Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Puri, Nov 13:
At least ten policemen were injured in Odisha’s pilgrim town Puri in a scuffle with evictees of Ramachandi Balikuda basti when the district administration began fencing the area freed from encroachers today.
Police have detained 26 persons in this connection.
The scuffle between the evicted slum dwellers and policemen began after the later began fencing the land freed of encroachment with barbed wire.
Reports said evictees resisted the fencing of the area forcing the policemen to wield their batons, which led to stone pelting by the former leading to tension.
The lathi-charge by the police, however, has been denied by the Puri ASP. He said that eight to ten policemen have been injured due to brick-batting by them. “We told them that encroachment of government land was illegal,” the ASP said.
“Where will we go? At the time of eviction, they had said that they will provide us with alternative land to build our huts. But nothing has happened till date. We are left on the streets under the open sky. Our children were going to school earlier. But after the eviction, they have stopped going. We have voter identity cards and are getting allowances under government schemes,” said an old man with tears in his eyes.
Another woman said; “Where will we go? They had promised to provide an alternative site to rebuild our huts. But today, they have lathicharged us and have rounded up some of our men.”
The district administration and Railway authorities had recently freed the land adjoining the Railway Station here of encroachers.
The land will be used by the Railways for construction of a yatri nivas to provide accommodation to visiting pilgrims during the Nabakalebara festival next year. Nearly three million pilgrims are expected to land on the holy town to witness the unique event that comes once every 12-18 years.