Normal life was hit across Odisha on Wednesday due to a dawn-to-dusk shutdown called separately by the Congress and the BJP to seek justice for a 14-year-old tribal girl who committed suicide after alleging rape by four men in uniform three months ago.
Shops, business establishments, markets, offices, banks and financial institutions remained shut, while vehicular movement came to a grinding halt across the state during the shutdown, police said.
Many trains were stopped at different places including Bhubaneswar, Sambalpur and Bhadrak as strike supporters staged rail roko leaving a large number of passengers stranded. Roads wore a deserted look all over and buses also stayed off roads fearing violence.
Schools and colleges across the state remained closed for the safety of students, while examinations scheduled for the day would be shifted to a suitable date, officials said.
As a precautionary measure, elaborate security arrangements have also been made, a senior police officer said adding bandh and hartal remained by and large peaceful and no untoward incident was reported from anywhere.
Around 200 activists and leaders of both Congress and BJP were held while trying to break police barricade and move towards the state secretariat here, police said.
In Bhubaneswar, BJP and Congress activists were seen picketing at major junctions and staging road blockade at several places.
The impact of the bandh was also felt in Cuttack, Puri, Berhampur, Sambalpur, Balasore, Bhadrak, Rourkela, Sundargarh, Jharsuguda, Bargarh, Jagatsinghpur, Jajpur, Kendrapara and Koraput.
After the tribal girl ended her life on Monday, Congress called for dawn-to-dusk state-wide bandh, while BJP is observing a 12-hour strike from 6 am demanding a CBI probe into the whole episode and action against culprits.
Congress also demanded resignation of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on moral ground following suicide of the girl.
“The chief minister should step down forthwith and exemplary action must be taken against police officials for shoddy probe in the rape case,” Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) President Prasad Harichandan told reporters.
Senior BJP leaders including Surama Padhi and Pratap Sarangi also blamed the chief minister for the tragedy and said the stir over the issue would be intensified.
Harichandan claimed that the bandh was a “complete success”.
The OPCC chief said the girl took the extreme step 100 days after the incident as she was “mentally tortured” by police and other officials, including doctors.
He also slammed police and its Human Rights Protection Cell (HRPC) for ruling out the girl had been raped, despite the girl claiming that she had been raped by four men in combat uniform near Kunduli in Maoist-hit Koraput district on October 10.
BJP leader Prithviraj Harichandan said the party would continue its stir till the girl gets justice.