Basant Sabara and his three friends were stopped in their vehicle near Dhenkanal’s Kapilas. “Trees were felled to create roadblocks and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) activists prevented us from proceeding. I had to tell them that the group is on its way to All India Radio at Cuttack for a programme. It was only then that they relented,” Sabara said as he left Mahatma Gandhi Marg where Odisha Jan Morcha (OJM) held its ‘Kranti Samabesha’ here on Sunday.
If numbers are what political parties swear by, Pyarimohan Mohapatra’s maiden show of public support was impressive. It may not have been anything close to 70,000 which Pyari had claimed he would mobilise but it did exhibit his power to draw crowd despite the State machinery going on the overdrive to play the spoilsport.
The meeting began slowly and people kept trickling in. Many came in small processions. Some came on their own. But a number of them had stories like that of Sabara to share; stories which told how rattled was the BJD Government.
There were reports that supporters coming in from Athagarh, Jajpur, Kendrapara and Pipili were prevented by the ruling party activists from joining the rally. Pyari himself chose to voice it on stage: “Supporters were beaten up in Pipili but still braved the undemocratic ways. People from Salia Sahi were blocked. In Athagarh, bombs were hurled to create panic but it did not work.”
However, State Police denied having received any such report. Director-General of Police Prakash Mishra said there was just one information from Athagarh where a vehicle carrying the activists was damaged but no incident of bombing has been reported.
The rally was characterised by two groups of people - tribals and the youth. People from tribal districts such as Kalahandi, Boudh, Phulbani, Mayurbhanj, Sundargarh and Koraput were discernible. So were students and young faces. Given the clout the ruling party enjoys in the coastal belt, not many banners and posters from those pockets could be seen at the meeting venue barring a few from Kendrapara, Jajpur, Bhadrak, Cuttack and Puri.
The supporters apart, it was the men in khaki who were ubiquitous. Having deployed 45 platoons, the cops sometimes outnumbered the supporters of Pyari as they escorted the processions to the venue from Ram Mandir Square, Station Square and Sishu Bhawan Square.
Such was the hype around the meeting that top brass of the State Police, including the DGP and Additional DG (Intelligence) Abhay chose to camp in the City on a Sunday, while Commissioner of Police Sunil Roy and his deputies took stock of the security arrangements near the Lower PMG Square.