Winter in Orissa has seen a spate of encounters, starting with a now infamous incident in Bargarh district on the 27th of December, where two alleged Maoists were killed, who’d later be identified as a BJP block president, who was also an anti-mining activist, and his associate.
In Jajpur district, five more alleged Maoists were killed on the 1st of January, including three women and a 12 year old girl. And as the Supreme Court states that the ‘Republic can’t kill her own children’, while referring to the death of Maoist leader Azad, nine more of the Republic’s children were killed in their sleep on the 8th of January in Rayagada District, in what has been widely described as a late night ambush by the Special Operations Group and not an encounter – (a surprise tactic used by the police, right out of a Maoist handbook on ambushes.)
It has been the first time that encounters of this scale have taken place in both districts.
And again, two more alleged Maoists would be gunned down on the morning of the 12th of January, some 35 kilometres away from Jajpur, at Keonjhar near the village of Pancham. According to the police, Sadhu Munda (24) and a teenager from Mayurbanj district were shot dead early in the morning, even though the body of the boy started to reveal signs of putrefaction at 3pm, which only takes place 72 hours after death.
Sadhu Munda hails from Baligotha village, as did the 12 year old girl killed on the 1st of January in Jajpur, who was identified as Janga d/o Ramrai Jamuda.
Baligotha is a village on the forefront of the protest of the Bisthapan Birodhi Jan Manch against Tata Steel’s project in Kalinganagar Industrial Park, and has often been accused as a Maoist-front. No one from the village of Baligotha claimed the body of the 12 year old girl who was killed, yet within the next ten days of the encounter, over 10 alleged Maoists, including minors, would surrender to the police, including Saley Pallei, who also hails from Baligotha. Saley would be taken by his mother to the Tata Transit Camp at Sukinda.
And Sadhu Munda’s brother, Nitchandra Pallei, a resident of Baligotha, who now lives in Tata’s Transit Camp called a press conference in Jajpur, to plead with the Maoists to release his daughter and his son, who he claims are still fighting with the Maoists. The entire press conference was orchestrated by the police who refused to stand before the cameras. ‘I took a picture of Nitchandra, and the policemen stopped me. They told Nitchandra to hold his hands, and then I should take a picture,’ Said a local journalist who was a part of the conference. The next day, Sadhu Munda’s brother refused to talk to the press without police presence, or collect his brother’s body from the police station.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the Bisthapan Birodhi Jan Manch have denied any links with the Maoists.
‘We are stupid then,’ Rabindra Jarika of Chandia village said, ‘If we wanted, we could’ve sent 200 men into the jungles. But yet we resist peacefully, and we’re dying here.’
Interestingly, Rabindra Jarika has also faced threats from the Maoists in the past, who he establishes have been functioning in the Sukinda mines area, far away from the villages protesting against Tata’s common corridor.
‘Have the Maoists threatened you?’
‘Twice.’ He replies.
‘Janshakti Maoist party of CPI Maoist party?’
‘Any idea why?’
‘They say I am doing dalaalgiri.’
Death By Development
Sadhu Munda, Janga Jamuda and Saley Pallei are one of the first direct instances of exclusive development’s contribution to the recruitment of Maoist cadre. In fact, the SP of Jajpur S. Kutte would release a list of 21 names from the village of Baligotha who he claims have joined the Maoists.
Kalinganagar Industrial Park had become infamous on the 2nd of January, 2006, when 12 tribals protesting against Tata Steel’s common corridor were killed in police firing. Since then, they have lived in a virtual prison, often facing arrests, attacks, and raids by police personnel as happened in April of last year when the police fired plastic rounds into protesting crowds, and pro-BJD and Tata-goondas had roughed up the BJP president Jual Oram’s convoy as well as journalists, as they tried to enter Baligotha to address the BBJM members.
While the gunning down of a 12 year old Maoist had gone almost unnoticed to the mainstream media, the fact that the Maoists are recruiting minors did not. In fact, three of the alleged children-Maoist-cadre come from families that have been torn apart. Nitchandra Pallei, who had given a press conference, asking the Maoists to release his children, had abandoned them in April at Baligotha village, when he had agreed to be rehabilitated by Tata, due to ill-health. The state demolished his house while his children still remained in the village afterwards, without any guardianship. Ramrai Jamuda, whose daughter Janga was shot dead, had also died two years ago. And Saley Pallei who surrendered to the police, lived almost unattended as his mother was injured in the attack in April 2010, and after her recovery in the hospital, she was also taken to Tata’s transit camp.