Reported by Viswanath Kumar
Kendrapara, Apr 20:
Even as prohibitory orders under Section-144 of the CrPC continues to remain in force across Odisha’s Kendrapara district, three Congress workers were arrested from Aul area in connection with the Friday post-poll violence that left one person dead and four others injured in the region.
Meanwhile police have launched a manhunt to nab the trouble-makers who beat up a BDO and vandalized his house after EVMs were found stocked in a vehicle parked in front of his official residence here.
No reports of untoward incident have been reported while the continuing prohibitory orders have created a sense of panic among the the people here.
Though tension continues to prevail in some areas of politically-sensitive Aul, Patkura and Mahakalpada Assembly constituency areas, situation is quite normal in most of the localities that went to polls on 17 April.
Questions are being raised on whether the promulgation of prohibitory orders under Section 144 Cr PC across Odisha’s Kendrapara district on 19 April and extending it by another 48 hours was warranted in the first place.
It is being widely believed that the move by the district administration was an effort to cover up its ‘ineptitude and misdeeds’ and suppress the public outrage over ‘poll-related malpractices’ in this politically sensitive coastal district.
Most people here believe that the authorities are responsible for the flare-up on Friday and that the trouble brewed solely due to their acts of omissions and commissions in poll management.
Since the first general elections in 1952, I have never stayed away from voting. Never before such a curfew-like situation had prevailed in Kendrapara after the election. I have been told that the officials committed improprieties in poll management. People reacted angrily when they found the EVMs stockpiled in front of the house of a poll official”, remarked Harihar Rout (86), a local resident.
” Clamping section-144 was surely not the best way to respond to the public outrage which, in fact, has grown many times over after prohibitory orders were imposed because people here feel, the government is trying desperately to hide something and protect some people ,” said the senior citizen
Even a section of the ruling party feels. the post-poll disturbances were not of such large magnitude as is being portrayed by the administration to justify the imposition of prohibitory orders across the district. They say section 144 could have been clamped in Kendrapara town for a day at the most and not extended to the whole district for three days. By such knee-jerk reaction, the district administration is giving an impression that it is trying a cover up of its own sequence of blunders, they say.
BJP district unit president Duryodhan Sahu says, the angry protests over EVM hoarding inside a vehicle continued for nearly 30 minutes and this took place hardly 100 metres away from the police station. The Collectorate was also barely 500 metres away. But no one knows why the SP and the Collector did not turn up at the spot, thus leaving the BDO to face the mob’s ire. They arrived on the scene almost after 3 hours after the flare-up began. By then, the situation had gone out of control, he says.
People have been subjected to undue panic even though peace and order prevails in almost all the areas in the district, feel civil society activists. While the ‘curfew-like situation’ in Kendrapara district following promulgation of section-144 has drawn criticism from various quarters, general people are bearing the brunt of its repercussions. Business has taken a backseat with inflow of people to the district headquarters township has dropped drastically. The number of buses plying to Kendrapara has come down much to the inconvenience of commuters. People are coughing up hard-earned money as they have to hire autos and taxis to travel.
“Police have taken into custody three Congress party supporters in connection with poll-related violence in Badiha village of Aul. There are other people involved in the Friday’s poll-related murder and they would be arrested soon,” District Superintendent of Police Mr. Rabi Narayan Behera said.
Although no fresh incident of violence has been reported in the district. Situation has turned normal. However as a precautionary measure, section-144 will remain in force till Monday, he added.
The clash broke out between the supporters of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the Congress in Aul area of the district Friday night over alleged election irregularities, a day after voting for the Assembly and Lok Sabha was held in the area.
Meanwhile the district election office has begun probing the footage of a local television channel that showed rigging in a booth in Aul assembly constituency. It showed a man walking into the electronic voting machine enclosure along with a woman voter and helping her to press a specific button, while the polling officials were watching helplessly.
An inquiry has been conducted and its findings have been submitted with the chief electoral officer, said an official.