Governed by Biju Janata Dal, Orissa remained a highly lawless State with high incidence of human rights violations against Adivasis and religious minorities. Displacement and conflict has been a hallmark of Orissa for many years.
The inaction of the Orissa authorities to compensate people for repeated ‘land grabs’ by commercial companies led to violent protest. The state resorted to the use of excessive force that led to the deaths of protestors. This culminated in the massacre of 14 tribal people who were killed by the police in Kalingangar on January 2 2006.
The State failed to prosecute those guilty of human rights violations. The Supreme Court annulled the Inquiry Commission into the massacre on the grounds that it was headed by a sitting judge of a High Court in April 2007. The state government failed to appoint a retired judge to conduct the inquiry.
The State failed to prevent repeated attacks on Christian minorities by Hindu religious fundamentalists throughout the year. The State did nothing to bring the accused to justice.
The violence culminated in a Hindu fundamentalist attack on 24 and 25 December 2007- the dates are clearly not coincidental - six Christians were killed, 600 houses belonging to the Christian were burnt, 70 churches/institutions were attacked and torched and 5,000 Christians were displaced in Bamunigam village under Daringibadi Block in Kandhamal district. To date the State failed to act and the further deterioration since that time will be discussed in next year’s annual report.
There was little evidence that provisions made for development of tribal communities were reaching the poorest. There were even reports of deaths by starvation. There were continued widespread allegations that these funds were diverted into corruption.
Judicial and quasi-judicial institutions were plagued by delays. As of 30th September 2007, there were 2,27,752 cases pending in the Orissa High Court and 10,09,284 cases pending in the district and subordinate courts of Orissa. There were 5 vacancies in the Orissa High Court as on 1st January 2008 and 90 vacancies in the district and subordinate courts as on 30th September 2007.
As of 10 September 2007, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) had received 5,619 cases including 5,185 complaints and suo motu interventions in 434 cases. Of these, 1,388 cases were filed against the police. 3,029 cases were pending with the cases at various stages of investigation due to the lack of manpower to investigate the ever-increasing number of human rights violations.
Reports of violence against women including rape rose in Orissa in 2007. A total of 985 rape cases were reported in 2006 as against 799 in 2005 and 770 in 2004. Many women were also killed as a result of being accused of witchcraft.
The victims included Tia Singh (40), Budhini Singh (42), Somabari Singh (42) who were beheaded by a group of villagers for allegedly practicing withcraft at Pratapur village under Nilagiri police station on 26 August 2007 and Singha Majhi (62) and Sambari Munda (55) who were allegedly burnt alive at Jhaunrisahi in Mayurbhanj district on 7 November 2008.
Ongoing human rights violations and the continued denial of justice and development explain in large part the increased insurgent action from Naxalites.
The NHRC received complaints of two deaths in police custody in Orissa during 1 April 2006 – 31 March 2007. In 2007, Asian Centre for Human Rights documented a number of custodial deaths.
On 16 May 2007, Chunilal Kissan allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself with a towel inside the bathroom at the Brahmanitaranga police station in Sundargarh district of Orissa. He was arrested in connection with a theft on the same day. The circumstances of the death raise significant concern.
On 22 May 2007, Samir Martha of Sadheigada village under Khurda police station was allegedly tortured to death at Khurda police station in Khurda district.
On the night of 14 June 2007, 20-year-old Bhaskar Behera, son of Rohit Behera, was beaten to death by a police team headed by Assistant Sub-Inspector NK Das at Rajnagar village under Athgarh police station in Cuttuck district.
There were also reports of arbitrary arrest, illegal detention and torture. On 14 April 2007, Suresh Chandra Rout, a businessman, was allegedly tortured in police custody by Mohanty, the in-charge of Dhamra outpost in Bhadrak district of Orissa. The victim was picked up while returning from Kontai in West Bengal to Dhamra.
The security forces continued to perpetrate violations on innocent villagers during anti-Naxal operations. On 26 January 2007, about 20 persons, including women and physically-challenged persons, were injured, four seriously, after they were beaten up by the personnel of Central Reserve Police Force during an anti-Naxal operation in Kalimela area in Malkangiri district.
The Maoists were responsible for violations of the right to life.
On 1 February 2007, Maoists shot dead three forest officials identified as Ghanashyam Behera, Nilamani Mallick and Kumud Sama in Dhenkanal district.
