Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jun 26:
Normal life was thrown completely out of gear across Odisha today due to a 12-hour dawn-to-dusk bandh call given by the Congress in protest against the gross mismanagement by the state government and the Shri Jagannath temple administration resulting in serious irregularities and violation of tradition during the Brahma Parivartan of the Lords in Puri on June 16.
However, essential services like health services in hospitals and ongoing Nabakelabara work were exempted from the Bandh.
Reports reaching here said Congress activists staged rail roko in Cuttack, Khordha Road, Angul, Sambalpur, Brahmapur, Bhadrak, Jaleswar, Bhadrak and Rayagada in the morning and staged road blockades at various places by placing burning tyres on the roads in these places as a mark of protest.
Violence mars bandh
Though the bandh remained largely peaceful. stray incidents of violence were reported from some places.
Angry residents torched two bikes belonging to Congress activists in Shastri Nagar after they went on a rampage beating up people and smashing shops in the Shastri Nagar area in the morning while Congress protesters damaged several vehicles, including a tourist bus from Tamil Nadu in Bhubaneswar. There were reports of tourists being beaten up. Some malls were also vandalised in the city.
Tension ran high in Odisha’s district headquarters town of Nayagarh when Congress supporters attacked an 108 ambulance and beat up its driver at the main square of the town. However, the Congress has denied of its men attacking the ambulance driver.
Following the incident drivers of four 108 ambulances parked the ambulances in front of the district headquarters hospital on the National Highway and blocked the road demanding action against the attackers.
Later police intervened, assured the drivers of action against the attackers and managed to persuade them to remove the blockade.
Protesters went on a rampage inside the Biridi block office and beat up BDO Rabindra Sabat and clerk Artabandhu Sswain. Reports of violence have also come from Dhenkanal town where the Municipality and DEO offices were ransacked by Congress workers.
Construction of chariots and other work related to the Nabakalebara in Puri were, however, largely unaffected by the bandh.
Protests in Bhubaneswar
In Bhubaneswar, the police had a scuffle with a group of Youth Congress activists who tried to force their way into the State Secretariat premises.
The entire route from AG Square to Naveen Niwas has been sealed with police men guarding all entry points to the route. The police were clearly in no mood to take any chances in Patnaik’s security in the backdrop of eggs hurled on the Chief Minister’s carcade a few months back.
The Chief Minister did come to the secretariat for about 45 minutes, but had to enter the premises through Gate No 5 on the backside amid tight security.
Commissioner of Police Dr RP Sharma said over 100 Congressmen had been arrested for violating prohibitory orders.
Police arrested several senior Congress leaders in Twin City Bhubaneswar and Cuttack including Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) president Prasad Harichandan, former OPCC chief Jayadev Jena, Sarat Patnaik, Bhakta Charan Das, AICC Odisha saha pravari Subhankar Sarkar, Suresh Routray, Chiranjibi Biswal, Kishore Patel and Sibananda Ray to clear the road for the Chief Minister’s carcade.
Besides, several Congress leaders, including the Youth Congress president and Student Congress president, were arrested by the police.
Earlier in the morning, Congress workers went to the city railway station and detained the Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani Express and several other trains.
In Cuttack, the party workers staged rail roko and disrupted train services while in Sambalpur, Congress activists detained some trains at Khetrajpur railway station.
The bandh also evoked total response in Puri as the Congress workers and leaders blocked the road at Atharanala and picketed at the railway station. All schools, colleges, educational institutions, business establishments and banks in the pilgrim town remained close.
Vehicular traffic came to a grinding halt while all business and trading establishments remained closed in most parts of the state. Besides, all banks, government and private organisations remained close.
The bandh was total in Baleswar, Nayagarh and Bolangir.
“Repression will not be tolerated. Fall of Naveen Patnaik government is imminent,” said Harichandan while being taken away by the police in a police van at AG Square.
Leader of the Opposition Narasingha Mishra thanked and expressed his gratitude to the people of Odisha for making the bandh a success.
“I thank and express my gratitude to the people Odisha from all classes and categories. Most important of all, the bandh has been peaceful and I hope that it will remain peaceful till 6 PM when the bandh ends,” said Mishra speaking Kanak TV today.
“The Congress’s only demand is the resignation of the Chief Minister; We will never allow the government to escape by merely taking action against lowly employees,” said Mishra to the reporter’s query whether the Congress will demand the head of Suresh Mohapatra.
Senior Congress leader Bhakta Charan Das said the chief minister should admit the gross failure of his government in the proper management of Shri Jagannath Temple administration and resign from his post respecting the sentiments of the people.
“We demand judicial probe into the delay in Brahma Parivartan, resignation of the Law minister and the chief minister responsible for such unfortunate incident,”said Congress leader Chiranjibi Biswal.
BJD spokesperson Pratap Keshari Deb said the statements made by Congress leaders, including AICC deputy incharge for Oodisha Subhanka Ssarkar, had left no room for doubt that the party was trying to revive its sagging fortunes throguh tis bandh.