Odisha sinking into lawlessness

A few days back, Phulbani, the main town of Odisha’s troubled Kandhamal district witnessed a development which had never been seen in this State before—a group of locals, members of a particular organisation, physically assaulting candidates who had gathered in the small town from different part of the state for Class III government jobs.

The attackers not only assaulted the ‘outsiders’ who included many lady candidates, but tore their educational and other important certificates. The only fault of these candidates from other places was that they had applied for a government job in the district going against the wish of the local organisation - Kui Samaj - which had been demanding that all Class III and Class IV government jobs in Kandhamal district should be reserved only for local candidates. Though all belong to the same state, candidates from other districts are ‘outsiders’ and therefore, they should not be allowed to grab the jobs within the district.

Unfortunate incident

Just a few days after the above incident, Jharsuguda town in western Odisha’s Jharsuguda district witnessed an equally unfortunate incident. The headmistress of a girls’ high school was severely beaten up by a group of women belonging to a local self help group (SHG). Differences had cropped up between the senior teacher and the SHG which was in charge of supplying mid-day meal to the school over some issue following which members of the SHG had forcibly locked up the school.

The SHG members assaulted the headmistress and humiliated her in public only because she had dared to break the lock and open the school following a direction from higher authorities.

In another incident, a doctor of a community health centre was severely beaten up by a group of local villagers in Umarkote area of tribal-dominated southern Odisha’s Nowrangpur district. The medico was roughed up in front of the additional chief district medical officer who was on a visit to the government run health centre. The villagers were angry because of non-availability of adequate facilities in the hospital.

These unlawful activities of ‘non-criminal’ common people has not only brought to the fore the deteriorating law and order situation in the state but also reflected the disturbing attitude of the common citizens to take law into their own hands without any fear or regrets. Many people have blamed the state police for these developments.

Significantly, the incident in Phulbani had taken place right in presence of the local police. They had remained silent spectators and seemed enjoying the scene when candidates from outside Kandhamal were running for their lives on the streets of the town after being severely beaten up. A leader of the Kui Samaj, Lambodar Konhar, the reported mastermind behind the incident, was taken into custody only after two days of the incident when the media took up the matter at the state level.

Similarly, some arrests were made by the police in Jharsuguda and Nowrangpur incidents after the local media exposed the unlawful activities with concrete evidence. The police, however, have their explanations ready to counter the allegation about their inaction during such incidents. According to them, they often prefer not to take action against common people taking law into their own hands fearing the wrath of the higher authorities, particularly political bosses who give more priority to protect their ‘vote banks’ rather than safeguarding the law of the land.

“There are already many instances of suspension of police officials for taking stringent action against the people breaking the law. In these circumstances, who will act tough against the law violators and invite unnecessary trouble for himself”, maintained a senior police official. Interestingly, though women were attacked in two of the above incidents, the women’s wing of none of the political parties in the state has come forward to condemn the incidents.

Some people, particularly opposition political parties, have attributed these developments to ‘intense frustrations’ among common people against the misrule of the present BJD government in the state. Independent observers, however, do not agree. According to them, violence cannot be justified for anything. They argue that if common people are allowed to take the law into their own hands and face no consequences for doing so, then it will lead to total anarchy leaving no one wiser.

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