Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Anandpur(Keonjhar), Jul 7:
Tension prevails at Belabahali village on National Highway 215 in Anandpur subdivision of Odisha’s Keonjhar district after a clash between villagers and police today left 12 injured on either side.
Thousands of villagers clashed with the police opposing the construction of a high level bridge over river Kusei at Belabahali village.
About 100 protesters have been arrested, police said.
Villagers opposed to the construction of the proposed bridge at a particular location in the area were on a dharna on the National Highway demanding relocation of the proposed bridge on river Kusei.
As talks between the villagers and the administration failed to resolve the issue on Monday, agitated locals blocked the flow of traffic on either sides of the National Highway this morning. The protesters allegedly also torched a site camp of a contractor firm Gayatri Constructions. A clash ensued when police tried to lift the blockade and prevent them going on a rampage.
While Keonjhar SP is himself at the spot, 15 platoons of policemen have been deployed at the spot. The situation is said to be currently under control, reports said.
“12 agitators and 12 policemen have been injured in the clash. Three policemen are seriously injured. We have arrested 100 agitators. A mob of 2000-3000 has blocked the road. For the last two years, a high level bridge has been proposed to be constructed at Belabahali by the NH authorities. The villagers have been opposing the construction of the bridge at the current location. We had discussions with the villagers over the alignment of the proposed bridge. But the villagers are rigid on relocation of the proposed bridge to a different location. The NHAI authorities are of the opinion that the location suggested by the villagers for the proposed bridge is not suitable from the alignment and engineering point of view. Our Works secretary and NHAI authorities have discussed the issue on several occasions and the location suggested by the villagers is not a feasible proposition technically. From the administrative point of view, we will take a decision after holding discussions,” said Sangram Keshari Swain, ADM Keonjhar.
Former PCC president and senior Congress leader from the area Jayadev Jena has condemned the police action on the local villagers.
“The way the police has attacked the agitators, used tear gas against them and injured them, it had never happened in the district. I do admit that both sides have sustained injuries. But the police used force and attacked the villagers. They have been beaten up. Is the bridge being constructed for the public or for the contractor, who is a BJD member? The location is not very far from the district headquarters. The administration should have sorted out the issue through negotiations. Instead, it has used force to make people yield,” said Jena.
Describing the incident ‘unfortunate’, Rural Development minister Badri Narayan Patra blamed both sides for today’s clash.
“This is an unfortunate incident; I fail to understand why the NHAI didn’t agree. I was a party to that. I too had held discussions with the villagers and NHAI authorities in the presence of the collector. The alignment could have been changed. With a slight bending of the road, the matter could have been resolved. Why they didn’t do is a different thing. Such situation has arisen when people remained rigid in their demand so also the NHAI authorities. Today’s incident is the most unfortunate. People too have taken the law into their hands. They had taken a magistrate hostage and were not allowing the contractor to execute its work. It’s not that the entire panchayat is opposed to it; only one village is opposed to it,” Patra said.
Meanwhile, the injured woman sub inspector and another sub inspector have been shifted to SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack as their condition worsened.
Besides, the local BDO, who was also also injured in the incident, has been hospitalised.