Incidents happened on 29th August, 2009 at Sil Punji Village; Chandiposh G.P; Banki P.S; Gurundia Block; Bonei Sub-Division; Sundergarh District, Orissa
This is the true story of excesses committed by police authorities on innocent poor tribals. The fateful early morning of 29th August, 2009 wrecked havoc on poor tribals of Munda Basti of Sil Punji village that falls under Banki Police Station in the Gurunida block of Sundergarh district of Orissa. Police not only brutally assaulted those tribals but also abused them in filthy language by calling them by caste as if all tribals are Maoists, Naxalies, anti national and what not. There is strong anger amongst the tribals, the way police have behaved with innocent tribals who are also equal citizens of the country. The story is based on the inputs of our volunteers, discussions with few members of fact finding team headed by Mrs. Serophina Toppo who is Hon¡¦ble Chairperson, Zilla Parishad, Sundergarh that went in to study and investigate reported incidents of police excesses. The team consisted of few social workers and an advocate, who have visited the affected village areas at Sil Punji on 9th September, 2009. They also had detailed discussion with the members of the victimized families to know the realities of what happened on 29th August¡¦ 2009.
Their report also confirms police brutalities on innocent tribals exposing how the innocent tribals in our rural tribal areas are harassed and tortured by falsely pushing them in jails in criminal cases to which they have nothing to do. However, on the contrary, Police authorities takes proud by weaving stories to hide their mischievous acts by labeling tribals as dreaded hard core Maoists. This is a very serious matter that invites attention of the authorities at the highest level, as the very police who are duty bound to protect the constitutional rights of the people of our country have themselves exceeded all the limits to encroach upon the rights of very poor tribals. These incidents have further confirmed that the police at Sundergarh district have expertise in weaving false stories while dealing with tribals. What surprises us the most is that all this happens despite enough provisions are available in the Constitution of India that protects the rights of tribals. If Maoists or Naxals are operating in tribal areas, it is due to the failure of the administrative machinery who has neglected all those areas dung last 63 years. Maoists have not made their bases in a day in all those areas of the country that have been neglected but in the name of development hundreds of Millions have been spent. It is those corrupt faces who are responsible but now when the industrial corporations have laid their eyes on tribal areas to forcibly acquire land and virtually loot the natural mineral wealth, police swung in to wreck havoc on innocent tribals to secure the interests of those industrial and mining corporations. Police brutalities on innocent tribals at Sil Punji village is a very serious matter that invites attention of all, specifically of those constituted authorities of both the state and central government to take urgent steps to bring to justice all those persons however powerful they may be so as to ensure that the constitutional rights of tribals are protected.
Realities of Gurundia Block:
It is pertinent to state here that the incidents have taken place at a village that comes under Gurundia Block, most backward block of the district where hardly anything has changed in last 63 years our gaining independence from British. Most of the residents here are tribals with high rate of illiteracy, No roads, no health care facilities, no electricity, even safe drinking water is a luxury but yes, on papers millions have been spent in the name of development. It is also time to raise questions at the revenue officials that where has gone all that money that was spent in the name of development in this block since last 63 years. Who are those corrupt faces who are responsible for making lives of the tribals miserable by eating away the money that was meant for the development? Where are those brave police faces who have miserably failed in their duties during all these years to allow Maoists to make their bases and inroads in tribal areas and now when the interest of mining corporations has come up, they have suddenly realized that Maoists is a problem. The recent incidents are one more example in the long list of atrocities committed on tribals at the hands of industrial and mining corporations where police have failed to nab the culprits but instead by committing excesses on tribals they have booked hundreds of tribals in false criminal cases. There is no hesitation to say that police at Sundergarh district in particular appears to be a puppet in the hands of Industrial and mining corporations who have no respect for tribals or their culture.
The Fateful Morning of 29th August, 2009:
Normal routine lives starts from very early morning in almost all the rural tribal areas of our country. Mundari Basti at Sil Punji village is no exception. Tribal villagers usually get up at about 4 o¡¦clock in very early, go out of their houses to attend routine nature call and take bath etc before they could come back to their houses, take food and go out to work as daily wage earners. But 29th August, 2009 was unusual as on that fateful morning havoc wrecked on them by the police. Those tribals when they came out of their houses to go for toilets and take bath at the river were surprised to see many heavily armed police and CRPF people all around their village. Soon those police personnel went in to the houses searching for male members whom they pulled from their beds. Those who have already gone outside were also caught while they were taking bath or even attending the nature¡¦s call. Once caught, they were badly physically assaulted by slapping and kicking them and tied with the trees for over five six hours, without giving them any water or food. They were abused in filthy derogatory language by calling them by their caste labeling tribal community as dreaded criminals. Law breakers, anti nationals, Maoists and what not.
Confusion and Chaos at Munda Basti, Sil Punji village.
Complete chaos and confusion took the tribals at Munda Basti in to the grip. Women, children and old aged persons were in great shock and watching with fear live horror show happening in front of their eyes. They were scared and in great panic to see their brother, father or husbands being severally assaulted. They failed to understand why all these happens to them, what is their fault or what wrong they have done that are treated in such inhuman way. Why this entire curse has broken down on their heads? What is their crime? Why so many heavily armed policemen are behind their blood? Why they are treated even worst than animals? Why police has taken away their family members? They wondered why police was shouting at them and calling them as Naxalites or Maobadi. But worst was yet to come. After the naked dance of brutalities, police again dragged those tribals, kicking, pushing and thrashing them on the forest path to take them to the road where few police vans were parked. Here they were herded in to the police vans.
