The Police Fired 200 Bullets

Jadumani Mahanand

Kandhamal, Rayagada, Koraput, Malkangiri and Nabarangpur districts of Odisha are under the surveillance of police, some villages where Adivasis and Dalits live are strictly observed. These districts are known as Naxal/Maoist prone according to the Government of Odisha. On 8th July, five Adivasis and Dalits including a two-year-old child were shot by SOG at Gumudumaha of Kandhamal. It is reported that these people had gone to collect their wages of MNREGA from a bank; after that they went to the market to buy things, and were returning by autorickshaw. It happened in the evening, there was rain, the road was totally damaged due to heavy rain, difficult to drive on, passengers were pushing the car from behind to help the driver. The SOG were on operation duty, directed by district IG, SOG started firing deliberately suspecting that those were Maoists. Later, the police reported that there were cross-firing between the Maoists and SOG. Further, police said that of these sixteen people, some were really Maoists.

The people who were victimized in the incident said that there was no crossfiring, it is also evident that there was only one sided shooting by the police. If there was crossfire, why wasn't there a single SOG death or injury? The Chief Minister Navin Patnaik announced five lakh rupees compensation to each family, and ordered a special investigation team to inquire about the incident. Nevertheless, various other government and political party authorities expressed their views on the incident. Rameshwar Oran of ST commission said a judicial inquiry should be set up and 5-10 lakhs rupees will not return the lives of Adivasis, but the CM took it lightly. "In cross-firing, cases of injuries are reported from both sides. But in this incident, there was firing only from one side, which means the security forces fired at the tribals indiscriminately causing their death", P L Punia, Chairman of the National Commission for SC, said. Navin Patnaik said, "My government is always concerned for the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe and the deprived sections of the society".

The state/police have been killing thousands of Adivasis and Dalits for decades. Adivasis and Dalits have been criticizing and opposing state development policies. According to them, these policies are in reality aimed at looting their land and occupations. They are being displaced by the policies. The Fifth Schedule of the Indian constitution has been violated by the state and the corporates. The tribal rights on 'land' are misused by the state. There has been a movement by these people who are living in the mountain and hill areas, called Jan Andolan movement. The police have been placed there to encounter and surveil them. Every month there is killing of people from these communities by the state. Not only fake encounters, Adivasi and Dalit women have also been raped by the police, the protector of people and state in the Maoist region. In this particular incident in Kandhamal, the police fired 200 bullets within 3-4 minutes; they also shot a two-year-old child. The victims do not want compensation but their lives to be returned! How is it possible that five lakh rupees can return the lives of Adivasis and Dalits?

Around eight months back, there was a case in Kendrapara, where police was trying to maintain law and order by controlling a mob shouting slogans against Sarathi Baba. In this incident, nobody from the public was injured, but some police personnel were injured and hospitalized due to the mob attack on the police. The protesters succeeded in getting the district SP suspended without any reason. In contrast, in Kandhamal, five citizens of India were killed without any reason by the police. Ironically, the police officers united to protect the police rights in the state. But the voice of Adivasis and Dalits is being marginalized. In the last seventy years of democracy, only the Patnaik community has been ruling the state. There has been an absence of Adivasi and Dalit movements in Odisha. As a result, the political representatives (SC/ST) have no autonomous political agenda for SC/STs. Interestingly, Odisha has approximately 40% SC/ST population, with 24 SC and 33 ST MLAs in the legislative assembly of Odisha. To make a few comments, there are severe caste atrocities, untouchability, displacement, rapes on women throughout the state. The SC/ST political representatives have become stooges of the Brahminical political parties. There is no independent voice from Adivasis and Dalits. In other words, politics of Brahminism has a monopoly on SC/ST political issues. One would be surprised to note that all the SC/ST funds are never being spent for the welfare of SC/STs. Rather, these funds are being spent on building fly-overs in the state capital, Bhubaneswar.

In a democratic political system like India, the problem of oppressed and marginalized lies in autonomous political movement. Political movements by themselves have big limitation. But political agency is an essential tool to address social problems. Particularly, Adivasis are not able to exercise autonomous political vision. On the other hand, the political interest of Brahminism is not merely to capture power, but to acquire monopoly over all resources—that means control on economic, social and religious power as well.

Vol. 49, No.6, Aug 14 - 20, 2016