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Six Jagannath Temple priests arrested, nine suspended

Wednesday, Jul 20, 2016,11:18 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

Puri | Hours after police arrested six servitors on charge of attacking journalists, Shree Jagannath Temple Administration today placed nine priests under suspension for violating the ban on climbing the chariots and misbehaving with the district collector on Sunday night.

The action has been taken based on the evidence of the CCTV footage of the Niladri Bije. The nine servitors have been suspended from duty under clauses A and C of section 21 (B) of Sri Jagannath Temple Act 1954, Suresh C Mohapatra, the chief administrator, Shree Jagannath Temple Administration, said. Mohapatra said disciplinary action would be taken soon. He said suspended servitors included Damodar Mahasuar, the senior priest who had allegedly abused Puri district collector Aravind Agarwal and defied the Orissa High Court order by taking his daughter onto the chariots.

The other suspended servitors are: Ipsita Pratihari, Rabi Das, Rabi Khuntia, Bhagirathi Khuntia, Jaykrushna Mahasuar, Saina Khuntia, Bhimsen Palankadhari and Kashinath Khuntia. Meanwhile, the six arrested servitors  Bapi Khuntia, Shankar Palankdhari, Bipin Patri, Papun Mohapatra, Baban Khuntia and Madan Khuntia  who allegedly attacked journalists during Niladri Bije rituals, have been sent to judicial custody after the court of the sub-divisional judicial magistrate rejected their bail plea.

Puri collector Arvind Agarwal had yesterday lodged two FIRs with the SP Sarthak Sarangi against the six servitors, who had allegedly abused him and even threatened to kill him during Niladri Bije of the deities on Sunday night.

The six servitors against whom the FIRs have been lodged by the District Collector are Damodar Mahasuara, Jayakrushna Mahasuara, Bhimsen Palankdhari, Rabi Das, Ipsit Pratihari and Saina Khuntia. Meanwhile, a woman ASI on duty near chariot on Sunday, has lodged a fresh FIR against a group of servitors who allegedly misbehaved with her.

Even as the action against the erring servitors earned praise from the public, Daitapati priests strongly opposed it. They even threatened greater disruption of rituals in future. This is just the beginning. The pahandi ritual was delayed by only one hour. But I am telling that the ritual would be delayed by six or seven hours in future.

The rites and rituals might collapse completely, Jagannath Swain Mohapatra, the chief badagrahi (custodian) of Lord Jagannath told reporters. Meanwhile, Opposition Congress and BJP criticised the state government for repeatedly failing to conduct hassle free rituals at the 12th century shrine. I hold the state government responsible for what is now happening at the Temple.

It has completely failed in maintaining peace in the temple, said Leader of Opposition Narasingha Mishra. Senior BJP leader B B Harichandan, who is a former law minister, also came down heavily on the state government for the Temple fiasco.