Keonjhar clash: Singhdeo targets CM

Bhubaneswar: Slamming the BJD government in Odisha for police crackdown on villagers seeking shift of a proposed river bridge site in Keonjhar district, the BJP today demanded a judicial probe into the incident claiming it was engineered to divert people’s attention from Lord Jagannath’s Nabakalebar fiasco.

“The recent police crackdown on people at Belabahali near Anandpur was engineered by BJD government to divert the attention of people from mismanagement in Nabakalebar rituals and non-completion of works for the mega event,” state BJP president K V Singhdeo told reporters here.

Alleging that 114 people have been arrested from Belabahali since the wee hours of July 7, Singhdeo said all those, particularly women, picked up at random must be released immediately.

At least seven of the women arrested have infants below one year age, he said adding power supply to the village was being snapped everyday from 7 PM to 7 AM to intimidate the villagers.

“Usual power supply must be restored so that villagers can lead a normal life,” he said.

Stating that the villagers were not opposing the bridge over Kosei river and simply sought a location change, the BJP leader said if the people’s demands were not acceded to, the party would launch a march from Belabahali to Bhubaneswar in protest.

Singhdeo, who had led a 12-member party delegation to Belabahali yesterday to take stock of the situation, said the villagers were peacefully agitating against location of the proposed bridge, which has failed to address the fear of floods looming large on Belabahali and five other panchayats.

Even the field inspection report of the Works Department official admitted the people’s design satisfies NHAI norms without demolishing the existing built up structure, the BJP leader claimed.

Stating that the agitation had been going on for a long time for change of alignment of the bridge and several rounds of talks were also held with the administration on the issue, Singhdeo said there was a sudden move to start work amid heavy police deployment.

The entire exercise, launched at the direction of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, was simply aimed at diverting people’s attention as the BJD government had come under severe attack from many quarters for utter mismanagement in the Nabakalebar rituals, Singhdeo said.

Alleging that the police had lathcharged and fired teargas shells during the incident in which a large number of people were injured, he claimed proper treatment was not provided to the injured.

BJP would take up the matter of realignment of the bride with the Union Shipping Ministry, the state party chief added.