Saswat Singhdeo

Cuttack: A major controversy erupted after a video of Barabati-Cuttack MLA Debashish Samantaray manhandling a relative of Odia CRPF jawan Manoj Behera martyred in Pulwama attack, went viral on social media. Following the incident, the BJP has strongly condemned the BJD MLA's act and staged protest at the Niali Bazar area Monday evening.

As per reports, the incident took place on Saturday just when Behera was being paid the last respects before his mortal remains were consigned to flames.

In the video which has gone viral, Samantaray was seen pushing the martyred jawan's uncle who fell down near the coffin. The MLA was unaware that the entire act was being captured on camera.

During the incident, Odisha Minister Pratap Jena, Niali MLA Pramod Mallick and Cuttack-Choudwar MLA Pravat Biswal were also present at the spot.

Protesting the incident, BJP workers burnt the effigy of Samantaray at the Niali Bazar area yesterday evening.

"The BJD MLA's behaviour is heinous and unfortunate. He should be immediately arrested," BJP Secretary Lekhasri Samantsinghar said.

However, no comments could be obtained from Samantaray or any other BJD leader in connection with the video.

Responding to the incident, former Kendrapara MP Baijayant Jay Panda tweeted: "This is awful. This is not what BJD stood for when it was founded (& for more than a dozen yrs thereafter). It was bcz its culture was morphing into this that i spoke out, was ostracised, & quit. Glad i left, i cd'nt be part of something that openly humiliates martyrs' families.(sic)"

The last rites of the two Odia CRPF jawans- Manoj Kumar Behera and Prasanna Kumar Sahu were performed on February 17 at their respective villages at Ratnapur in Cuttack and Shikhar village in Jagatsinghpur districts respectively as thousands bid a tearful adieu to the bravehearts.

Meanwhile, opposition parties today trained their guns on BJD president and chief minister Naveen Patnaik over the incident.

Congress spokesperson Satya Prakash Nayak termed the incident as unfortunate and said “The way the BJD MLA misbehaved and manhandled with the martyr’s kin is totally shameful. This shows the real identity of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the party should apologise for such insult.”

BJP leader Lekhashree Samantsinghar said "The video clearly shows that the MLA is pushing the kin of the martyr and it speaks volumes about the lawmaker's character. The MLA should be immediately arrested for his act.”

Odisha Congress chief Niranjan Patnaik tweeted, "The insensitivity and inhumanity with which BJD MLA Debashish Samantaray treats the kin of braveheart Manoj Behera who made supreme sacrifice for the nation will make any patriot's blood boil. This deep-rooted arrogance and feudalistic mindset is what BJD is all about."

Responding to the allegations of opposition, BJD spokesperson Sasmit Patra said “The way the incident is being portrayed on social media is not justified. When the family of the martyr has not spoken anything, it clearly shows that the statements of opposition parties are politically-motivated.”

After a hue and cry over the incident, Debashish Samantaray tendered his apology and said that he was not aware that the concerned person was the relative of martyr.