Beginning with the last week of December 2010, there has been a series of ‘encounters’, in which over twenty five people, allegedly Maoists, have been killed in Orissa. Except a few, the victims were Adivasis, 10 of them women including one minor girl. During the same period the Maoists too have killed three people in three separate incidents. In another gruesome act a woman and her four-year-old son were killed. In this case, the police blamed the Maoists and the Maoists blamed the police for the act.
It needs to be noted that some of the areas, where these ‘encounters’ took place, have also been the scene of resistance struggles against mining and displacement. In two of these areas – Kashipur and Kalinganagar – police had earlier resorted to firing upon the struggling adivasis in 2000 and 2006 respectively in which 17 people (3 in Kashipur and 14 in Kalingnagar) were killed and many more injured.
This following note is based on media reports. Only in case of one incident i.e., the Paikmal ‘encounter’, a PUCL fact-finding has been done and a separate report will be published soon on this.
The first ‘encounter’ of the series, in which two alleged ‘maoists’ were killed, took place on 27 December in the Gandhamardan hills of Bargarh district. A PUCL fact-finding into this incident has been done and based on the findings we have reasons to believe that it was a ‘fake encounter’.
The second encounter of the series took place on 29 December in Telkoi area of Keonjhar district. The local media reported killing of two Maoists but showed the body of only one woman. The media also reported that 10 Maoists were injured in this firing.
The third encounter took place on 1 January in a forest area near Tamka in Jajpur district. Five people including four women and one minor girl were killed. Of the five, only the minor girl was said to have been identified by a villager. She belonged to Baligotha – the village which comes under proposed TATA steel plant is Kalinganagar area and which has been the scene of police firing in 2006 when 14 Adivasis and one police constable were killed. There was also police repression in the same village and the neighbouring Chandia village in May 2010 and one person was killed and many were injured in police firing. Other four people killed were said to be from the local area but none of the family members, including that of the minor girl, came to claim any of the bodies.
The fourth round of encounter took place on 9 January 2011 in the Kashipur area of Rayagada district in which nine people including five women were killed. All the women killed were Adivasis and about 20 years old. As noted above, in this area the local community relentlessly fought for many years against an alumina company and had lost three lives in police firing. The area is also known for recurrence of cholera and starvation. Only a few months ago, over a hundred people had died in Kashipur and adjacent Blocks due to cholera.
The fifth in the series took place on 12 January 2011 and two men were killed. Both were adivasis and one of them belonged to Baligotha village of Kalinganagar area.
The sixth and seventh encounters took place in Sundargarh district on 8th and 11th February respectively. While one Maoist was killed on the 8th, three Maoists were killed on the 9th. One person who was seriously injured in the firing of 8th, reportedly died later.
Apart from the killings, there are reports about the ‘surrenders’ and arrests of Maoists and many of them are women including minor girls. The issue of ‘surrendered women/girls’ is a cause of concern. The sad case of Kandri Lohar is an example.
Kandri Lohar was a young tribal woman, who had joined the Maoists at one time and then ‘surrendered’ before the police in 2006. The police had promised her that she would be rehabilitated after her surrender. Although Kandri Lohar surrendered in 2006, she was appointed as a home guard only in 2009. Apparently, the police also arranged and solemnized her marriage with a man named Sankar Barua but he died last year.
Kandri Lohar and four-year-old son were found murdered on 12 February 2011. The newspapers reported, quoting police sources, that the two were murdered by the Maoists as they suspected Kandri Lohar was helping police. A day after, a section of the media reported that a senior maoist leader, Samarjit, had denied any involvement of Maoists in the killings of Kandri and her son. The Maoist leader accused the police for the killing saying that although the police had employed Kandri Lohari as a home guard she was not in their good book.
It needs to be noted that Kandri and her son were killed in the night of 11 February. In the afternoon of 11th itself, the Rourkela police had killed 3 Maoists in an ‘encounter’. And on the next day of Kandri’s murder, the police arrested three Maoists, including one Aditya Baruah, who is said to be a central committee member of the CPI (Maoist). It has been reported that one of the Maoists killed on the 11th was in touch with Kandri and perhaps police was using her to track the movements of
the Maoists. One newspaper reported that Kandri Lohar was apparently tortured before being killed. But no further information is available on this aspect.
Whoever might be behind the killing, the fate of Kandri Lohar and her son is a pointer to the dangerous risks the ‘surrenderd’ women face.