Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Rajkanika/Cuttack, Mar 9:
A delegation of Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC), led by its president Prasad Harichandan, arrived at the rouble-torn Namtara village under Rajkanika block in Kendrapara district where several villagers and policemen were injured in a clash during a protest by villagers against a licensed liquor shop in the village yesterday.
Harichandan is accompanied by several senior Congress leaders which include former Union Minister Srikant Jena and Pradesh Mahila Congress president Bijaylaxmi Sahoo.
The delegation is visiting the homes of protestors who were injured in the police action and is speaking to the villagers to collect first hand information on the incident.
The Congress delegation earlier visited SCB Medical College and Hospital at Cuttack and spoke to those undergoing treatment for injuries sustained during the police action.
Congress has alleged that nine persons have been injured in the firing and baton charging by the police on the protesters.
OPCC president Harichandan has demanded an independent inquiry into the incident. Condemning the alleged high handedness of the police, he has sought exemplary action against them.
“Police has resorted to firing on the protesters. Nine persons have been seriously injured in the police firing and baton charging . Out of them, seven persons have been critically injured due to police firing on them. They are now undergoing treatment at the SCB Medical. The government should immediately take action against those policemen who are responsible for this and immediately shift the liquor shop from the village. Government is solely responsible for this,” said Harichandan after meeting the injured at the SCB Hospital and before leaving for Namtara.
“The villagers were peacefully demonstrating against the liquor shop.Women were severely beaten up by the police. They sustained bullet injuries after being fired at by the police. Thy were protesting against liquor trade in their village. We are condemning it. It will not be wrong to call it murder. We are demanding severe action against policemen involved in the act,” said Ansuman Mohanty, Congress MLA.
Another Congress MLA Prakash Behera demanded strong action against the erring policemen and a compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the families of each person injured in the police action.
“I have ordered an investigation into the incident that took place yesterday. It would not be fair to make comments on a one-sided version of the happening. I am waiting for the report to come,” said Damodar Rout, Minister of Excise in his reactions on the incident.
However, BJD spokesperson and former minister Pratap Dev has squarely blamed the Congress for the incident. He said police had to resort to action after people took law into their hands.
“The villagers had served no notice for holding of demonstration to protest against the liquor shop. They had never objected to the existence of the liquor shop earlier,” he said.
Several women and even children were allegedly injured in police firing and lathi charge.
While police claimed that they had only resorted to blank firing and baton charging after protestors’ pelted stones on them, visuals aired by television channels showed police pelting stones at the protestors.
“Police were compelled to resort to a baton charge and blank firing to disperse the protesters,” said Superintendent of Police Satish Kumar Gajbhiye.
He said police had no gas guns with them.