PRESS RELEASE- Fact Finding to assess the situation of escalated violence in Odisha


Press Release March 10th, 2013

A national-level fact-finding team consisting of civil liberties and democratic organisations and individuals visited Govindapur and Dhinkia villages of Jagatsinghpur District on the 9th of March, 2013. The objective of the visit was to assess the situation in the wake of escalated violence since the land acquisition process resumed in the area on the 4th of February 2013. The stationing of armed police platoons in the proposed POSCO project affected areas and finally the recent incident of the bomb explosion that left three killed and had one person severely injured prompted us to visit the area and share our findings with a larger audience and appeal to the Odisha government and local administration. During the visit, the team had a detailed discussion with the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) leader Abhay Sahu and other members, the personnel of Orissa State Armed Police and the State Police stationed at Gobindapur, leader of Gobindpur pro POSCO group Ranjan Bardhan, dalit landless labourers, a group of people in Nuagaon led by Tamil Pradhan (husband of the Sarpanch) and the local youth. The following day, on the 10th of March 2013, the team also visited Laxman Pramanik in the SCB Medical College Hospital, Cuttack.  We informed the District Collector and Superintendent of Police about our visit and sought an appointment but they told us that they were out of the district and thus not available to meet us.

The incident of March 2nd, 2013: Discussions with members of the PPSS and families of the deceased clearly indicate that the four people namely Nabin Mandal (30), Narahari Sahu (52), Manas Jena (32) and Lakhman Parmanik (46) were sitting at their usual meeting place after leaving a nearby betel vine in Patana village.  A powerful blast occurred that killed three people and left Lakhman Parmanik severely injured. Another person named Ramesh Raut had left the spot just a minute before to buy a paan.

Within hours of the incident SP Jagatsinghpur Sri Satyabrata Bhoi announced through the local and national media that the blast occurred while the deceased were making a bomb, even before any police personnel had visited the site or done any investigation.  According to Lakhman Parmanik in the hospital, bomb/s was/were thrown at them. He strongly refuted the accusation by the police that they were making bombs, adding “What gain will I make by lying when I am on the verge of death.” It was reported to be a powerful blast as its impact was felt and heard by most of the villagers as they recalled in discussions with the team. None of the police personnel reached the spot until nearly 15 hours after the incident. This is clear dereliction of duty given the fact that two platoons are stationed within a distance of a few minutes from the area. Even before the police came and took charge of the dead bodies, land acquisition started on the morning of 3rd of March 2013.

The Role of the Police: One, the police neither reached the area nor sent any help for taking Laxman Parmanik immediately to the hospital, despite PPSS informing the police immediately after the incident. Secondly, the police arrived only on the morning of 3rd of March at the scene of the incident and took charge of the dead bodies. Thirdly, families of the two deceased shared that the police arrived on the midnight of the 3rd of March, and asked them to sign a written statement stating that the victims died in the process of making the bomb which they refused to do. Fourth, when Kusumbati Sahu, sister-in-law of the deceased Narahari Sahu went to register an FIR at the thana of Abhoychandranpur on the evening of 3rd of March, the police refused to accept the FIR, scolded her that she has been sent by Abhay Sahu although they themselves were making the bomb and had come to lodge an FIR. She had to leave without registering the FIR. However it should be noted that the only FIR that was accepted by the Abhaychandranpur thana on 4th of March was lodged by Ranjan Bardhan against the 3 deceased, the injured Lakhman Pramanik, Abhay Sahu, Surendra Das and five others of the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti.

Our observations of the Current Situation:

Following the March 2nd bomb blast the already existing tension in the villages have been greatly escalated.  The villagers are unable to move freely and are in constant fear of harassment and arrest by the police.  Since 4th February when the land acquisition process was resumed accompanied by a severe police lathicharge on the villagers, outbreaks of violence have become more frequent.  In Govindpur village, 2  platoons of police have been deployed, which has greatly contributed to the escalated tension in the villages.  At least 105 betel vines have been destroyed in Govindpur village in the process of land acquisition.  There was a lathicharge on 7th March on villagers demanding the removal of the police camp, in which 41 villagers including 35 women and children were injured.

