The National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO) formed an All India Fact Finding team to investigate and publish a report on the atrocities committed by the police and armed forces stationed in Kalahandi and Rayagada districts of Odisha state.The members of the team were: Prof. Amarx Marx, Chair Person, NCHRO; Reny Ayline, National Secretary, NCHRO; Narendra Mohanty, Natioanal Executive Member, NCHRO; Adv. M.A. Momen Halder, NCHRO, West Bengal; and Abdul Hannan, Student Activist, Jharkhand. Excerpts from team’s report:
The team visited a number of tribal villages in Trilochanpur Panchayat and nearby areas including Nachiniguda and Dangamati and met the people affected by state atrocities. It also met some social and tribal activists of Odisha. The team is thankful to the valuable assistance offered by Mr. Lingaraj Ajad, the General Secretary of Samajbadi Jana Parishad and Advisor of Niyamgiri Surakshya Samiti (NSS). The documentary film maker Mr. Jagat Kishore Samal, activist of CAFC was also with us for all these days. The team also spoke with the Superintendants of Police of Rayagada and Kalahandi districts and the Sub-Inspector of Lanjigarh police station.
Vedanta Resources, the notorious multinational mining company which has invested at least Rs 5000 crore in its aluminum refinery venture at the base of Niyamgiri hills has continuously experiencing defeats at the hands of the Dongria Kondhs (A Primitive Tribal Community) who had nurtured these forest areas for generations. They have emotional attachment with that area and they are sure that any kind of modern development by destroying the eco structure will ruin the lives of at least 8000 Adivasis(tribal) living in that area . But the state government is adamant in establishing that aluminum refinery unit in that area.
When the Union Ministry of Environment had refused to give the forest clearance to this project in 2010, the state government through its Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) moved the apex court to break the stalemate. The Adivasis of that area strongly opposed it and the Supreme Court ordered the state government to organise Gram Sabhas under the Forest Rights Act -2006 to take a final decision on the basis of the concerned people’s opinion.
From the 112 villages the state government chose only 12 villages and organized the Gram Sabhas. The government thought that it would be easy to manipulate these twelve villages. But all the 12 Gram Sabhas unanimously decided against mining. The Adivasis are intimidated by the state machinery in various ways. They were branded as either Maoists or ardent supporters of Maoists. Various paramilitary forces as CRPF, SOG are brought to this area and stationed there in the name of curtailing the Maoist activities. The holy lands of Dongria Kondhs are declared as Maoist infected areas. Activists against Vedanta Resources are involved in false cases, arrested, tortured and killed in fake encounters. In the meanwhile the OMC moved again the SC with a plea to reconstitute the Gram Sabhas and review the decision which the SC rejected in its historical judgment ten days back on May 6.
Let us now list out some of the atrocities perpetrated on the local people of this area in the recent past:
On Nov 15 three Adivasis of Nisanguda village (Bhawanipatna Block, Kalahandi dt) were killed by anti-Maoist combat force Special Operation Group (SOG). Those killed on that day were ward member Jay Majhi and is friends Jaya Shankar Naik and Sukru Majhi. Two young boys Arjun Majhi and Ichhu Majhi were seriously injured. All were in search of their missing goats when they were attacked by the forces.
In the third week of Nov 2015 Drika Kadraka, an Adivasi activist from Ambadhuni village (Rayagada district) was picked up by the anti Maoist squad stationed in that area. Though he escaped from the clutches of police and returned he committed suicide as a result of mental torture within the next few days.
There are so many other killings and arrests in the adjacent Kandhamal district. Here we are limiting our investigations to Kalahandi and Rayagada districts. When some activist groups investigate these issues and submit reports the state machinery coolly reject the allegations saying that those killed were Maoists and they were killed in real encounters. No proper enquiries were made as per the Supreme Court and NHRC guidelines.
The People We Met
- NachiniGuda (Biswanathpur Block, Lanjigarh PS, Trilochanpur Gram Panchayat)
On 15th May at 9.30 am we reached the village after tiresome walk over at least 5 km on the hills. It is a lonely village like any other hill tribal hamlets. About seven families with approximately 35 members including children are living there. On seeing us they all assembled under a tree. Only after repeatedly asked they replied and that too in a low voice which was translated by the leader and advisor of NSS Lingaraj Ajad . The elders Sanu Majhi, Bandili Majhi and Bunhari Majhi replied.
“Five days back, on 10th May at about 3 AM about 40 uniformed people came. Some were dressed like CRPF; some were wearing blue uniforms. They all had weapons in their hands and they shouted, ‘where is your leader Baka Majhi?’ They forcibly entered in each house and at last held Baka in their hands. When he tried to release himself they violently broke one of his hands. When we protested they threatened to kill us with their fire arms. They went away with our Baka Majhi(45 Years). Nothing known about him till this day.….”
Baka Majhi’s wife Bunhari majhi and his four children were silently sitting before us. We searched any hope in their eyes but in vain. We asked whether they had given any complaint to the authorities. After a long pause one of the elders replied that if they had to complain, they had to do that to the same people who had kidnapped their leader, what would be the use of it?
The kidnapers had left one important evidence there, weather intentionally or not we don’t know. It is a bag with a polythene sheet and an olive green uniform, a plastic bottle and a small towel inside. If it was intentionally left out it might be to divert the attention from the actual kidnappers.
