Staff Reporter

VISAKHAPATNAM: Organisation for the Protection of Democratic Rights (OPDR) has demanded the Orissa Government to immediately release Padmanabha Sahu, an activist of OPDR and Tapan Misro of CPI(ML), who were arrested by the police.

A fact-finding committee of OPDR went to Narayanapatna Police Station in Orissa on November 23 to gather the facts of the police firing on Nov. 20 that resulted in the death of two adivasis, according to OPDR (AP) general secretary R.V.K. Satyanarayana. The team members were detained for three hours before they could finally meet police officers. The Station House Officer refused to speak on the firing and also did not allow the OPDR team to proceed further to meet the adivasis. The general secretary of OPDR along with another team member proceeded to Koraput and met the District Collector and on his suggestion met SP D.K. Chowhan at his residence. The OPDR general secretary sought cessation of all police action and raids on villages as it would deprive the adivasis of their livelihood apart from loss of their investment on their cultivation.

The SP told the team members that the police were not against tribals but only wanted about 20 leaders of Chasi-Muliya Adivasi Sangh (CMAS), who were accused of certain offences. The SP also permitted the team to meet the tribals.

Padmanabha Sahu and Tapan Misro, who went to the villages to meet the tribals, were arrested, tortured and abused by the police and were later remanded to judicial custody on some false case, Mr. Satyanarayana alleged.

He demanded the Orissa Government to withdraw the cases already foisted against the two activists and order their immediate release.

The OPDR team members noted that the movement led by CMAS has helped in saving adivasis from addiction to liquor. The OPDR demanded among other things immediate withdrawal of police and para-military forces from the area, withdrawal of cases and immediate release of arrested tribals, to punish police officers guilty of firing and killing tribals and to restore all the land to tribals, who are the rightful owners.

The members of the fact-finding team, who visited Narayapatna were B.V.N. Patnaik, president, Girijana Sangham (Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts), Ch.S.N. Murthy, general secretary, Federation of Independent Trade Unions and eight others led by general secretary R.V.K. Satyanarayana.