Rayagada firing 'pre-meditated'

By Our Staff Reporter

BHUBANESWAR, DEC. 29. A two- member independent fact-finding team has said that the police firing in which three tribals were killed at Maikanch village in Kashipur area of Rayagada district on December 16 was ``pre-meditated and pre-planned''.

The team, comprising Swami Agnivesh of Bandhua Mukti Morcha and Mr. Justice D. S. Tewatia, former Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court, has observed said that the killing of the three tribals was ``brutal, despicable and cold-blooded''.

Giving details of their findings at a press conference here today, Swami Agnivesh and Mr. Justice Tewatia said the incident was condemnable more because it was done ``at the behest of the mining and the multi-national industrial mafia in collusion with the ruling Biju Janata Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance and the Congress(I)''.

Three tribals were killed in police firing and at least seven others were injured when a long standing feud over setting up an alumina plant at Kashipur took an ugly turn on December 16 afternoon. The Chief Minister, Mr. Naveen Patnaik, had ordered an administrative inquiry into the incident the next day.

Swami Agnivesh and Mr. Justice Tewatia, who visited Maikanch and Kashipur on Thursday, said what was shocking for them was that neither the Chief Minister nor any of his Ministers, MPs or MLAs, nor even any of the administration officials had visited Maikanch at least to express sympathy to the family of those killed in the firing. The ex-gratia of Rs. 1 lakh for the family of those killed in the firing had not been dispersed till date, they said.

In regard to the allegation that Agragamee, a non-government organisation working in Kashipur area, had instigated the tribals to oppose the alumina project, they said, ``there is a concerted disinformation campaign at the level of the BJD, BJP, Congress and their henchmen and the local administration against Agragamee because so far they (Agragamee) have refused to be the brokers between the tribals and the pro-industry lobby''.

``Agragamee was not instigating the tribals to oppose the alumina project. The protest by the tribals was spontaneous,'' Swami Agnivesh said, adding that the Government and all the political parties should talk to the tribals to find out what they wanted.

Asked whether all the tribals they met were against the alumina project, Swami Agnivesh said: ``The majority opinion was against the project.''

In support of their finding that the firing was pre-planned, the Swami said a quarrel had taken place between the supporters of a local politician who were in favour of the alumina plant and the tribals opposing the project on December 15. ``The administration and the local politicians wanted to teach the tribals a lesson the next day.''

He said that serious re-thinking was necessary in the country and particularly in Orissa for ensuring development by protecting the interests of the people who would be affected in the name of development.

When told that they had prepared the report without knowing the version of the administration and the police, the Swami and Mr. Justice Tewatia said that the District Collector of Rayagada did not give any information on the incident, and they did not have enough time in hand to meet the District Superintendent of Police.

About the administrative inquiry, they said that it would only be a ``cover up''. In its own interest, the State Government should order a judicial inquiry into the incident, they said.

They would submit their report to the President, Mr. K. R. Narayanan, in New Delhi as concerned citizens of the country, they said.

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