This situation has also gravely affected the lives and livelihoods of the villagers. The situation of dalit landless labourers is very grave. Over 150 families depend on betel vines located on approximately 1 acre of  land. They are keen and clear that the plant is most undesirable since it is the only source of livelihood.  Two persons shared how they have got no compensation after sale of land. Most others said how there are no provisions for compensations for the landless in the acquisition process.  In fact, Laxman Pramanik, who has been gravely injured in the bomb blast is also a landless labourer, the sole breadwinner of a family of eight persons,  depending on the same. In short, the livelihood activities and mobility of the entire community is under threat. Any access to health care or medical treatment, however critical, is difficult to obtain as most of the community is under threat of arrest.

Demands:

In view of our discussions with all the affected persons, and the clear attempt of the police to blame the deceased persons in a premeditated manner, we demand

1.       A  high level judicial enquiry into the bomb blast incident resulting in the death of three persons and injury to one person, to ascertain the truth of the matter.

2.       The immediate withdrawal of the police camp from Gobindpur village as it is contributing to escalating tensions in the area.

3.       The cessation of the land acquisition process forthwith  in the Dhinkia panchayat area including Gobindpur village.

4.       Compensation on humanitarian grounds to the families of the deceased who were killed in the bomb blast and proper medical help for the injured person.

Team Consisted of:

Meher Engineer, Former Director, Bose Institute, Kolkata

Sumit Chakravartty, Editor, Mainstream Weekly, Delhi

Dr Manoranjan Mohanty, Retd Professor, Delhi University

Pramodini Pradhan, PUCL Odisha

Saroj Mohanty, PUCL, Odisha

Ranjana Padhi, PUDR, Delhi

Dr Kamal Chaubey, PUDR, Delhi

Sanjeev Kumar, Delhi Forum, Delhi

Mathew Jacob, HRLN, Delhi

Samantha, Sanhati

Partho Roy, Sanhati

Gyan Ranjan Swain, Ravenshaw University

Contact Email Id: sanjeev@delhiforum.net   : 09958797409

 

Twenty-two questions to the Police Commissioner of Hyderabad


Submitted by admin on 25 February 2013 – , twocircles.net

By Advocate Shafeeq Rehman Mahajir

Dear Mr Police Commissioner:

I am told by “the Press” that Indian Mujahideen and Lashkar e Tayyaba / Toiba with several score “sleeper cells” are responsible for bomb blasts at Hyderabad recently. The same press also reports that the Commissioner of Police says it is not yet known who is responsible. The media however, quoting allegedly unidentified yet allegedly reliable police sources, seems to know a great deal more than even the police.

For, scanning news reports I see that over a week, EVERY name of an alleged suspect is a Muslim name. Even names of alleged organisations allegedly linked with the blasts, are Muslim names. The implications, the undercurrent of political, administrative and executive as well as media bias is striking. Once again, the Muslims are the target. To interpret these horrifying signals, not much of a brain is needed. However, in the India of today where the language of political discourse has fallen to abysmal levels, four notable absentees are: brain, shame, truth and justice.

Let me ask you, sir, a few questions:

1. Despite the innumerable Muslim accused having been found by due process of law to be innocent of terror involvement, and despite the confessional statements of right-wing Hindutva group cadre members with those confessional statements supported by independent corroborative evidence, how is it that ONLY Muslims are stated in the press as being investigated, interrogated, searched for ?

2. How is it that despite the confessional statements of right-wing Hindutva group cadre members with those confessional statements supported by independent corroborative evidence, NO non-Muslim name features in ANY of these reports including those citing mysterious sources giving out Muslim names as suspects?

3. Has the police undertaken a questioning of those media rags (sorry, newspapers) and ruts (sorry, channels) which have been promoting this lopsided image of a Muslim community as responsible for such events, to ascertain which “sources” they got these credible bits of information from ?

4. Has the police undertaken a questioning of those mysterious sources to ascertain what information they have and to know whether they are somehow involved, or wish to create red herrings to misdirect investigation?

 

Shafeeq Mahajir is a Hyderabad based lawyer. 

5. Has the police undertaken a questioning of those who control or own these media rags (sorry, newspapers) and ruts (sorry, channels) which have been promoting this lopsided image of a Muslim community as responsible for such events, to ascertain whether they are carefully orchestrating a media blitz to ensure that the direction of investigation serves to deflect the focus from the right wing terror which stands established as a fact?

6. Has the police taken any steps to book cases against these media houses, press reporters and newspapers, for publishing material without reasonable basis, as causes dissensions within society and polarizes it, creating enmity between groups and sections of society along religious lines ?

