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Two tribal men injured in police firing in Odisha
On January 8 at about 4pm police fired at two members of the tribal community in Khariair, Orrisa when they were fishing, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has reported.

THE OFFICERS from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) shot one person on his leg, whereas the other on his chest. It is reported that the local police is trying to portray the incident as one of firing by Naxals against the members of the tribal community and is threatening anyone who would report the true incident.

According to AHRC, Mr. Hari Majhi and Mr. Hube Majhi are two tribal men residing at Khaliapada village near Tarbod police outpost within the jurisdiction of Komna Police Station of Nuapada district in Orissa. On 8 January, the two men reportedly went to the forest to lay traps to hunt rabbits and to catch fish from a nearby water body adjacent to their house.

After sometime, the family of the two men reported that they heard firing from the direction in which the two men had went. The brother of one of the men rushed to the place to inquire what has happened. The CRPF who were there informed this man that they were engaged in an encounter with the Naxals in the forest and that the Naxals shot the two men.

Contrary to this version of the incident, the villagers claim that the CRPF were inside the forest undertaking a combing operation against the Naxals and fired at the two men, when they found them inside the forest. Hari Majhi was shot on his left leg, whereas Hube Majhi, was shot on his chest and he fell. Hari Majhi tried to run towards the village, despite being shot at. But the police forced him down near the village and took him into custody, accusing both men as Naxalite operatives.

It is reported that the police then took both men to the government hospital at Nuapada for treatment. Later the police, contrary to their actions alleged that the two men were shot by the Naxals and not by the police. Hube had to undergo a surgery to treat his injury, and is believed to be critically injured because of the high calibre projectile used to fire at him. Hari on the other hand, though seriously injured, is not in a critical state of health.

Since the incident, police officers started visiting the village and have demanded the victims’ families that they should inform everyone inquiring about the incident that their men were shot by the Naxals and not by the police. According to the statement given by the two victims, they have claimed that the police fired at them without provocation when they were sitting near the water body, waiting for the fish to be caught in the net they had cast.

The villagers claim that so far, to their information, no Naxalite cadres have come to the village nor have they encountered any in the forests. However, the villagers accuse that the CRPF regularly bother them, when they forage in neighbouring forests, accusing them as Naxalite sympathisers. This has largely intervened with the otherwise peaceful life of the villagers.

Equally, it is a regular, uncontrolled, and unprofessional habit of the CRPF for them to molest, bother, assault and torture villagers accusing them as Naxalites or Naxalite sympathisers. In no such cases formal complaints are lodged, since the villagers are scared whether the CRPF would further hurt them or implicate them in false cases, the AHRC reported.

Even if someone is willing to make a complaint, the local police refuses to accept the complaints against the CRPF, since the CRPF is on one hand a central reserve force whereas on the other enjoy comradeship with the local police. State and central governments, as an unwritten policy, also keep a blind-eye on the criminal excesses committed by the CRPF in the belief that holding the CRPF accountable for their acts would further demoralise an underpaid, unprofessional and ill-equipped force. Due this combination of factors, the CRPF enjoys absolute impunity in places where they are deployed.

AHRC demanded to ensure that a judicial inquiry is ordered in the case; the judicial magistrate should record the statements of the victims and witnesses without any further delay. That the magistrate record the statements at the residence of the victims or at a place and time convenient for the victims and NOT in a police station, court or a CRPF cantonment; the judicial magistrate records all allegations of the victims in the case and the CRPF command undertakes a separate departmental inquiry in the case.

It also demanded that the Government of Orissa should pay interim financial compensation to the victims and their families; the Government of Orissa appoint a competent legal advisor of the victim’s choice to provide legal assistance to the victims at the expense of the state and the CRPF is ordered to stay away from Khaliapada village, unless the villagers request assistance from the CRPF.

 

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