July 11th, 2016
During a police encounter with the Maoists in Kurtgadh Malapanga’s jungle, Kandhmal district, Orissa, six innocent people along with a two-year-old child died while five people were severely injured. Two women are also included in those who passed away. The incident took place on Friday night last week. CM of Odisha, Navin Pattnaik has announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the family of each victim. He has also ordered an immediate judicial enquiry into the incident and assured that one member from each bereaved family will be given a job.
According to Superintendent of Police (Kandhmal), Pinak Mishra, the encounter took place at that time when security personnel received information about Maoist attack on the patrolling security personnel in the area on Friday night. The security force consisted of members of CRPF, SOG (Special Operation Group) etc. All of a sudden, passengers of an auto rickshaw came in between the firings. The SP explained that on the previous night there had been heavy rains in the area and since there was no paved road in the area, it was not possible to prevent the ordinary citizens from coming to the encounter area. Mishra further explained that it was a unapproachable area.
Meanwhile, sources informed the local media that those who died were workers of MNREGA. They were returning home after buying stuff from the local market. The auto rickshaw driver could not be found. Those who died have been identified as two-year-old, Jehad Diggal, his father Luttu Diggal, East Naib Sarpanch Kukula Diggal, Bringali Malik, Pirnari Malik and Modiyal Diggal.
The sources revealed that the incident took place when the driver had requested the villagers to get off the auto and cover some distance on foot because it was a hilly terrain. Police Sub Inspector SN Murmu said that three people present in the auto were injured. In the meantime, villagers protesting the killings of innocent people in the encounter blocked the Raigarh-Fulbani road.
Within the last one year, this is the third such incident of killings of innocent villagers during police encounter. In a similar incident in July 26, 2015 a couple identified as Duba Nayak and his wife Budi Nayak were killed in firing by personnel of the Special Operations Group. In November last year three villagers had died during an SOG firing in Kalahandi ditrict.
In July this year, six Dalit / Adivasis, including a child, were killed in fake encounter in Kandhamal in an almost similar incident. There was firing between the police and Maoists on an inaccessible terrain when the MNREGA workers came in their way. At that time Human Rights activists retaliated by saying that it was impossible for a vehicle to enter an area where an encounter is going on and all 12 people travelling in the vehicle to get bullet injuries.
While The Logical Indian community appreciates the announcements made by the Odisha CM for judicial enquiry, compensation to the victims’ families and promise of jobs to family members, we wonder how the auto-rickshaw even reached there if the area was inaccessible. The official version seems to be untenable. We hope that the judicial inquiry is conducted in an impartial manner and those responsible for the death of innocent civilians would be accordingly charged.
However, the need of the hour is to stem all such (fake?) encounters leading to collateral damage. That cannot remain an excuse. One life lost is too many for the bereaved – numbers don’t matter. We urge the the state government to be clamp down upon the entire security mechanism against Maoists in Odisha. Even one innocent person killed in such encounters is not acceptable.