BHUBANESWAR: Despite strict instructions to the police and administration by the State Election Commissioner (SEC) to take all steps to prevent violence that had marred the two phases of panchayat polls, there was no let down in incidents as government officials and even journalists were not spared during the third round of voting on Sunday.
The third phase of the polls saw widespread violence, damage to property along with alleged rigging of votes even as it registered 71 per cent voting. Voting was held in 63 blocks of 29 districts for 171 zilla parishad zones and 1,382 gram panchayats (GPs) along with 18,495 wards.
Major violence and unruly scenes were reported from the BJD stronghold of Jajpur district. The block development officer (BDO) of Korei was allegedly assaulted in front of a polling booth at Soti village after he rushed to the spot on getting information about irregularities.
As many as three journalists were attacked and their vehicles damaged near a polling booth at Bachhola in Binjharpur block of the district when they were covering an incident of the rigging of votes.
“We went in a car after receiving information on rigging, booth capturing and snatching of ballot boxes from booth numbers 2 and 4. When we reached the spot, we saw miscreants engaged in the malpractice. They looted ballot boxes and threw them in a nearby pond,” said one of the injured journalists Debasis Sahoo.
Sahoo said when he and the two others accompanying started video recording the violence, all of a sudden over 40 armed persons including women thrashed them mercilessly and started hurling stones. The police have launched an investigation into the matter and detained about 25 persons in this connection.
Security forces also seized an explosive planted at a bridge near the Niyamgiri hills in Rayagada district in the morning. It is suspected that it was planted by Maoists to disrupt the polls. State Election Commissioner AP Padhi condemned the attack on the scribes and directed the DGP and Jajpur
district administration to arrest the culprits as soon as possible.
Govt officials, scribes not spared in 3rd phase
He ordered that exemplary action should be taken against the culprits. Stating that polling was affected due to law and order situation at some places of the State, Padhi said necessary action will be taken basing on reports from collectors.
DGP Sunil Kumar Bansal said police have taken the attacks on government officials and journalists very seriously and stringent action will be taken against the culprits. “Any disruption during the polling process will not be tolerated and necessary action will be taken as per the law,” he added.
However, the SEC said polling was peaceful in Left-Wing Extremism-affected Phiringia block of Kandhamal and Mathili and Padia blocks of Malkangiri district. Padhi said like in the last two phases, polling percentage was encouraging in Malkangiri district.