33 arrested after police and Congress workers clash
Assembly remained adjourned after an uproar as Congress demanded govt's apology for Thursday's clash; blame game continues
A day after the clash between Congress workers and police, Congress members on Friday 7 September created a ruckus in the Assembly and demanded an apology from the government alleging that it was the police who first attacked the Congress workers. The Assembly was adjourned for the day.
At least 54 police officials and about 250 Congress workers were injured in a clash that erupted on 6 September during the protest march held by the Congress demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for his government’s alleged involvement in the coal scam. A woman constable Pramila Padhi, 35, was seriously injured in the clash.
“Thirty three people have been arrested till now. Photographs of those who attacked the woman constable have been released and we will arrested them soon,” said Nitinjit Singh, DCP of Bhubaneswar Commissionerate Police.
On Thursday 6 September afternoon, the scuffle ensued when thousands of Congress workers violated the prohibitory orders and tried to enter the Assembly premises. Senior Congress leaders like Jagdish Tytler, who is in charge of state Congress, and Pradesh Congress Committee president Niranjan Patnaik were leading the protest march. Unable to control the mob, the police initially resorted to water canon and fired tear gas. According to police sources, at least about 50,000 party workers had assembled in the capital city for the demonstration on Thursday and more than 15,000 protesters were present at the spot where the clash took place.
“It all started when the mob started attacking us with stones and lathis. In the attack, many of my colleagues have been injured. I can control a crowd of 50,000 if they are peacefully demonstrating. But if thousands turn violent with prior plan to attack, then it is difficult to control the situation,” said DCP Singh, who has suffered injuries in the stone pelting. Among other senior officials, PK Jena, ACP of Cuttack Commissionerate office, and Nihar Das, ACP of Bhubaneswar Commissionerate office have been injured. Among the sub inspectors injured, Alok Kanungo is critical and is being treated in Apollo hospital in Bhubaneswar. Many injured Congress workers were taken to the Capital Hospital.
The scuffle continued for almost two and half hours. “I could have controlled the situation in just 20 minutes. But for that I had to order to open fire and there were three occasions where I could have done that, one of them was when about 20 people surrounded sub inspector Alok Kanungo and started bashing him. But as the crowd was huge, we observed restraint,” DCP Singh added.
Visuals aired by news channels showed how more than a dozen people surrounded constable Pramila Padhi and thrashed her with bamboo sticks. After she fell unconscious on the road, some people however escorted her and she was taken to the to the Capital Hospital. She was later shifted to a private hospital and her condition is improving, said the hospital staff.
Members of the State Commission for Women, along with its chairperson Jyoti Panigrahi, met constable Pramila Padhi on Friday and enquired about her health. Condemning the incidence, it has asked the police to submit an inquiry report.
Remarking on the incident, Odisha DGP Prakash Mishra said it was ‘organised hooliganism’. On the other hand, Bhupinder Singh, MLA and senior Congress leader said, “The police could have arrested the people. Why did they order lathi charge? We are however sorry for the attack on the woman constable. But those gathered there were not our people. Some unemployed youth and others who are frustrated against this government also participated.” Jagdish Tytler told the media “We are sorry for the attack on the woman constable. But the police attacked our workers first.”
State health minister Damodar Rout said that the Congress had no right to demand chief minister's resignation “The Congress is involved in several scams like coal scam, 2G spectrum scam, CWG scam among many others. What moral right do they have to demand resignation of honest Chief Minster like Naveen Patnaik. As far as attack on their workers is concerned, their leaders like Jagdish Tytler, Pradeep Majhi and other Congress leaders provoked their workers to break barricades and enter Assembly premises. The mob was seen to have molested and attacked the woman constable. Police observed utmost restraint, despite attack. But as situation went uncontrolled, they ordered lathi charge.” Speaking to the media, Patnaik said, “People are shocked by this violence. Odisha is a peace loving state. Such violence should be condemned.”
Meanwhile, in a joint press meet, the Odisha Police Service Association, Police Officers Association, and both Bhubaneswar and state associations of constable-habildar demanded the arrest of the attackers within 48 hours or else the police officials will not go to their duties.
Protesting against the violence, the state Congress has called a bandh on 10 September. Some mediapersons were also manhandled by the mob. Pratap Pradhan, a correspondent with a local daily, along with photo journalists Chandrasekhar Sahoo, Manoranjan Mishra and Deepak Mohapatra were also attacked by the mob.
Pradeep Baisakh is an independent journalist based in Bhubaneswar