The Karlapat Story

Tribals Shot Dead

Prafulla Samantara

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 nor Maoists' presence but the police in the name of combing operation shot dead three tribals of villages Tala Panchakulu and Nisanguda. As they fired indiscriminately two 16-year-old youths also suffered injuries.

The villagers had been to the nearby forest in search of their goats, meanwhile the patrolling police party fired on them as if they were Maoists without any warning or preventive measures and this ghastly attack took place without any provocation or any violent action on behalf of villagers. Knowing well that the dead tribals as innocent, the police without informing to the nearby villagers for identification shifted the dead bodies to Bhawanipatna police headquarters to suppress the barbaric crime. After the injured youths reached village and informed the shocking murder, the villagers along with families of murdered tribals reached Bhawanipatna police station where they were not allowed to see the dead nor any family member was given opportunity to be present in time of postmortem of dead bodies which took place in night. The dead bodies were finally handed over to villagers, till that time the administration and police authority could keep the families away from dead bodies in presence of public and media where as they could offer Rs 40,000 to each family. This is nothing but insensitivity arid inhuman attitude towards tribals whose life is more cheaper than money in the eyes of administration.

This Correspondent along with Lingaraj Azad and Satya Mahar of Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti visited 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 the police. Everybody in villages was shocked to know 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 answered questions that they never saw or witnessed any maoist activities in their villages nor in nearby localities. Rather last year the police squad beat some villagers including Jaya Majhi while they were taking bath in the stream.

It is a fact that the villagers are now terrorized and continue to live in fear psychosis and the families of the deceased are suffering from chronic poverty being deprived of livelihood and earning member in the family. Till now no police investigation team has reached the firing place 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 cook a manufactured story of lies to hide such criminal offence committed by the police force. Ultimately in the name of police investigation a report will be produced before the State Human Rights Commission that the villagers were shot dead not by the police directly but through cross firing between Maoists and police. Villagers apprehend such false investigation. Given the prevailing situation the State Human Rights Commission should investigate independently instead of allowing police administration to bring out the truth. Personally this writer also filed a petition before the State Human Rights Commission appealing for such investigation and to direct the government to give Rs 25 lakh to each victim family and 10 lakh to the injured.

It is not an isolated incident of police attack, rather it has become a regular practice of police force in forest areas where the corporates are waiting to get mines for operation or where the tribals are protesting against mining to protect their life and livelihood. Generally after such inhuman crime done by the police, no accountability is fixed nor any policeman as killer is punished. Recently on 26th July 2015, such heinous crime was done by the anti-maoist squad of police at Pangalpadar under Kotaguda police station in Kandhamal district where wife and husband were shot dead while they were talking with their sons over mobile phone. But the police, through false investigation manufactured a story of murder by Maoists.

Now Karlapat though as ecologically very sensitive natural forest as natural habitat of tribals, has been recommended for mining of bauxite for Vedanta Company after Niyamgiri was denied by Gram Sabhas. So this is the primary motive behind the police terrorism in the Karlapat forests to suppress democratic protest movement by the tribals against mining.

Vol. 48, No. 32, Feb 14 - 20, 2016