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Mercury rises over deadlock

Bhubaneswar, March 7: Signals emerging from the power corridors of Orissa today sent a strong message to “troublemakers” bent on scuttling the Kalinga Nagar truce process.

Speaking to The Telegraph, home secretary T.K. Mishra said: “We have asked the Jajpur collector to negotiate further with the agitating tribals and persuade them to respect the high court order.”

The home secretary further said: “Hope they (villagers) see reason and lift the Daitari-Paradip road blockade unconditionally. If they don’t, we will be compelled to use power and force,” warned the home secretary.

Mishra said “the government can always use force but will make a final attempt to avoid bloodshed”.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik told the media that negotiations were still on between the anti-displacement lobby and the Jajpur district administration. “We will take a view (of the matter) soon,” he said when asked what action the government would take to implement the high court directive to lift the blockade by March 9.

Jajpur collector Arabindha Padhee, who was instrumental in bringing the tribals to the talks table, said over phone that leaders of the Bisthapan Virodhi Jan Manch (BVJM) had initially agreed to lift the blockade. The administration, on its part, made necessary arrangements to fulfil their demands, which included return of the chopped palms of five firing victims and ex-gratia payment.

The tribals received the chopped palms yesterday but they refused to lift the blockade citing fresh demands.

Hinting at the involvement of Naxalites, Padhee said some “outside elements had been fomenting trouble”. “We will single them out and take stern action against the troublemakers,” he said.

Asked whether the administration could use force, he said: “We will use force, if required, against those who have no respect for the rule of law and who violate orders of the judiciary.”

The senior official said he apprised the government of the “extraordinary situation” in Kalinga Nagar and sought necessary guidance and assistance. The district authorities have also requisitioned 40 platoons of armed police.

BVJM secretary Rabindra Jarika, on the other hand, said: “The ball is in the government’s court but neither the chief minister nor the collector has contacted us yet.”

Jarika denied that they had made a fresh demand for additional payment for cremation of the palms.

The administration, meanwhile, made necessary security arrangements in view of a tribal convention to be held in Kalinga Nagar tomorrow.

In a letter to the Jajpur collector, secretary to the chief minister B.K. Patnaik said the problems of people in Kalinga Nagar should not be linked to the road blockade issue. The letter also said there was no need to reply to the villagers’ demands again as the government had done so earlier.

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