The recent incident of paramilitary forces murdering five villagers and saying that they were Maoists in the Gajapati district of southern Odisha on the 13th November 2012, is yet another instance of a serious malaise of the body politic which PUDR has repeatedly raised and always condemns.
The local media has identified the victims of the staged encounter as Mr. Ghasiram Bagsing, Ayub Padra, Syamson Majhi & Sanatan Maillik of Brahmanigaon Police Station area & Laxmikanta Nayak of Tikabali Police Station area. The first three persons were prominent activists. They had raised the issue of corruption and dishonesty on the part of the Sarpanch of the Sirmuli Gram Panchayat Smt Kamla Patmajhi, her husband and ex-Sarpanch Karma Patmajhi and her other family members in the distribution and illegal sell of BPL rice. They spearheaded a campaign, lodged a FIR with the local police on 19 Aug 2012 for this case. The sarpanch was subsequently arrested along with her driver and BPL rice was recovered. They even mobilized villagers and had staged a dharna on the 11th October 2012, in front of Daringabadi Block Office, for the arrest of all members of the Sarpanch’s family involved in the illegal sell of BPL rice. Ghasiram Bagsing was an elected member of the Gram Panchyat Samiti.
Ayub Patra was a local campaigner for the proper implementation of MNREGA and FRA. It is his uncle who defeated the husband of the arrested Sarpanch, namely Karma Patmajhi involved in the BPL rice scam, in the Gram Panchayat elections held in 2012. It is also noteworthy that all the deceased persons took prominent part in Brahmnigam Block formation movement and in the local resistance to the declaration of Kotagarh forest as a reserve/sanctuary.
It has also been alleged that the family of the disgraced Sarpanch had not only threatened the victims with dire consequences but also complained against them to the Maoists. It was the Maoists who had summoned them for ‘trial’. While they were returning after meeting the Maoists that the SOG and the local police gunned them down. None of them had any arms.
Till yesterday, according to local media (O TV, the SAMAJ), four others, picked up from the same ‘encounter’ site are still under illegal detention of police, tied in ropes.
PUDR is extremely concerned about the repeated instances of murder of innocent people at various places by paramilitary forces in the country which are presented as “encounters” and illegal detention of innocent villagers. The politicization of the police and other paramilitary forces in general, and their partisan role in settling local political differences as in this instance, is not only condemnable but has dangerous portents for the future. Besides PUDR is equally concerned about the question of right to life. Every human being has an inviolable right to life, even a so-called Maoist. The police, at the behest of the political elite have created the myth of ‘encounter’ to violate the inviolable right. PUDR has seen in the past that security forces returning from other operation tend to take their wrath out on anyone they suspect. There is a likelihood that such could be the case here too. If our apprehensions are correct, which only an independent inquiry can bring out, then this could be yet another instance of killing of innocent civilians in the name of 'police action' against Maoists. In doing this, the police is not only bypassing existing norms and procedure of law but also practicing cruelty which forebodes ill for any society and civilization. Therefore we demand:
- The Policemen involved in the so-called encounter be immediately booked under appropriate section of IPC and brought to trial.
- The victims’ families should be immediately and suitably ‘compensated’.
- Stop all military operations against citizens and sincerely try for dialogues to settle demands and differences.
Paramjeet Singh and Preeti Chauhan