Orissa: Innocent Tribals shot dead in Karlapat Forest near Niyamgiri

December 5, 2015

received from Prafulla Samantara (Lok Shakti Abhiyan)

On 15th November 2015, three tribals were shot dead and two were injured by Anti-Maoist Squad Police Force in Nasanguda forest of Karlapat mountains (in Kalahandi district of Odisha. Neither there was any confrontation with the Maoists nor any Maoist presence was reported. Yet the police, in name of combing operation, shot dead three tribals from Tala Panchakulu and Nisanguda villages. Police fired indiscriminately in which two 16 years old youths were also injured in nose and back.

A few villagers entered the forest in search of their goats, while the police force fired on them without any warning or preventive measures. This ghastly attack took place without any provocation or any violent action on behalf of villagers. Knowing very well that the dead tribals were innocent, the police, without involving nearby villagers for identification, shifted the dead bodies to Bhawanipatna police headquarters to hide their barbaric crime. After the injured youth reached village and informed villagers about the shocking murder, the villagers along with families of murdered tribals reached Bhawanipatna where they were not allowed to see dead bodies nor any family member was given opportunity to be present during postmortem, which took place at night. The dead bodies were handed over to nearby villages. Till that time the administration and police authority managed to keep the families away from dead bodies. In presence of public and media, police offered Rs. 40,000/- to each family. This is nothing but insensitivity and inhuman attitude towards tribals whose life is cheaper than money in the eyes of administration.

I along with Lingaraj Azad and Satya Mahar of Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti visited to villages like Tala Panchakul and Nishanguda under Yugasaipatane Gram Panchayat on 22 November 2015 and met the families of Jaya Majhi (elected ward member of gp), Harishankar Naik and Sukuru Majhi who were shot dead by police firing. Everybody in villages was shocked to know about the ghastly police firing and more shocked when they could know that the dead bodies were taken away by the killer police to suppress their crime. They also said that they never witnessed any maoist activities in their villages nor in nearby areas. Rather last year the police squad beat some villagers including Jaya Majhi while they were taking bath in the stream.

Villagers are now terrorized and continue to live in fear. Families of the deceased are suffering from chronic poverty, deprived of livelihood and earning members of their family. Till now, no police investigation has reached the firing place nor the villages to follow minimum legal procedures in the interest of natural justice. Though the police authority is silent on the cause of death but it is obvious that they are conspiring to produce a manufactured story to hide such criminal offence. We suspect that ultimately, in name of police investigation, a report will be produced before the State Human Right Commission that the villagers were not shot dead by the police directly but came under cross fire between Maoists and police. Therefore we have urged in the press meet at Bhawanipatna that instead of police, State Human Right Commission should investigate the incident independently. Personally I also filed a petition before the State Human Right Commission appealing for an investigation and to direct the government to give Rs. 25 lakh to each victim family and 10 lakh to the injured. We also demanded to arrest police personals under 302 IPC who are responsible for firing.

It is not an isolated incident of police attack rather it has become a usual practice in forest areas where the corporate are waiting for operational control over mines while the tribals are protesting against mining to protect their life and livelihood. In the past such inhuman crimes were left uninvestigated, no accountability was fixed nor any police personnel was punished. Recently in 26th July 2015, anti-maoist squad at Pangalpadar under Kotaguda police station in Kandhamal district killed a couple while they were talking with their sons in mobile phone. But police ran a fake investigation to put the blame on the Maoists.

Karlapat, though an ecologically sensitive natural forest and ancestral home of tribals, has been recommended for bauxite mining for Vedanta Company after permission to mine in Niyamgiri was denied by the Gram Sabhas. Primary motive behind police terrorism in Karlapat forests region is to suppress democratic protest movement by the tribals against mining.

I appeal to the Human Right Forums, concerned retired justices, eminent lawyers and socio-political activists to form fact finding teams to investigate such crimes (state terrorism) in Odisha to bring out the truth before the state and its institutions of law, justice and human right. Let us raise our voices against such killing of tribals and prevent the looting of natural resources by the corporates.