CDRO statement on the arrest of Dandapani Mohanty

February 11, 2013

Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisation (CDRO)
Press Release :: 11th February 2013

Arrest of Dandapani Mohanty: Silencing Dissent through selective use of rule of law

Dandapani Mohanty, a social rights activist in Odisha was illegally abducted by plainclothes policemen and has been detained under cases related to incidents that occurred in 2009 and 2010. Additionally, non bailable sections of the draconian UAPA have been foisted on him, allegedly for having Maoist links. Ironically, on two occasions in 2011 (abduction of V. Krishna, Collector, district Malkangiri) and 2012 (abduction of two Italian tourists in Kandamahal-Ganjam region), the government had sought out and used Mohanty as an interlocutor between them and the Maoists.

In both of the above noted cases Odisha government failed in fulfilling the commitments made during the negotiations – including the immediate release of over six hundred adivasis incarcerated in various jails of Odisha for allegedly being Maoists, stopping of police repression on people’s movements, recognition of the land rights of the adivasis and the landless, etc. Mohanty had been consistent in campaigning against the undemocratic attitude of Odisha government in not fulfilling their promises and also highlighting other repressive acts which had become a thorn on the state and police’s side. It should be noted that Mohanty has been involved in people’s issues since 1960s, and at present he is the Secretary of the Odisha Forest Majdoor Union as well as the Convenor of the Jan Adhikar Manch.

Most recently, in November 2012, he was instrumental in exposing the horrific encounter killings of five unarmed scheduled tribe and caste men from Kandhamal district by the Odisha Police. Even as he was in the process of publicizing these encounters in December 2012, his son, Sangram Mohanty, was picked up from Brhampur and later shown arrested from a place far from the town under the allegation of arranging and supplying food materials, arms etc. for the Maoist and is still in Jail.

It is clear that following a fact finding by CDRO which confirmed the Odisha police’s role in the encounter deaths, the state’s government and its police have used their unrestricted powers to impose the ‘rule of law’ to punish Mohanty. Consider the manner in which the government and police have acted in this case: Mohanty was illegally picked up by plainclothes policemen without any arrest warrant. He was picked up at lunch time from outside his home and shown as arrested in R Udayagiri. The cases lodged against him are related to incidents that took place over three years ago in 2009 and 2010. Finally, in order to delay his release, large numbers of cases, including UAPA ones, have been foisted on him

Mohanty’s arrest is uncomfortably reminiscent of the arrest of Binayak Sen not too long ago in neighbouring Chhattisgarh, and his arrest, like Sen’s, is a shining example of how the ‘rule of law’ applies only to those the government wants to silence. After arresting Dandapani Mohanty on 8 February 2013, the police claimed that they wanted to capture him for some time and that anyone taking ‘liberties with the law’ would not be spared. Given the fact that the incidents for which Mohanty has been arrested are over three years old and much else has happened since, with this statement, either the police seem to be attesting their inefficiency or have unwittingly revealed that their intent in arresting Mohanty was nothing other than vendetta for having exposed its terrorist tactics.

Lest we forget, Mohanty’s case is only the latest in a series of illegal detentions and arrests in Odisha that have occurred during Operation Green Hunt. While hundreds of innocents languish in the jails of Odisha––for whose liberty Mohanty himself campaigned––as journalists and citizens, it is important to remember that if the government and police continue to use the law to their own benefit, not just people involved in political activity, but each one of us stands to lose not only our fundamental democratic rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

CDRO demands that the Odisha government:

– Release Dandapani Mohanty and his son Sangram Mohanty immediately
– Review all cases of detentions and arrests under the UAPA during Operation Green Hunt and release innocent citizens
– Restrain the police from carrying out targeted vendetta attacks on civilians and their families
– Stop Operation Green Hunt immediately.

Kranti Chetanya, Tapas Chakravorty, Paramjeet Singh, Parminder Singh and Phullendru Komsam
(CDRO Coordinators)