7. Considering that a speech by an MLA has had charges of sedition and waging war against the State slapped against him, should the same charges not be framed against these media houses, press reporters and publishers and newspapers, for publishing such scandalizing material without reasonable basis, and thereby creating enmity between groups and sections of society along religious lines ? If they have had these bits of information planted by some “sources” should those sources not be identified and similarly prosecuted? Or are Muslim-baiters to be forever immune from prosecution?

8. Is this not indicative of interference with investigative processes and is it not actionable? Considering that, what action has the police taken as against these communalizing elements?

9. If any non-Muslim has even been questioned in these matters, why is it that the media is absolutely silent of that, or do “police sources” only reveal to the media the names of Muslim persons being investigated?

10. Is the police department not aware that the assertion that a named person is being investigated on such serious charges is by itself enough to cause massive trauma in his and his family’s life? Who is behind the publication and the media blitz to defame and demonize the Muslim community?

11. Why is the Police a silent spectator in the matter?

12. Why did the police not sanitize the areas after the events and instead permit VIP visitors with entourages, and were any measures taken to ensure that the entourage members did not interfere with the integrity of available evidence, or even perhaps plant “evidence” ?

13. If the police is yet to analyse the data from the camera that was making a CCTV record of the area/s in question, how is it that named suspects are being spoken of even before that exercise, and all of them happen to be ONLY Muslims ? Or is it a foregone conclusion that ONLY Muslims can be responsible and the police believe in advance that no one else need be suspected?

14. If in earlier blasts like the ones in Samjhauta Express, Ajmer, Malegaon, Hyderabad, etc., right wing groups are found on NIA investigation to be involved, how and why is it that none of those from those organisations or linked to those accused, are being investigated or their names shown as possibly involved ? Or, to repeat, is it a foregone conclusion that ONLY Muslims can be responsible and the police believes in advance that no one else need be suspected, and if so, considering this and 13 above, how credible is this investigation going to be?

15. The press also reports that the State Police is reluctant to hand over the investigation to the NIA. Why on earth is that? Is it that the State Police desires a certain outcome and the investigation by the NIA can come up with results that a certain section of Indian society holding certain non-inclusive, non-pluralistic, non-secular views would be upset by this?

16. Is the possibility being investigated that a police, paramilitary or military hand may be involved looking at the likely political situation that can unfold while heading towards the 2014 elections? If not, perhaps someone knows why not, considering that in the past there is at least one known army man accused of complicity in terror activities in collusion with some “religious” individuals wearing (and thereby defaming) a certain colour ?

17. Considering the press reports that use of certain chemicals points allegedly to an “IM imprint”, is the possibility being investigated that any group wanting to have an investigation go in a certain direction, would use such methods or means to direct blame towards a specific group?

18. Considering that there is no effort by the police department or other agencies to distance itself/themselves from what the media reports, do we citizens take it that the police also is investigating these matters only along the lines that ONLY Muslims and none other can be involved ?

19. Are the police officials who are investigating these matters screened to ensure they are not persons with anti-Muslim bias or a reluctance to see right-wing hands that evidence points towards? Is there ever any screening to weed out officials who have been found in the past to have targeted Muslims during such investigative exercise or foisted false cases against them?

20. Is it a scheme already in place, with the 2014 elections in mind, that UAPA will be invoked in the aftermath of these blasts?

21. Is it a likelihood, based on the past similar tragedies, that an unknown number of young Indians will be charged, arrested, imprisoned, tortured, police will extract “confessions” under extreme duress, they will be tried on those charges in the courts, accused will have attorneys who will hardly have the experience, resources and support to match the massive resources and influence over the process of the prosecution by government and its agencies and, though none of the accused will be convicted for the alleged crime they will be accused of, nevertheless their lives will be shattered forever ?

22. Considering that 1 out of 7 Indians is a Muslim, 1 out of 8 Muslims of the world live in India, and over 200 million Muslims of India belong to India, and India belongs to Muslims as much as to any other community in India, what do you believe the demand of proper policing is ?


Shafeeq Rehman Mahajir appeared before Justice Bhaskara Rao Commission inquiring into the police firing on unarmed Muslims in the wake of Mecca Masjid blast of 2007. Shafeeq Mahajir with painstaking research work was able to demonstrate the AP Police deliberately fired on civilians. Police claimed that they fired to stop the violent crowd from burning nearby petrol pump. Mahajir proved the police claim false and showed that police fired unprovoked and fired to kill.

 

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