Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 13:
Proving Parliamentary Affairs minister Bikram Keshari Arukh, who had told the Odisha Assembly on Wednesday that police had only resorted to blank firing and no one was injured in firing on villagers of Namtara in Kendrapara district on March 8, at least six persons are being treated for gunshot injuries at the SCB Medical College Hospital in Cuttack.
The six villagers who sustained bullet injuries in the firing by police are Bengalata Jena (35) who was shot on her right thigh, Rashmita Jena (12) who received bullets on her two thighs, Rita Jena (8) who was shot on her right knee, Debasmita Jena (20) shot on her ear, Sasmita Jena (36) on her left thigh and Manmath Jena (30) on his lower abdomen.
The three others, who were left with fractured bones in the lathi-charge by police are Bhagyadhar Mallick (36), Purnima Mallick (35) and Mayabati Jena (40).
Milita Odisha Nisha Nibarana Abhiyan, an organisation working for total prohibition in the state which visited the hospital on Thursday, has claimed that the police had deliberately opened fire at the people of Namtara village during a demonstration near a liquor shop in their village on March 8.
“If the police claim that they had opened blank fire to disperse the demonstrators and resorted to just a mild lathi-charge, how come six people sustained bullet injuries and three others had fractured bones? The minister, who had given a false statement in the State Assembly in support of the police that they had taken ‘minimum possible action’, should at least visit the SCB Medical College and Hospital and see the plight of the injured villagers,” said a member of the delegation.
The delegation of the Abhiyan, led by its convener and freedom fighter Padma Charan Nayak, Tuna Swain and Aparna Nayak, visited the SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack to meet the injured villagers.
During its visit,the delegation found that six villagers, including five women, had sustained bullet injuries and three others were left with fractured bones.
Narrating the incident, the injured villagers and their kin present at the hospital, told the delegation that some youths of the village, under the influence of liquor, had misbehaved with the women and girls and abused them in obscene language during Holi on March 6. Protesting their act, the village women and some youths went to the liquor shop on the outskirts of the village and ransacked it though the police tried to dissuade them from the act. Both the police and the agitating villagers left the place after some time.
“However, at about 4 PM, more than 40 policemen entered the village. They went to the asabarna (lower caste) sahi and mercilessly beat up the people irrespective of men, women and children. As we resisted the police, the latter became more violent and resorted to lathi-charge followed by indiscriminate firing”, they said.
Briefing the media after their visit, the members of the delegation asked if this is the ‘minimum’ action of the police, they should define what their ‘maximum’ action is.
“When the Father of the Nation had led a campaign against liquor in this country, should the people of the country bear the brunt of such brutality for raising their voice against the wanton sale of liquor and drugs,” they wondered.