Bhubaneswar, Nov. 17: At least 30 slum-dwellers and a police officer sustained injuries following a clash at Bhoi Sahi, a slum near Gandhi Market Square in the Nayapalli area today.
Police later arrested around 50 slum-dwellers, including 37 women, who were opposing the construction of a building of the Nayapalli police station.
The protesters, who also blocked the NH-5 for sometime, have been illegally occupying the land earmarked for the police station, for many years. After being evicted on November 10, they gathered at the site today to protest against the construction work. The protest was organised under the banner of the Basti Surakhya Manch, an organisation of the slum-dwellers.
The agitators, who claimed they had been living at the place for the last 30 years, pelted stones at vehicles parked nearby, damaging some of them. Later, police took control of the situation and arrested the agitators.
The slum-dwellers alleged the city police had evicted them from the land forcefully. However, police officers said the land belonged to the police department.
“They had evicted us from here three years ago for the first time. Recently on November 10, they again threw us out. Since we have been staying here for years together, we consider the land belongs to us,” said a protester, for whom the immediate provocation was the commencement of the construction work at the site, which has been fenced by the police.
“They have started construction though the police commissioner had assured us that he would find out a solution to the dispute within two days,” said another protester.
Shivaram, the president of Basti Surakhya Manch, said agitation would be intensified in the coming days as the police had forcibly occupied the land where the slum-dwellers had been staying for many years.
“Tomorrow, the slum-dwellers will organise a rally and sit on dharana on the Mahatma Gandhi Marg near the Assembly,” he said.
Police said the slum-dwellers, who tried to enter the fenced premises this morning, had damaged part of the fencing and tried to obstruct the construction work of the police station.
Tension prevailed in the area despite deployment of police force to maintain peace. A senior police officer ruled out chances of bringing the construction work to a halt as he claimed the land belongs to the city police.