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Fake encounter in Odisha? Tribal, Dalit workers shot in an incident police have called "crossfire" with Maoists

By Our Representative
In an incident which human rights activists of Odisha have characterized as “fake encounter”, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in Kandhamal district of Odisha have allegedly shot dead six persons, including a child. They were all poor Adivasi and Dalit labourers. Four others were seriously injured. The firing took place in Malapanga forest under Tumudibandha police limits.
Human Rights Front convener Manoj Jena has described the incident as “fake encounter”, seeking the intervention of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Another rights campaigner, Biswapriya Kanungo, has said, since such incidents have been “frequently happening”, the government should “review its policy and strategy towards tackling Maoists.”
Demanding a special investigation team, which should directly report to court about its findings, Narendra Mohanty, convener of the Campaigning Against Fabricated Cases (CAFC), Odisha, families of the deceased should get Rs 50 lakh each.
The demand has come amidst chief minister Naveen Patnaik ordering a judicial probe into the incident and announced compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the family members of the dead.
While the police claimed that the labourers were killed in a “crossfire” between Maoists and CRPF personnel, activists say, it is “impossible” for a vehicle to enter an area where an encounter is going on and all 12 people traveling in the vehicle to get bullet injuries.
Reports say, the labourers “shot dead” were were returning from Balliguda, the block and sub-divisional headquarter of their village Gungudmaha under Parampanka gram panchayat, along with others after receiving their wages under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) through bank.
The deceased have been identified as Kukal Digal and Luta Digal, both males, and three women, Timari Mallick, Bringuli Mallick and Midiali Mallick, apart from the two-year-old child of Luta Dugal.
They were part of a team of 12 people, who were returning to their village around 9.30 pm on Friday in a van after collecting their wages. The incident occurred when the villagers were about two kilometres away from their village.
Already, the incident has begun to acquire political overtones. Stating that innocent people were butchered by police, leader of opposition Narasingha Mishra said, being in-charge of the home department, Pathaik is “answerable” for the unacceptable state-sponsored massacre of its own people.
Terming the judicial probe ordered by the state government a “necessity” in view of the Supreme Court guidelines in the matter, he said, judicial probes in Odisha had become a joke because most of these never meet their logical end.BJP spokesperson Sajjan Sharma said the government has become aimless in its anti-Maoist operations.
A year ago, in a similar incident, on 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 and the Central Reserve Police Force, deployed for anti-Maoist operation in Kotagarah block of Kandhamal district.

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