Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Aug 31:
Violent protests continued at the Trahi Achyuta ashram on the outskirts of the Odisha capital for the second day running despite the arrest of Sura Baba alias Surendra Mishra, the head of the ashram, forcing police to clamp Sec 144 in the area this afternoon.
At least 10 policemen, including DCP Satyabrata Bhoi and Chandrasekharpur IIC DS Pratap, were injured as an angry group of villagers indulged in heavy stone-pelting defying Sec 144. A few media persons assembled at the spot also sustained minor injuries in the brickbatting.
As the violence escalated, additional forces were rushed to the spot, but that did not make much of a difference to the situation. There are 17 platoons of the police near the ashram now, but the angry protesters are showing no signs of retreating.
Commissioner RP Sharma, however, maintained that the situation was now ‘under control’.
The commissioner reached the spot in the evening and discussed with village elders ways to put an end to the violance by protesters. A decision was taken at the meeting to form a peace committee with senior citizens of the area as members and to pitch four tents at startegic locations to keep a watch on miscreants
Trouble started this morning when the policemen on duty tried to prevent the mob from barging into the ashram premises. Suddenly, the protesters, mostly young men in their 20s, started pelting stones on the policemen.
The police tried to reason with them and persuade them not to take law into their hands, but the crowd was in no mood to listen. The police had to resort to a mild baton charge and later burst tear gas shells, but that only made the situation worse.
For once, the police acted with remarkable restraint using minimal force despite the grave provocation. With the memory of what happened in Kendrapara on August 7 still fresh in the mind, the policemen were clearly under instructions not to overreact to the violence by the mob.
The mob was protesting the arrest of 12 villagers who were part of the violence last evening. They also accused the police of not acting against anti-social elements ensconced in the ashram.
The villagers alleged that the controversial self-proclaimed fortune-teller harboured criminals from other states, especially from Bihar.
Based on this, the police personnel conducted a search operation at the Achyuta Nagar where some anti-socials were said to be residing.
“We conducted a search operation in the Achyuta Nagar to find out whether any anti-social element has been residing here. But we haven’t found anyone with criminal background yet,” a police officer said.
Notably, two hardcore criminals from Bihar residing in the Achyuta Nagar colony for 17 long years were arrested recently. They had purchased a house in this residential colony in the vicinity of the ashram and were living there since last 17 years till they were arrested by Bihar police with the help of Commissionerate police.