Innocent tribals labeled as dreaded hard core Naxalites
Police van took those tribals to the Homeopathic College Ground located at Sector- 5 in the Rourkela Steel Township. Thrashing and beating continued here also before three or four villagers were released and forwarding thirty tribals (including few minors) to jail by labeling them as hard core dreaded Naxalites, implicating all of them in a Case No. 31 of Date 17-07-2009 registered Banki Police Station inviting penal action u/s 147/148/341/ 353/364/395/307/506/121/121A/149 IPC; 25/ 27 Arms Act/ 9 B; Indian Explosive Act./7 Cr. L.A. Act turned to u/s 47/148/341/353/364/395/307/302 /506/121/ 121A/149 IPC 25/27 Arms Act /9B /Indian Explosive Act. 7Cr. L. A. Act.
Conditions and versions of the released persons and families back home.
Those who have been released have given their statement that confirms that even while they were taken to Rourkela were not spared and were regularly beaten badly. Brief statement is made here under to share with readers.
1. Anil Oraon (minor) 13 years of age; is in great shock and has fallen sick, undergoing treatment at the Orind Hospital at Latikata. He is the only male member in the family who has to look after his old mother and sister in law. On the fateful morning of 29th August, he was also pulled out of bed by the police, was repeatedly slapped while another policeman kicked him and thrashed him with the butt of the rifle.
2. Elam (minor) 16 years of age and Purno Chandra Patro (handicap person) are suffering from mental shock trying to come out of the memories of the ordeal that they have suffered at the hands of armed police.
3. Joseph Oraon, age about 50 years who was caught on the river bank while he was attending the nature¡¦s call. He has been brutally beaten. When he shouted for help, police torn off his Banian and pushed in his mouth to keep him quiet. He shares that he was very badly beaten all the way while he was being taken towards Latikata.
4. Johan Oraon, age about 35years also of Sil Punji village was caught by police on river bank, where he had gone to do latrine. He was also beaten very badly, and on his shouting for help, was also treated the way Joseph Oraon was treated by tearing off his Banian and pushing it in his mouth to keep him quiet. He has also been badly beaten all the way to Latikata.
5. Jai dev Munda, age about 35, was holding his one year old sick child while they were taken to the road. After about two kilometers, the sick child was taken away from him and handed over to a villager to send back to the village. Child is sick and with no money at home, gives an idea of lives after the male folks have been forcibly taken away from their families.
Mothers and Children need Urgent attention:
6. A tribal woman delivered a baby on the road side just a day back. There are 45 children in the age of one to seven years who are left behind in the house with their mothers. There is a badly of just few weeks. There are five old aged women who are all above seventy years of age. They need urgent care in shape of medicines and food.
Further arrests by the police:
Again Banki Police arrested few more persons.
ÏnOn 03-09-2009 Mr. Hanuk Munda aged about 35 years. Of village Jharbeda ÏnOn 05-09-2009 four tribals of Rukha village namely Mr. Edmond Guria of 27 years; Samuel Guria of 20 years; Man Mashi Bhengra of 35 years and Rajesh Guria of 45 years of age are arrested. ÏnOn 07-09-2009, Bolang police arrested 3 more tribals from village Topdih who are Mr. James Purty of 38 years, Mr. Bishikeshan Singh of 50 years (Ward Member) and Mr. Gidian Topno of 38 years..
Reaction of the people so far:
Action of the police committing brutalities and calling tribals as Naxalites or Maoists is a very serious offence committed by them. Under no circumstances, such statements can be justified. There is a strong wage of anger amongst tribal community all over the district. There is a strong demand from almost all quarters of the tribal community for the unconditional release of the innocent tribals and punishment to the guilty.
Road Blockade by the people:
There was a road block from 8th to 10th of September, 2009 by the villagers who had no other option to awake the sleeping administration. Public representatives Hon¡¦ble MLAs Mr. Bhimsen Choudhary, Bonei, Mr. George Tirkey Birmitrapur; Mr. Gregory Minz, Rajgangpur; Mr. Jogesh Singh Sundargarh were all present with the villagers who negotiated with the administration. Mr. Prafull Majhi Hon¡¦ble MLA Talsera has extended his moral support and consent to join the struggle with all the ward members, sarpanches, samittee members , Block Chairpersons, Zilla Parishad members. If the tribals are not released within 10 days, i.e. before 20th September, 09, indefinite bandh of the whole Sundergarh district will take place on and from 21st September, 2009.
Meeting with Administration:
On 9th of September, 09, at about 4 PM, a meeting was held with the Sub-collector, Bonei Sub-Division, at Chandiposh Panchayat office. In the open talk with Administration, it has been assured that they are looking into the matter of unconditional release of all the thirty tribals who are in now way Maoists and supply of medicines and ration on most urgent basis to the victimized families to take care of mothers and children who are left alone. The incidents have exposed further how innocent tribals are victimized by none other than the very authorities that are duty bound to protect their lives and properties. Let us wait for the actions of the government who have assured to do the needful before 20th of September, 2009, so as to save the tribals of the district from their proposed protests from 21st onwards.
Date: 11th September, 2009 Pravin Patel Director, Tribal Welfare Society
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