BHUBANESWAR: It was yet another year of trials and tribulation for the Naveen Patnaik Government. For a State that has just managed to gain upper hand against the Left Wing Extremism, Odisha witnessed the usual highs and lows in equal measures when it came to dealing with law and order, security issues and terrorism. There was bloodshed, allegations of strong-arm tactics and atrocities besides the success against those trying to break law with impunity.
The men in khaki were ubiquitous and made the headlines every time, sometimes for the right reasons. And then some for absolutely wrong ones leaving the Naveen Patnaik Government red in the face.
In July, Special Operation Group, the counter-extremist outfit of Odisha Police, went after Maoists in Kandhamal district.
The ambush went horribly wrong and the security forces ended up with blood in their hands after five tribals were killed in the operation.
What followed was a massive political build-up in the region with the Opposition training its gun at the Naveen Government. Political leaders made a beeline for Kandhamal to sympathise with the victims while fact-finding teams queued up.
Several theories to explain the incident were floated but after the State Police ran out of ideas, the Government ordered a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe into the firing and appointed senior IPS officer Mahendra Pratap as the head of the probe. The report is yet to be out.
Earlier in January, the State Police made a huge faux pas when five Iranian tourists, who were visiting the State, were dubbed as ‘terrorists’ by the police bigwigs when they left a hotel in the State capital in a hurry. A massive search was launched by the Special Task Force (STF) which tracked them near Visakhapatnam with help from Andhra Pradesh Police to unravel the truth. The spate of events prompted the Home Ministry to censure the State Government for its inept handling of the case.
The State also received flak when two Union Ministers - Santosh Gangwar and Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti - came under attack near Sambalpur in June while proceeding to attend a party meet. A probe by RDC was ordered but nothing has come out of it yet.
The State Government suffered a huge loss of face when its police force went out of their way to provide protection to Naveen. The cops forced women and girls to take out their dupattas and scarves at public meeting attended by the Chief Minister. And it did not happen once, it occurred at least thrice. Even though the CM himself expressed regret and ordered an inquiry, the police just would not stop.
In another instance, the cops went after farmers who were trying to congregate in Bhubaneswar demanding their rights. They were denied entry into the City and bundled into police vehicles on the pretext that the farmer leaders were a threat to law and order. At Satyabadi, agitating farmers were baton-charged while having lunch on the National Highway.
With the brickbats came bouquets too. In January, the Special Tactical Unit, an outfit of the SOG trained in tackling urban terrorism and hostage situation, successfully busted the hideout of five SIMI activists in Rourkela. It was a midnight operation planned and executed with clinical precision, something rare in the State Police history. Pin-pointed intelligence, surveillance and a great execution saw the five terror suspects drawn out of their shelter in a mohalla of Steel City.
Months later, the SIMI activists, lodged at Bhopal Jail, tried to flee and died in police encounter with Madhya Pradesh Police.
The Economic Offences Wing had major success in the year when it apprehended Pravas Rout of Oscar International for duping hundreds of investors. Along with Rout, six others were held in what was stated to be a `60 crore fraud. The scam brought to fore allegations against BJD as Ollywood actors like Anubhav Mohanty and Sidhanta Mohapatra, also ruling party MPs, had acted in films produced by Oscar’s movie production arm.
An Assistant Director (Medical) with Directorate of Factories and Boilers Motilal Gouda grabbed headlines for allegedly bringing out fake notifications to appoint clinics for medical check-up of employees of industries. The EOW arrested him from Andhra Pradesh but not before Gouda’s proximity with BJD leaders like Arun Sahu, Pranab Balabantray, Anubhav Patnaik and Byomkesh Ray made headlines.
In October last, a massive ambush at Chitrakonda led to killing of 18 Maoists. Billed as the biggest encounter of recent times, Odisha Police played the perfect foil for the Greyhounds of AP Police which carried out the operation.