Reported by Santosh Jagdev
Bhubaneswar, Jun 11:
Till Monday evening, not many knew her outside the small fiefdom she ruled with an iron hand: Haldipadia basti in Odisha’s capital city. But today, everyone is curious to know more about Saila Ranasingh, who has already been christened ‘Lady Don’.
Where did she derive her power from? Why was her word the law in Haldipadia slum? How did she muster the courage to provoke an assault on policemen on duty, among them the IIC of Laxmisagar police station? What is the history behind her repeated face-offs with the police? How did she become so powerful that no one could touch her?
These and other questions are being discussed animatedly in every possible forum in the state: from the neighbourhood paan shop to social media platforms like Facebook.
A source close to Saila confided that she has the unstinted and unqualified backing of a young politician. She had the last word on who would or would not contest the last corporation elections from the area. Politicians of all hues made a beeline for her during the last general elections because they believed the entire basti would for the candidate she recommended.
While it is obvious that political patronage is behind her ‘power’, what is not so clear is why she has been at constant loggerheads with the police. She once had the temerity to slap the then DCP Himanshu Lal, no less, in full public view during a scuffle in 2009, a police officer said.
One possible reason for her constant skirmishes with the police could be the fact that she prevented cases that would have come to the police in the normal course from reaching them and instead meted out her own brand of instant justice.
Sources in Laxmisagar police say she would hold kangaroo courts and pronounce her ‘judgment’ on every dispute that arose in the basti. “She would hear the cases and deliver her verdict and no one would dare question it. She would beat up those she held guilty in full view of the whole basti and sometimes impose fines on people,” said a police officer.
The one thing she would never allow was a case going to the police. The people of the basti too had accepted her diktat and ran to her for anything and everything.
A source close to Saila confided that she had good relations with one of the police officer in the Laxmisagar police which helped her get advance information about police movements and plans.
The case lodged against her for the assault on Monday is the eighth in which she has been charged of criminal offence. But it is a measure of her clout that she has not been arrested even once.
But this time, the Lady Don may well have bitten off more than she could chew. With its pride badly mauled – what with television screens beaming their humiliation ad nauseam – Bhubaneswar police has intensified its hunt to arrest Saila, her son Tutu Ranasingh, son-in-law Rajkamal Panda and daughter Pinky Panda. A team is tracking her call records to locate her.
Police suspects that the accused persons might have fled out of the state. A police team verified the CCTV footage of Bhubaneswar railway station on Wednesday to get a clue whether they have boarded any train.
Police sources said the lady don is preparing herself to get advance bail to avoid arrest and has given a huge sum of money to an advocate in the city for the purpose. If Saila fails to get bail, she will surrender in the court, the sources said.
But Bhubaneswar police is in no mood to allow her the luxury of a surrender and wants to arrest her before she surrenders. Plainclothes policemen are on round-the-clock vigil for the slightest lead on her whereabouts.
After all, it is the prestige of the commissionerate police that is at stake !