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Under fire, SJTA suspends nine unruly servitors for Niladri Bije fiasco

-- Six arrested for manhandling mediapersons
-- No action yet on Collector’s FIRs

Puri, July 19: After coming under severe criticism from opposition parties and lakhs of Jagannath devotees across the globe for failing to smoothly conduct the Niladri Bije ritual of Lord Jagannath and His siblings on Sunday night, Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) on Tuesday suspended nine unruly servitors for creating chaos leading to pahandi (Ceremonial procession) ritual disruption of the deities.

Six arrested servitors  
On the other hand, six servitors were arrested by the Singhaswar police for creating a ruckus and attacking mediapersons while the latter were covering the unruly act of a group of servitors on that day.

SJTA Chief Administrator Suresh Chandra Moahapatra told reporters that Damodar Mahasuar, Ipsit Pratihari, Rabi Das, Rabi Khuntia and Bhagirathi Khuntia, Jaykrushna Mahasuar, Saina Khuntia, Bhimsen Palankadhari and Kashinath Khuntia on charges of delaying Niladri Bije rituals, misbehaving with the district Collector and violating the rules of chariot climbing as per the Shree Jagannath Temple Act-1954.

The action was taken after examination of the CCTV footages of the Niladri Bije rituals, added Mohapatra.

“The nine servitors were suspended from duty under Clauses A and C of Section 21 (B) of the Shree Jagannath Temple Act 1954,” added Mohapatra.
Mohapatra said the SJTA will frame charges against them soon and disciplinary action will be initiated against them.

Meanwhile, the six arrested servitors, Bapi Khuntia, Shankar Palankdhari, Bipin Patri, Papun Mohapatra, Baban Khuntia and Madan Khuntia, were sent to judicial custody after the Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate (SDJM) court here rejected their bail petitions. They were arrested for allegedly assaulting mediapersons during the Niladri Bije.

They all were booked under Section 341, 323, 294, 307 and 34 of the IPC.

Interestingly, no arrest has been made in response to two complaints filed by Collector Arvind Agarwal so far.

On July 17 during the Niladri Bije, tension ran high minutes before the deities were scheduled to be taken from chariots into the Jagannath Temple after Puri Collector protested some servitors who allegedly breached the security cordons and took their family members, including women, onto the chariots, triggering a face-off with the police and temple officials.

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