A group of prominent social activists including Medha Patkar and Magasaysay award winner Sandeep Pandey were confronted by an angry mob, which the activists claimed was staged and constituted of Salwa Judum Special Police Officers (SPOs), here on Wednesday.
Around 25-30 activists from across the country had reached Dantewada for a fact-finding mission and a public hearing organized by prominent Gandhian activist Himanshu Kumar. However, when the activists were on their way to meet the Dantewada SP on Wednesday, an angry mob confronted them and threw stones, eggs and raw sewage onto them shouting slogans like “maowadi wapas jao, medha patkar wapas jao” (Maoists go back, Medha Patkar go back).
The fact-finding team included Medha Patkar and Sandeep Pandey of National Alliance of People’s Movements, Kavita Srivastava of People’s Union for Civil Liberties and D. Gabriele from Penn Urimai Iyakkam among others.
“We were attacked by a mob that had a number of Salwa Judum SPOs,” Medha Patkar told The Hindu over phone. “We even saw the attackers talk conspiringly to the policemen surrounding us for our protection and although the mob was eventually dispersed by a light lathicharge, it looked like the whole thing was managed,” said Ms. Patkar.
“We had nothing to do with naxals or any other violent group. We only went their for a public hearing on tribal rights,” said Ms.Patkar.
The activists further alleged that the local and national media coverage of the whole incident has been manipulated by the administration and skewed and one-sided reports have reached the people.
“The whole thing started as a skirmish between local journalists and some freelancers from outside and turned ugly later,” said Dantewada SP Ambreesh Kumar Mishra. “When we saw the mob was turning violent we used force to disperse them and now the situation is under control. There were no SPOs in the mob,” he added.
"There were a lot of drunk men led by local journalists and they attacked a perfectly peaceful gathering,” said another activist Madhumita. “They were violent and seemed threatening,” she said.