Police firing: Naveen orders judicial probe

Berhampur/Bhubaneswar: Two persons were killed when police opened fire to disperse a violent mob which attacked them at a village in Odisha`s Ganjam district today over suspected practice of witchcraft.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik ordered an inquiry into the incident by the district and sessions judge, Ganjam, into the incident.

The clash occurred at Phasipada under Kodala police station area when the police were prevented from entering the village where residents had forcibly detained four persons, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told the assembly.

"Four persons, including a woman, were subjected to inhuman treatment on the suspicion of practising witchcraft. Police rushed to the village to rescue them but were prevented from doing so," Patnaik said.

The mob hurled stones and bombs at the police and attempted to chase them away, he said.

"The police resorted to firing after teargas and lathi-charge in self-defence failed to disperse the mob. As a result, two persons, Purno Palo and Rabinda Palo died and 17 persons were injured," the chief minister said.

He said 36 police personnel were injured, including seven critically, as also 17 villagers.

Terming the incident as "shocking and barbaric", Patnaik said stringent action would be taken under the law against the persons responsible.

Patnaik announced Rs 2 lakh each to the families of the deceased from the Chief Minister`s Relief Fund.

The expenses for medical treatment of the injured would be borne by the concerned department, he said.

The four persons detained by the villagers were rescued, DIG of Police (Southern Range) R K Sharma said.

The villagers had tonsured the four and pulled out their teeth accusing them of practising witchcraft. One of the victims escaped last night and informed the police, after which the action was taken.

Five platoons of armed police, including two platoons of the Special Operation Group, were deployed in the village to maintain law and order.