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Cops to probe collector assault

Sambalpur, April 24: Chief minister Naveen Patnaik today ordered the Crime Branch of the Odisha Police to probe yesterday’s violence in the district in which the collector was manhandled and her official residence was allegedly ransacked by a mob.

There is palpable tension in both the city and the district as lawyers and government employees brace for a stand-off. Both sides are seeking public support.

While on the one hand government employees in the district today staged a rally demanding action against the lawyers involved in the incident, on the other the district bar association demanded “dismissal” of the collector, Mrinalini Darswal, for abusing the lawyers. Officials of the district threatened to stop working if the authorities failed to fulfil their demand in the next 24 hours. The lawyers have called for a bandh tomorrow in support of their demand.

The lawyers alleged that Darswal had misbehaved with them and verbally abused them while they were on their way to Burla in a bus to stage a demonstration in protest against unscheduled power cuts.

No arrest has been made so far even though three complaints were lodged in connection with yesterday’s incident. “The police are investigating the incident,” said Sambalpur police chief Nikhil Kanodia.

Government employees from across the district today gathered at the official residence of the district collector. They took out a rally and submitted a memorandum to the revenue divisional commissioner (northern division) and the inspector-general of police (northern range) demanding action against the culprits involved in the alleged assault on the collector.

“We demand action against the people who manhandled the collector and the district sub-registrar,” said additional district magistrate Madhab Chandra Bariha.

“The government employees will resort to ceasework if legal action is not taken against the culprits within 24 hours,” said sub-collector Rainu Singh.

However, Darswal asked the gathering of employees to maintain restraint and discharge their duties as usual.

The Sambalpur Bar Association called for a bandh tomorrow demanding dismissal of the collector. “Government offices, courts, market, shops and other institutions will remain closed during the bandh. However, examination centres and schools will remain open,” said the bar association president, Pramod Rath.

“The bar association has also convene a meeting of all political parties to discuss the issue today. We will also organise a motorcycle rally in the evening,” said Rath.

Rath reiterated the lawyers’ allegation that the district collector had misbehaved with the lawyers and used abusive language. “We condemn the behaviour of such a high official,” he said. Denying the collector’s charge against the lawyers, Rath said: “We did not misbehave with her. It was she who used abusive language against the lawyers’ fraternity.”

He claimed the High Court Bar Association had extended support to them and would boycott the court proceedings tomorrow.