Two days after there was a Public Relation Camp was held at Trilochanpur Panchayat office for by the district administration to aware people about the development activities of the Govt. of Odisha. Not only tribal people all the district officials including District Collector, Sub-Collector, Tahasildar and SDPO were also present. At that time the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS) leader Laddo Sikaka and others entered and shouted, “While the people are kidnapped and their whereabouts are not known, you are conducting public relation meeting here. What is the meaning of it?” The people assembled there also joined with him. Nobody replied. The meet was abruptly brought to end and all the officers immediately vacated the place. This was reported in an Odiya newspaper.
But even after the kidnap and this protest were reported there is no action from the administration till this date.
We went and met the Sub-Inspector of Lanjigarh Police station one Mr. Rajendra Mohapatra, he said that formerly the Nachiniguda village was under the jurisdiction of their station, but when the Bijepur police outpost is converted to a full fledged police station before sometime, that has come under its jurisdiction. He advised us to go and enquire there. We went to the Bijepur PS which is still like an outpost and no police officials were there. There is a contact no in the name board of the PS. We tried many times to contact some official with a view to register a complaint. But nobody replied.
Yesterday evening we called the Kalahandi Dt Superintendent of Police Mr. Brijesh Kumar Rai and conveyed the kidnapping incidence. He replied that he is not aware of it and if details are sent he would take action. We immediately sent the necessary details to him.
- Dangamati (Kaiyansinghpur Block,Rayagada dist.)
Our team also went to the native village of Manda katraka (20) who was killed in a fake encounter by the SOG on Feb 27. We met there Dambaru Sikaka, a friend of Manda who accompanied him on the fateful day. The NSS leader Loddo sikaka was also there. Dambudru and Manda both went for buying some country liquor (‘Salapha’) for their ‘Ghati Paba’ festival at 4am to a nearby area.
On their way Dambru went to answer the natural call. When he heard bullet sounds. Dambru ran away from the place to save himself. When the people came to know the incident they ran to the spot only to find the forces carrying a body with them. When the people tried to identify the body the forces refused and threatened to kill them also. Only after seeing a photograph in a newspaper after two days the villagers confirmed that it was Manda who was killed by the forces. Meanwhile the SOG has declared that Manda Katraka as a Maoist and he was killed in an encounter. Then the villagers under the guidance of NSS leaders made it an issue and filed complaints that Manda was killed by the forces. They also conducted a series of protests demanding that those who killed Manda should be arrested and murder charges should be slapped against them. They also demanded a compensation of 50 lakh rupees to the family of Manda. The State Human Rights Commission intervened and directed the District Collector to meet the people, conduct an enquiry and submit a report. The District Collector visited the village on 17th April with large number of police force and conducted an enquiry. But till today nothing happened.
When we spoke to the Superintendent of Police, Rayagada dt Mr.K. Sivasubramani, he told that it was a real encounter and Manda Katraka was a hard core Maoist who had attended Maoist camps. There are a number of cases pending against him for charges including murder.
When we asked the people and their leaders Lingaraj Ajad and Laddo Sikaka about the Maoist connections they replied in the negative. They said that Maoists may support some of their demands against the Vedanta Resources but they have nothing to do with the Maoists. They are concerned only about their future. In order to save and protect the Vedanta Resources the state has declared a war against the tribal population. They are intimidated, slapped with false charges, arrested, incarcerated and killed in fake encounters. The most vocal persons are identified and treated in these ways.
Dasru Kadraka, the 25-year-old Adivasi youth leader and activist of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti was arrested on 7th April from Muniguda market. The local Police are falsely presenting him as a Maoist militia leader but they have not recovered any arms-ammunition or incriminating evidence to prove it. The police has slapped several false cases of arson, murder, attacking forces during combing operations, etc against him and claims he was absconding. The fact that he was picked up from the Muniguda market proves that the Police is lying. It is feared that he will be put through custodial torture, made to sign false confessions implicating him and others and forced to endorse the Vedanta project.
We the undersigned are sure that all these troubles for the Adivasis started only after the Vedanta Resources entered in their holy land. We also understand and accept that their livelihood would be in peril if the mining activity is continued. Any development activity in this area should be made only with the concurrence of the local population after due consultations.
- We demand that a case of kidnapping of Baka Majhi of Nachiniguda village should be registered either by the Lanjigarh or Bijepur police. The Kalhandi district police administration should form a special squad to find the whereabouts of Baka Mahji.
- The Royagada district police seems to close the case related to the fake encounter killing of Manda Kadraka as a death due to a real encounter between the forces and an armed terrorist. Whether that small boy was involved in Maoist activities are not the forces have no right to kill him. We demand a CBI enquiry regarding this. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) should be formed to investigate the recent killings and disappearances of Adivasi people of this area. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of the tribal activist Dasru Katraka who was falsely indicted and arrested.
- We demand the withdrawal of all paramilitary forces in the Niyamgiri hill areas and ensure the safety of the local Adivasi population.
- We demand that basic amenities should be provided in all the 112 villages of Niyamgiri hills. But we want to stress the point once again that any development activities in this area should be made after due consultations with the local people.
- We demand that in the background of the historic May 6 verdict of the Supreme Court the government should ensure the implementation of the Gramsabhas’s decision of 2013 and declare Niyamgiri as a mining prohibited zone.
- We also demand that in the background of the recent developments the activities of the notorious multinational mining company Vedanta Resources should be brought to an end in this area. The company had already accepted its defeat in its fight against the local Adivasis and decided to close its venture which is running with a huge loss. It is high time that the central and state governments should stop their corporate friendly attitude towards the Vedanta resources and ensure its immediate and total closure.