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Monday, June 09, 2014  

Implementation of the Agreement between Mediators and Orissa Government essential to address the present stalemate

"Even after a month and more of the release of Malkangiri Collector Vineel Krishna, it is unreasonable on the side of the Government of Orissa that has agreed upon the release of about 627 tribals who have been kept in various prisons in Orissa to further go on arresting more and more tribals under one pretext or the other. As a matter of principle and committed to the agreement that was reached upon, the mediators have time and again been reminding the Orissa government about the need to expedite the demands at the earliest."
Dandapani Mohanty

It has been more than a month (around 40 days) ever since the hostage crisis of Malkangiri Collector and Junior Engineer resulted in the discussions between the Government of Orissa and the Mediators delegated by the CPI (Maoist) ensuring the safe release of both. The discussions between the mediators and the Government of Orissa had also reached certain agreements which were, in letter and spirit, to be respected by both the parties. But it is with great concern that we would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Government of Orissa is yet to respond to the need to expedite the demands. It should be noted that any concerted action towards implementing the agreed points would lead to a renewed faith in the process of dialogue and discussion as a way towards addressing and meeting with the outstanding grievances of the affected people of Orissa. But the perceived diffidence on the side of the government betrays any confidence towards meeting systematically all the demands that have been agreed upon by both the parties. Instead one is afraid to mention that the Government of Orissa is yet to demonstrate the much needed seriousness on its commitment as is evident from the unfolding events in the areas where the Adivasis and other affected people have been struggling for their right to livelihood.

It was very clearly mentioned in the signed agreement that there would not be any combing operations unless and until there is any provocation from the side of the CPI (Maoist). Instead of respecting this important coordinate of the agreement the Government and the security forces have gone unabated with the combing operations. This has further complicated the atmosphere as all instruments towards building any kind of confidence among the aggrieved sections on the need to sit with the administration and its representatives to deliberate and thrash out a dignified way of addressing the issues are facing the danger of being aborted even before it is taken up. That there is a corresponding lack of political will on the side of the government to prevail upon the police, paramilitary and security forces to refrain them from combing operations is reflective of the numerous instances of violations that have been reported by mass media and fact finding reports of independent and civil rights sources in the last forty days.

Violations committed by the security forces

One may recall that during the discussions towards working out the modalities of ensuring the safe release of the hostages on 20 February 2011, the CPI (Maoist) had demanded before the media that five persons namely Shatrughan Biswal, Lalit Kumar Dehuri, Sangit Pradhan and Champa Manding who have been detained by the police/security forces should be produced before the court. When this matter was raised in the discussion by the mediators, the government representatives had feigned ignorance about the custody of these people stating that, if otherwise they would have been already produced before the court. The government attitude was to mislead the mediators through misinformation. As it was later reported, due to brutal torture, Lalit Dehuri died in police custody at Chamakhandi PS. The police claimed that he killed himself. This custodial death raises serious questions on matters pertaining to norms and procedures as well as the right of the detained to be protected from all kinds of torture, especially as about two months before Pradeep Majhi also met with death in police custody, though the police claimed that he had hanged himself using a shoe lace!

The intentions of the state got further confounded as Shatrughan Biswals father moved a Habeas Corpus before the Orissa High Court. Only after this the Police produced him before court on 5 March 2011. The rest of the three persons have been shown before the media as surrendered people. But till date they have not been handed over to their families. Meanwhile Pramila Pradhan, wife of Sanghit Pradhan also has moved a Habeas Corpus before the Orissa High Court to know whereabouts of her husband.

Further on 8 March 2011, Special Operations Group (SOG) entered Harichandrapur (Keonjhar District) and there was an attempt of rape on a girl named Jhumri Munda. Due to the timely protest of the people she survived. In retaliation, the SOG fired at the people in which Jhumri Munda also got injured. She also has filed a complaint before SHRC (Orissa) on 29 March 2011.
On 9 March 2011, the BSF entered Basanaputtu village under Narayanpatna Police Station and mercilessly assulted all the villagers in which 9 people got grievously injured. On 12 March 2011 under the pretext of combing operations CRPF entered Gallamguda Village under Chandrapur Block around midnight. They took away four people from the village. Later they released three of them except a tribal Birendra Jagarenga who was sent to the jail.

On 15 March 2011 in Sundergarh (Orissa-Jharkhand border) 5000 security forces entered the Saranda forest and terrorized the entire tribal hamlets. From there they took away 7 people to Chaibasa, Jharkhand. Among them, two are para-teachers.

On 23 March 2011 SOG and CRPF entered Bhramoni Gaon under Nuapada district beating up everyone in the village while destroying their household property. In protest the people of Brahmonii Gaon staged a dharna before the Collectors Office. And the Collector assured the protesting people that he will look into the matter.

On 3 April, at night around 12:00 am CPI Maoist secretary Ghasi along wlith four others were picked up by BSF and they were produced in the court on 7th April. On 4th April late night security force gheraoed Decapadu village of Narayanpatnam GP and assaulted all the villagers and destroyed their house holds .The force took away Rs5000 from one house, and 30 hens and one goat.

All these instances are concrete proof of combing operations and repressions on tribals continuing unabated in almost all parts of Orissa inflicting miseries on the villagers.

It is unreasonable on the side of the Government that has agreed upon the release of about 627 tribals who have been kept in various prisons in Orissa to further go on arresting more and more tribals under one pretext or the other. As a matter of principle and committed to the agreement that was reached upon, the mediators have time and again been reminding the government about the need to expedite the demands at the earliest. And in pursuance of this Prof. Radha Mohan and Sudhakar Patnaik had approached on behalf of the mediators at the behest of the government. But it should be made clear that the primary effort of the government is to ensure the release of all these prisoners and not to indulge in piecemeal measures of withdrawing all cases of petty crimes. It goes without saying that a vast majority of the prisoners in the jail are slapped with various sections of the IPC which may not come under the category of petty crimes, although all are political offences. Under the demand of the release of political prisoners, the Government of Orissa is yet to write to the Government of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh regarding the release of Sheela Didi @ Bodhini Munda who is lodged in Giridih jail in Jharkhand and Padma @ Shirisha in Jagdalpur prison in Chhattisgarh.

Another outstanding demand that will have major ramifications in the lives of the affected people is the distribution of land in the region of Narayanpatna. Land, as one may appreciate, is central while addressing any question pertaining to livelihood of the vast majority of the affected people in these areas. And any lasting solution of peace with justice cannot ignore this vital question. Any effort towards resolving the crisis of development/displacement will have to factor in the aspirations of the people as they are and should be the natural custodians of development that will positively contribute to the manifold dimensions of human potential.

(Author, a Human Rights Activist, was one of the three members mediated between Maoists and the Orissa Government for release of abducted Malkangiri Collector Vineel Krishna)

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