Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Berhampur, Mar 11:
Odisha police today took hundreds of Congress workers into preventive custody while they were attempting to Gherao Southern Range IG Amitabh Thakur’s office in Berhampur demanding unconditional release of former MLA Ramesh Jena.
Buses carrying hundreds of others supporters were detained at various junctions before they could enter the town.
Senior leader Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra and Chief Whip of Congress in Assembly Tara Prasad Bahinipati were also detained before they could make it to the venue and were later released. Bahinipati was seen engaged in a public altercation with police officials after his vehicle was stopped near Bada Bazaar.
“Police has become a toy in the hands of the ruling party. Jena has been arrested without evidence to influence the upcoming panchayat elections. This is unfair and illegal. We are going to take up the issue in the Assembly,” said Bahinipati speaking to reporters.
Some of the protesters blocked various roads in and out of Berhampur in retaliation against the police detention. However, the blockades were lifted after intervention of local administration.
Security has been beefed up across the town. About five-six platoons of armed force have been deployed to address any eventualities, even though the police administration refused to share the exact details.
About 3,000 workers led by Ganjam District Congress President Bhagaban Gantayat, however, managed to take out a rally in support of Jena who has been arrested under various charges including illegal possession of firearms, hurling of bombs, criminal conspiracy and harbouring of criminals among others.
“Police have arrested Ramesh Jena under political pressure. They keep on adding new charges against him every single day without any evidence. We submitted a memorandum to the IG asking him to drop the charges and prepare papers for his unconditional release,” said Gantayat speaking to reporters while on his way to the IG office.
“The Congress workers met me and submitted a memorandum requesting for a free and fair investigation. I assured them that whatever action we are taking are based on evidence. It is always free and fair,” said IG Thakur.
Ruling Biju Janata Dal, also ruled out any power play behind the arrest of Jena.
“There is no political play here. The police have arrested him because they had evidence against him. BJD has nothing to do with it and the government is not at all trying to influence the investigation. Even the police cannot paint someone a criminal without evidence. The court will have the final say and truth will prevail,” said BJD Spokesperson Samir Dash.