-Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

In a rare display of moral courage, the general public of Sunakhala, a village in the District of Nayagarh arrested Orissa’s Minister for Cooperation Ms.Surama Padhi inside a School of their village on September 17, 2005 and handed her over to Police at about 6 o’ clock in the evening. Instead of initiating legal action, the Police have been giving her protection.

Why the people took this step?

She profaned the High School for political purpose.

It is now a Government High School. But the people of Sunakhala had built up this school by their private contributions and hence, they have a sense of belonging for this highest seat of education in their locality.

Surama, who is a Minister from the B.J.P. segment of the ruling coalition in Orissa, wanted to hold a workshop of her Party in this High school and instructed her party workers to spangle the entire school with Party flags and banners. The Principal of the school Mr. Surendra Baral refused permission and on the other hand made it clear to the Minister that the school, being a Government institution, cannot be allowed to be used for party politics. He was ignored. The two-day workshop of B.J.P. started in the forenoon at 11.30 with communal flags and banners and workers’ arrogance in full display; the Minister basking amongst her sycophants and supporters.

The people of the locality, with whose fund the school had begun its journey, protested against political use of its building and compound. Supporters of the minister tried to cow them down. The news spread. Hundreds of people rushed to the spot. The Chief of the local Panchayat, Sarapanch Sachikant Sarangi, belonging to B.J.D., the other partner of the ruling coalition, tried to prevail upon the Minister for shifting of the venue of the workshop to any other place. But the B.J.P. workers did not allow him to enter into the area. On the other hand, they rebuked the Sarapanch for having dared to disapprove the Minister’s stand. Not only that, the Minister charged her supporters on the Sarapanch alleging that his intervention was vitiated by motive. This led to a clash between the supporters of both the leaders. The precipitation was so acrimoniously sharp that many of their supporters have sustained minor to severe physical injuries.

The general public was highly infuriated over the arrogance shown by the Minister. They condemned it and decided to do what law permits them to do.

They locked the entrance of the school and kept the Minister arrested within its compound under charges of violation of the sanctity of the school by use of its building and infrastructure for a communal workshop.

They handed over the Minister to the Police at 6.00 P.M. with unambiguous declaration that unless political misuse of the School is stopped they shall resort to road-boycott movement on the next day.

Under the Law, Surama Padhi is a fit case for prosecution. But, it seems, the Police is unable to cast aside its fears for a Minister. What shall happen on Sept.18 is not known, but at 9.30 in the evening of Sept.17, even after people handed over the Minister to the Police on the very spot where she caused contravention of guiding Rules in respect of a government school and led a violent attack on general public, the police was seen guarding her against any further public wrath while she was continuing with her Party-workshop in furtherance of communal activities.

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