Taking advantage of a grim situation

In Odisha, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the principal opposition, Congress are currently trying their level best to take maximum political mileage of the recent violence at a public rally and demonstration organised by the Congress — during which a woman constable was brutally manhandled — in the capital city of Bhubaneswar.

Both the parties want to take the incident to the people, clearly indicating that it would figure prominently in the election meetings and rallies across the state during the run up to the next general and Assembly elections besides the coming urban local bodies polls, which will be fought in the next few months.

The incident has also gone beyond the borders of the state as both the National Commission for Women (NCW) and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have already intervened on the issue. A member of the NCW recently visited the state to make an on the spot inquiry into the incident while the NHRC has sent a notice the state government to file a counter on the violence. Both the national agencies have responded to petitions filed by groups and individuals as well as state unit of the Congress.

Though named after the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi who championed peace and non-violence, the busy road in front of the state Assembly in Bhubaneswar often witnesses violence as groups and organisations storm the street in regular intervals, particularly when the House is in session, to highlight their demands and problems and confront the police while trying to break the security ring. Political parties too often organise their meetings on the street.

Brutal act

However, the early September violence — a clash between the Congress workers and activists and the police to be precise — on the Mahatma Gandhi Marg had surpassed all the previous violent incidents. The worst and most unfortunate part of the violence was the manner in which a woman constable was brutally beaten up by some of the Congress workers.

She was dragged and pushed to the ground while some protestors kicked her and a few others beat her up with sticks as she was shouting in pain and crying for help. The woman cop who received multiple injuries was admitted to a private hospital in a serious condition. Though she has now been discharged from the hospital, she is still in a traumatised state. In fact, the NCW representative who visited the lady cop at her residence had advised the government to arrange counseling for her by experts to help her to come out of the shock and trauma.

A few women Congress activists also sustained injuries in the clash — Congress leader claimed they received the injuries when they were mercilessly beaten up by the police. However, the attack on woman cop completely overshadowed the violence against the women Congress activists as the former was certainly more brutal and inhuman.

Congress leaders have questioned the necessity on part of the Bhubaneswar police to include women cops in the forces that were sent to control the mob after the violence broke out. Describing the action as illegal, some senior Congress leaders even went on to say that the injured lady constable was intentionally ‘pushed’ to the crowd by the police in an attempt to generate public sympathy.

The NCW member during her spot investigation had also reportedly expressed dissatisfaction over the matter. However, senior officials of the Bhubaneswar police have defended the decision. “The lady constables were sent to help the women Congress activists to get out of the clash site. Had we not sent the women cops, the same Congress leaders would have questioned our decision to deploy male police cops to rescue the female Congress activists”, said a senior police official.

In this context, he referred to a photograph published in a local daily showing the injured woman constable, Pramila Padhi escorting the state Mahila Congress president, Bijoylaxmi Sahu to safety just minutes before she was attacked by the mob.
The ruling BJD is now reportedly planning to use the photographs of the attack on the woman cop at its political rallies and meetings across the state to paint the Congress as a ‘party of goons.’

To counter that, the Congress is also contemplating to show the photographs of the attack on its women activists by the police. “We will also not hesitate to expose the goonda raj of the police at the behest of the ruling party”, said a PCC member. Therefore, it seems both the parties are determined to use the incident as a political tool during the campaign for the coming elections.                        

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