Odisha anti-Maoist ops: ‘When I returned, my wife was lying dead in the drain’


By – Debabrata Mohanty

Picture: Mallick shows a cartridge he found where his wife was killed. (Source: photo by Debabrata Mohanty)

Asked why the SOG team could not determine through their night-vision devices that the villagers were unarmed, Mishra said the heavy rains that night had hampered the policemen.

A grandmother weeping for her two-year-old grandson, a husband who found his wife’s body in a drain, a son who watched his mother running towards him, blood streaming from a gunshot wound in her back.

The stories that echoed on Sunday at Kandhamal’s Tumudibandh block were soaked in sorrow and tinged with rage. And they were told at the homes of the five tribal and Dalit villagers who were killed, allegedly in crossfire between Maoists and the police’s Special Operations Group (SOG).

The initial count was six dead until villagers and police realised that one among that group, Luta Digal, a Dalit, had survived with injuries. But that was hardly any consolation for those who had lost their close ones in the firing, with some questioning the police version of events.

“If there was crossfire, why were 21 bullet marks found only on one side of the autorickshaw? When the 16 people squeezed into that autorickshaw got down to push the vehicle out of the slush a few minutes earlier, there was no crossfire. The police are lying,” said a villager, who did not wish to be identified.

When contacted, Kandhamal SP Pinak Mishra said an inquiry being conducted by a DySP will arrive at the truth.

“A 15-member team of the SOG (the state’s anti-Maoist force) had gone to the area after getting intelligence inputs. The team’s chief maintains that they came under fire and had to fire back. But let me make it clear that the deceased were not Maoists,” said Mishra.

Asked why the SOG team could not determine through their night-vision devices that the villagers were unarmed, Mishra said the heavy rains that night had hampered the policemen.

The killings also triggered a political firestorm with the BJP declaring a bandh in Kandhamal on Monday. Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram accused Odisha’s BJD government of being “against Adivasis” and announced a separate probe by the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.

Back in Gumudumaha village, however, as politicians and human rights activists streamed in on Sunday morning, tribal Bibi Mallick was seething at the way his wife Kimuri was killed.

Mallick said he and his wife were returning that evening from Baliguda town, 30 km away, after withdrawing Rs 5,500 from their National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NRGS) bank account and picking their ailing daughter Chandrika, 10, from a tribal residential school, when the vehicle got stuck in the slush.

“We had two 50 kg sacks of rice with us, too. We managed to push the autorickshaw out of the mud. But as soon as we got into the auto, there was a hail of gunshots from the left. Before I could realise what had happened, my daughter and I fell off the vehicle. A few minutes later, there were no more gunshots. I found my daughter standing on the road, crying and looking for my wife. I was so scared, I took her to the village first and returned with other villagers. I found my wife lying dead in the drain,” said Bibi.

Dulara Digal, 20, son of Kukula Digal, former sarpanch of the Parampanga gram panchayat, said his father and mother had gone to Baliguda to buy provisions and withdraw money from their NREGS account.

“Close to around 9 pm, I heard the sound of what I thought were firecrackers near the village. A few minutes later, my mother came running, she had been hit by a bullet on her back. An hour later, when I went with some other villagers to the spot, we found my father lying dead,” said Digal.

At Gumudumaha, Mina Digal, the grandmother of Jehad Digal, wept bitterly as villagers lowered the two-year-old’s body into a grave. Jehad was the first child of her son Luta and daughter-in-law Sunita, both of whom are undergoing treatment at the MKCG Medical College Hospital in Berhampur town.

“My daughter-in-law was carrying Jehad in her arms, when they killed him,” said a sobbing Mina.

News Courtesy: The Indian Express, July 11, 2016


Editorial Team of Adivasi Resurgence.

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