Odisha: Villagers Clash With Police Over Demolition Of Betel Vines

Odisha: Villagers Clash With Police Over Demolition Of Betel Vines

Odisha BJP president Samir Mohanty said, "There is a gap between the administration and the people. The government cannot build any project forcibly. The project should be developed with support of people and not with help of the police".

Villagers in Odisha's Jagatsinghpur district clashed with police on Friday over the demolition of betel vines where the JSW Steel plant is proposed to come up.

At least 40 protestors including women, children, and elderly were injured as the police baton-charged on them, villagers claimed. On the other hand, an official said that the police force was also attacked, leaving five of them injured.

The incident took place near Dhinkia village in Odisha which was the epicenter of a similar movement against South Korean steel major Posco setting up a plant, a decade ago.

The government planned to allot land from various villages in Odisha's Jagatsinghpur district except for Dhinkia to JSW for its ₹55,000 crore project of setting up a plant.

The residents of Dhinkia were allegedly stopped by the police at Mahala when they were on their way to nearby Patana village to oversee the condition of their betel vines which were demolished by the authorities, they claimed.

Notably, the villagers had clashed with the police at least twice last month as the administration had created Mahala village by taking a portion out of Dhinkia recently.

Debendra Swain, a former Panchayat Samiti member said, "We were prevented from going to our betel vines by the police. When the villagers said that they must go to the betel vines, the police resorted to lathi-charge without any provocation".

He also claimed that 40 people were injured in the brutal clash with police. Eight of them were children in the age group of 9 to 11 years and 11 were above 60 years.

Swain alleged that the injured were not even taken to the hospital by the police. Jagatsinghpur Superintendent of Police Akhileswar Singh, however, rejected the allegations.

Singh said, "The security personnel were attacked by the villagers. Our personnel tolerated it for long hours and later used minimum force. In the scuffle, about five policemen have been injured".

There was no forceful acquisition of betel vines in the proposed plant site as villagers had accepted compensation for them, according to the SP.

"We can show the documents having signature of the villagers who on their own accepted compensation and gave away betel vines. Everything has been done with the consent of the villagers," he said.

Claiming that there was no illegality involved, Erasama Tehsildar PN Das, who was present at the site, said that the villagers had given consent to acquire their betel vines following which the administration demolished them.

Five people were arrested including Swain in connection with the alleged attack on police personnel.

An official said that as many as 450 police personnel were deployed in view of the situation as tensions flared. Several villagers hid in the nearby forests to avoid arrest.

Meanwhile, the opposition parties have condemned the police action against the villagers. Senior Congress leader from Odisha, Lalatendu Mohapatra demanded a judicial probe into the incident, calling it "police excesses".

Odisha BJP president Samir Mohanty said, "There is a gap between the administration and the people. The government cannot build any project forcibly. The project should be developed with support of people and not with help of the police".

Shocking visuals of the scenes have emerged, as posted by ANI.

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