Cuttack BJD MLA manhandles man during last rites of CRPF jawan, apologises later

Sampad Patnaik
Cuttack BJD MLA Debashish Samantaray. (Source: Video screengrab from local TV Youtube channel)

BJD’s Cuttack MLA Debashish Samantaray on Tuesday apologised for manhandling an elderly man at the funeral of a CRPF jawan killed in the February 14 Pulwama attack. The MLA’s apology came when a video clip of the incident went viral and he faced flak for his unruly behaviour.

"I have the highest respect for the martyred jawans and their families. On (February) 16, I had gone to Manoj Kumar Behera's house and spent time with his father and met his wife. I shouldered his body while he was taken for the last rites," Samantaray said later.

"When a guard of honour was being given, there was some indiscipline. I made someone sit down. Later, I found he was a distant relative. If I have unknowingly hurt someone, I apologise and appeal to everyone not to politicise the issue," he said.

Samantaray was seen in a video yanking an older man and shoving him down by the scruff of his neck near the casket carrying the body. The incident occurred as Behera was about to be given a guard of honour by security personnel.

The BJP termed the act "anti-national". Odisha Congress chief Niranjan Patnaik tweeted: The insensitivity and inhumanity with which BJD MLA Debashish Samantaray treats the kin of braveheart Manoj Behera who made supreme sacrifice for the nation will make any patriot’s blood boil. This deep-rooted arrogance and feudalistic mindset is what BJD is all about. SHAMEFUL!

Speaking to The Indian Express over the phone, Behera's family members said that while they had not witnessed the incident, the ‘manhandled’ man was not a relative. Some of them, however, expressed disappointment over the entire incident.