Noted Activists Tell Of Their Experience: Police-State Has Subdued Democracy In Narayanpatna

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

1. The Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS) and the people of Narayanpatna are fighting to restore their due rights over land and resources, which the state should rather ensure. Why is the state treating them as dreaded criminals instead? Has the state already decided to abandon the Constitution?

2. Under which law is the martyr’s day observed by the people of Narayanpatna an unlawful act that the state let loose such large number of police and paramilitary forces to stop it by terrorizing and brutally beating up innocent people?

3. Have we already formally become a ‘police state’ that freedom of expression and free movement of ordinary citizens are crushed in such barefaced manners?

4. Why is the state so evidently reluctant to settle land disputes in the area? Why are hundreds of people who simply asked for their due rights over their own land still languishing in jail, and those who have been perpetrating untold violence on the local people are given state protection?

Thus ask a group of noted activists, comprising senior journalist Rabi Das, Convenor of Lokshakti Abhiyan Prafulla Samantra, Convenor of Orissa Jan Adhikar Manch Dandapani Mohanty, Nisan editor Lenin Kumar and film maker Subrat Kumar Sahu, who witnessed on 20 November 2011, how democracy has been subdued by a “Police-State” in the Narayanpatna Block of Koraput District.

The group was proceeding towards Podapadar village to attend a public meeting that CMAS had convened to pay tributes to Wadeka Singana and Nachika Andrew for the supreme sacrifice they had made two years back on the day when the State had unleashed a bloody attack on unarmed tribals there, who were collectively urging upon the police at Narayanpatna P.S. to stop victimising innocent citizens in the style of stymieing Maoist spread.

Podapadar was about two kilometres away when at Basnaput village a pack of armed BSF men under the instigation of the Officer-in-charge of Narayanpatna Police Station stopped their vehicle on the road and refused to allow them to proceed.

In a statement issued to Press, they have said,

“We tried to convince them (the BSF men and the Police) for hours that the forces had no constitutional right to curb free movement of any citizen and that the public meeting called by the CMAS at Podapadar was well within democratic sanctions and, therefore, they had no right to stop or intimidate people coming to attend the meeting. We were, in turn, kept engaged by the BSF men and the Thana in-charge of Narayanpatna in meaningless discussions without them giving any appropriate reason for not allowing us to proceed. They kept repeating some hollow explanations: “We are instructed from higher authorities not to let anyone go beyond this point” or “Maoists have laid land-mines on the way” and so on. The district Collector on phone expressed ignorance about any such order ‘from above’ to stop people while the Koraput SP did not pick his phone. Interestingly, right at that point, a tractor was allowed to go ahead on the way where ‘Maoists had laid land land-mines’, and about an hour later, the same tractor came back unscathed. After more than three hours of debate, we had no option other than returning from Basnaput village.

“On our way back, between Basnaput and Bandhugan, we met several people who narrated to us how the paramilitary forces had attacked and brutally beaten them up when more than a thousand people were peacefully marching towards Podapadar to join the event. Even women and children were not spared; a 12-year-old boy looked terrified and baffled as he showed us his badly swollen face and narrated the assault on the people! Later in the day, we further learned that police and paramilitary forces had forcefully stopped and terrorised at different places thousands of people coming to join the meeting from various directions. Despite such terror unleashed all around by the forces, more than 5000 people had assembled at the Shahid Stambha (martyr’s pillar) at Podapadar. The forces reached there too in the afternoon and started beating up the people mercilessly in attempts to disperse them. Several people were injured, some severely, and at least three of them have been arrested. In the evening, at around 9 pm, we got the news that police had demolished the Shahid Stambha for the second time within a year. This is an extremely obnoxious act of cultural violence in which people are denied their fundamental right to remember and pay homage to their dead ones”.

Condemning such police lordship over democracy, the group of progressive activists has called upon patriotic members of the civil society to join hands in solidarity with the victimised tribals of areas like Narayanpatna, so that freedom is no more frustrated by police-raj.

The State has been reduced to a Police-State to suppress the save-the-people-movement being led by CMAS in Narayanpatna, the group observes.It underlines –

“The CMAS has been fighting to restore the rights of native communities over their own land and resources, to shut down illegal liquor shops, and to reclaim their cultural ethos on face of the hegemony established by non-adivasi landlords, moneylenders, and bootleggers. The democratic movement has questioned the unconstitutional manner in which the state had played facilitator to the cultural and economic appropriation in a ‘scheduled’ area. The CMAS has also strongly come in the way of the state’s nefarious plans to hand over the Deo Mali range to mining hawks for profits at the cost of the economy and culture of the local adivasis. To ensure protection to the land-grabbers, liquor traders, and corporate interests, a state of terror has been let loose in the area, with police and paramilitary forces given impunity for their excesses”.

“If the state claims to have any respect for the Constitution, we expect it to meet our following demands immediately”, the group has stated.

The demands are:

(a) The State should withdraw the entire paramilitary forces from Narayanpatna; (b) release all the people of Narayanpatna who have been illegally put behind bars; (c) withdraw all the cases falsely registered against hundreds of adivasis in the Narayanpatna area, including those against CMAS leader Nachika Linga; (d) settle all land disputes in the area after duly consulting the local people and (e) scrap all the MoUs with corporate and government entities relating to mining on the Deo Mali range.

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