PARADIP: Protest against the JSW Steel project turned ugly after villagers and police clashed at Dhinkia village here on Friday. Nearly 50 villagers including women and children besides 15 cops sustained injuries in the confrontation.
Opposing demolition of betel vines in Dhinkia, Mahal and Patana villages by the administration for the proposed project, hundreds of villagers took out rallies in protest in violation of Covid guidelines. However, they were stopped by police at Dhinkia. When the agitators resisted, police resorted to baton charge.
Sources said a few women leading the protest march misbehaved and assaulted the cops. Some even tried to snatch cellphones of the police personnel. When the situation went out of control, the police resorted to lathi-charge to disperse the agitating villagers.
However, villagers alleged that the administration has been demolishing betel vines for the last one week without taking their consent. Those who are not giving consent for demolition of their betel vines are facing ‘police brutality’.
Police picked up three villagers - Sarbeswar Behera, Khetramani Behera and Mitan Behera - after they refused to allow officials to raze their vines on Thursday, they claimed. Police arrested four leaders of Jindal Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (JPSS) for leading the protests. They are Debendra Swain, Muralidhar Sahoo, Tirtha Mallick and Papuna Swain. Police had to clear the temporary camp of agitators at Dhinkia and enter the village by breaking the bamboo barricades to make the arrests. A farmer leader, identified as Narendra Mohanty, was also arrested.
Additional SP of Jagatsinghpur Umesh Panda said villagers had not taken permission for assembly and the rally. Besides, the agitators violated Covid guidelines. “When they were restricted at Dhinkia, the womenfolk misbehaved and assaulted police personnel. Razors were also used to attack police personnel following which we resorted to lathi-charge,” he added.
Following the police crackdown, many villagers went into hiding in the nearby forest fearing arrest. Some villagers even claimed that they are yet to trace their children and women who hid in the forest to escape the lathi-charge.
Woman leader Manorama Khatua said many injured villagers are still hiding in the local forest in fear of police action. She also alleged that the administration did not provide any ambulance to shift the injured villagers from Dhinkia to the hospital for treatment. Villagers had to arrange private ambulances to take the injured to Atharbanki hospital.