Unprecedented security marks Ahmedabad rath yatra

June 24th, 2009 - 6:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Narendra Modi Ahmedabad, June 24 (IANS) The annual rath yatra (chariot festival) of Lord Jagannath got underway in Ahmedabad Wednesday with 15,000 state policemen and central forces providing tight security along the 14-km route.
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi performed ‘puja’ at the Jagannath temple in the city before the main chariot of Lord Jagannath started trundling at 8 a.m. More than 50,000 people

are following the chariot that is being pulled by 50 devotees.

The major feature of this year’s yatra - the 132nd since it was first held - is that hundreds of Muslims have joined it. They have been welcomed into the mmunally sensitive Jamalpur and Kalulpur localities, which have in the past witnessed some of the worst communal riots.

Almost the entire battalion of traffic policemen of Ahmedabad has been deployed for smooth movement of the procession through localities from where the chariot is passing. The yatra is expected to culminate at 8 p.m. at the Jagannath temple after traversing through half of the old Ahmedabad city.

The policemen continued to round up suspicious characters during the yatra to ensure nothing went wrong. A large number of elevated observation posts have been erected in the sensitive Jamalpur and Kalulpur areas where the Border Security Force men have been deployed with their automatic weapons.

A battalion of Gujarat’s State Reserve Police (SRP) also has been deployed ahead of the chariot while the troopers of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) are escorting the chariot.

The mammoth wooden chariot weighing several hundred tonnes has priests and some devotees sitting on it with the idols of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balram and sister Subhadra.

Ahmedabad Police Commissioner S.K. Saikia and state Director General of Police (DGP) S.S. Khandwawala are supervising the security arrangements, for which dedicated control rooms have been set up.

Over 50 surveillance cameras have been mounted not only on the chariot but also on top of buildings in areas from where the yatra is passing.

Nearly a lakh of people are expected to join the yatra’s welcome in the old city localities.

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