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News18 » India
2-min read

Political Row Erupts in Odisha after BJD’s Flag Seen Draped Around Soldier's Coffin

Odisha’s opposition BJP and Congress trained their guns at the regional party, accusing it of showing disrespect to both the martyr and the national flag and demanding an unconditional apology.

Anand ST Das | News18.com

Updated:June 21, 2019, 5:09 PM IST
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Political Row Erupts in Odisha after BJD’s Flag Seen Draped Around Soldier's Coffin
The coffin carrying the mortal remains of the deceased soldier.

Bhubaneswar: Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) drew flak on Friday after it came to light that the party’s flag, bearing its electoral symbol of a conch, was wrapped around the coffin of a martyred Odia jawan on its way from Bhubaneswar to his native village in Dhenkanal district.

Naik Ajit Kumar Sahoo, of 44 Rashtriya Rifles, was killed in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attack at Arihal village in southern Kashmir’s Pulwama district on June 17. Nine jawans, including him, were injured in the terrorist attack.

Thousands of people gathered at the soldier’s native village of Badasuanla in Kamakhyanagar block and bid him a tearful farewell. His mortal remains were consigned to flames with full state honours on Thursday.

Photographs on social media showed that the coffin, which was originally covered by the national flag, was wrapped with a BJD flag. The location where the BJD flag was draped around the coffin was also unclear. Sahoo’s cortege was stopped by large groups of people, who paid their tributes, on its way from Bhubaneswar to his village. Sources said the BJD flag was placed upon the Tricolour at Khuntuni.

Odisha’s opposition BJP and Congress trained their guns at the regional party, accusing it of showing disrespect to both the martyr and the national flag and demanding an unconditional apology.

“Placing the flag of a political party over the national flag that wraps a martyred jawan’s mortal remains is a highly condemnable act. This is total and deliberate dishonour to the martyrs and the tricolour. This act was done by BJD supporters at the behest of their leaders. The party must express an unconditional apology and assure that such shameful acts do not recur,” said DK Bastia, vice-president of Odisha State Ex-Servicemen’s League and convener of state BJP’s ex-servicemen cell.

Bastia also demanded that the state government conduct a probe to ascertain in which town or village the BJD flag was wrapped around the national flag. “BJD leaders have shown disrespect to martyred soldiers earlier as well. The Cuttack incident, with the relatives of the Pulwama attacks in February, is fresh in public memory. There was also a similar incident in Balasore before that,” he added.

BJP national vice-president and spokesperson Baijayant Panda also described it as an “unfortunate” incident.

Senior Congress leader Taraprasad Bahinipati described it as an “utterly shameful incident”.

“Is the BJD flag higher than the national flag? What do they (BJD) think of themselves? This is a huge disrespect to the tricolour,” he said. “People who placed the BJD flag on top of the tricolour should be immediately arrested.”

BJD spokesperson Sasmit Patra stressed that his party has “enormous respect” for martyrs. “This matter is extremely unfortunate, and we strongly condemn it. The party will find out the people responsible for this act and take the most stringent action against them,” he said.

After Sahoo’s body reached the Bhubaneswar airport, a guard of honour was given to it at the 120 Infantry (TA) Battalion in the city. Odisha Governor Ganeshi Lal and leaders of various political parties also paid tributes.

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