Tribal Outfits in Odisha Protest Police Failure to Arrest BJD MLA who Forced Engineer to Do Sit-ups
Saroj Meher, a first-time MLA who also happens to be the third-richest legislator in the eastern state, had forced engineer Jayakant Sabar to do sit-ups in full public view on June 5 after blaming him for the low quality of an under-construction road.
Tribals at a protest on Wednesday.
Bhubaneswar: Hundreds of tribals marched to the office of the Balangir district magistrate and briefly clashed with police on Wednesday demanding the arrest of the local MLA of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) who had forced a government engineer to do sit-ups in public last week.
Beating drums and armed with traditional weapons, the tribals braved the scorching summer heat as they surrounded the office of district magistrate Arindam Dakua. The protesters were upset as Patnagarh MLA Saroj Meher is yet to be arrested though a criminal case was registered against him at the local police station a week ago.
Meher, a first-time MLA who also happens to be the third richest legislator in the eastern state, had forced engineer Jayakant Sabar to do sit-ups in full public view on June 5 after blaming him for the low quality of an under-construction road. Video clips of the act, which took place at Gambhari village in Belpada block, had gone viral on the social media, drawing widespread condemnation.
At Meher's direction, PWD executive engineer Raghunath Mishra had also slapped Sabar, who belongs to a tribal community.
The hapless junior engineer in Odisha’s public works department was also later allegedly abducted by the MLA’s supporters, who kept him under house arrest for over 24 hours.
Gathering under the banner of Western Odisha Tribal Welfare Association (WOTWA), the protesters tried to break open the main gate of Dakua's office. As police forces resisted, a clash ensued and three policemen received minor injuries while preventing protesters from entering the DM's office.
“The MLA held a kangaroo court in the style of the Maoists, the Taliban and the Pakistanis. A government official from a primitive tribe was assaulted and humiliated in public on the MLA’s order. We want this MLA’s arrest and suspension of officials who helped in this act,” said WOTWA general secretary Niranjan Bishi.
Urging Odisha Chief Minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik to immediately disqualify Meher from the Assembly, Bishi said the absence of any action against the MLA would help intensify the tribals' agitation.
“If this MLA is not arrested in the next two days, our agitation will spread to all the 30 districts of Odisha. The state government and the BJD will be responsible for any law and order problem that arises,” he warned.
Balangir District Tribal Welfare Association president Braj Kishore Bhoi said the tribals of Patnagarh constituency had voted for Meher because he was the BJD candidate chosen by Patnaik. “But this man (Meher) has shown that he has no idea of the Constitution. The way he held a kangaroo court and his love for on-the-spot verdicts proves that he thinks of himself as above the judiciary. His place is outside the Assembly and inside the jail,” said Bhoi.
A similar protest march by hundreds of tribal people was also held in Kalahandi district on this issue on Wednesday. Besides, Odisha Diploma Engineers Service Association has also demanded action against the MLA and warned of protests if no action is taken as per law.
Dakua, who had sought a report on the alleged assault on the engineer, was handed a memorandum by the local tribal leaders.
(With inputs from Chandrabhanu Molana)
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