Police rank officer is camping in Kandhamal, the DGP said, adding that he would go to Kandhamal and Sambalpur on Thursday for an on-the-spot monitoring of the security.
A high-level meeting chaired by chief secretary A K Tripathy reviewed situation across the state.
"I appeal to the people to celebrate Christmas in peace and joy," the chief minister said while asking the police to take no chance in maintaining law and order across the state.
The Hindu Jagaran Samukshya also issued an appeal seeking a peaceful Christmas. "Do not create any trouble during Christmas as Orissa is earning a very bad name over the developments in Kandhamal," HJS state president Ashok Sahu said.