On 9 May 2007, Moists killed forest official Rabindranath Patra at Sadagada in Mayurbhanj district.
The Maoists also killed alleged police informers. Some of the victims included
- Harischandra Nayak and Bhubaneswar Nayak of Ranigola village Mahi Pradhan of Telikusum village in Deogarh district on the charges of police informers on the night of 22 June 2007;
- Mukund Madhi of Bandiguda and Babu of MV120 village under the Korkonda block in Malkangiri district on the night of 4 August 2007;
- Arjun Dehuri who was killed at Talab village in Sambhalpur district on 11 August 2007; and
- Jiti Jagaranga, a leader of Shanti Sena, who was killed at lahaguma village under Gudari police station limits in Rayagada district.
a. Atrocities and lack of access to justice
The National Crime Records Bureau of the government of India stated that a total of 349 cases of crimes were committed against the Scheduled Tribes in Orissa, including six cases of killing, 30 cases of rape, and 162 cases registered under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, among others in 2006. While the rate for filing charge-sheet during 2006 was 98.5%, the conviction rate for crimes against tribals was only 27.5%
Tribals have little access to justice.
On 8 March 2007, a tribal woman identified as Binapani Mukhi was illegally arrested and detained at Balasore district jail for allegedly selling illicit liquor. She was given a sentence of two years rigorous imprisonment by a local court. On 28 September 2007, Orissa High Court while hearing a Public Interest Litigation quashed the order of the local court and directed the state government to immediately release the victim. The State Government informed the High Court that she was indeed arrested “wrongfully” by the police due to “mistaken identity”.
On 7 May 2007, Orissa High Court directed the registrar of a civil court in Phulbani to explain the circumstances under which Pratap Naik, a tribal youth, was detained in jail for over eight years even after being acquitted in a murder case.
The Juang tribe in Keonjhar district is on the verge of extinction. Both the central government and the state government failed to lift the socio-economic standard of Jaung tribe.
The Bhuyan tribals living mostly in Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj districts had their livelihood threatened as a result of increased mining activities. A study revealed that many water sources coming from the hills had dried up because of mineral exploration, large-scale vehicular traffic and the establishment of iron plants. Most of the Bhuyan villages lack healthcare facilities. The Bhuyan children are denied free education system.
Similarly, there was no sign of tangible development in the tribal blocks of Dhenkanal district. Most part of the sanctioned development activity in tribal areas was allegedly misappropriated by officials, politicians and contractors.
A survey by the Delhi-based Centre for Environment and Food Security (CEFS) in 2007 revealed that out of the Rs 733 crore released to Orissa under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, more than Rs 500 crore was siphoned off by government officials. Many poor tribals were cheated. The CEFS found that one Rupa Majhi, a poor tribal of Palsipada village in Kalahandi district of Orissa, was actually given 21 days of employment against assured 100 days employment and was paid only Rs 600 as wages during 2006-07. But, his job card had a faked entry of 336 work days. Similarly, another tribal Chandra Majhi of Palsipada village had not received any employment under the rural job scheme but, in his job card had a faked entry of 126 days.
There were reports of alleged deaths resulting from starvation n Orissa. This was despite the launch of Social and Food Security measures by the State Governemnt. Between 10 and 15 June 2007, three persons identified as Makari Mukhi, Suni Munda and Dama Munda allegedly died of starvation in Keonjhar district. However, the state government was quick to refute the claims.
About 2.6 million people were displaced between 1950 and 1991. Not even 25 per cent of these displaced were rehabilitated. The displaced persons from 10 villages under Kuliana block in Mayurbhanj district who were forced to give away their land for the Subarnarekah irrigation project in 1967 have been living in temporary houses on government land.
More than 2,000 families displaced by the multi purpose Hirakund dam project in Sambalpur district of Orissa had still not been compensated. The Jindal Stainless Limited (JSL) at Kalinga Nagar failed to fulfill its promise to provide jobs to 60 displaced persons of Bainsipur, Hudisahi and Gadhapur villages as of early September 2007. Earlier, the company reportedly agreed to provide jobs before August 2007. In November 2007, the Supreme Court of India barred the UK Company Vedanta Resources Plc from mining bauxite in the sacred Niyamgiri hills in Orissa but later on the project was allowed to continue.
The majority of the victims of displacement are tribals. The failure to provide compensation for displacement from lands ‘grabbed’ by commercial companies led to violent protest. On 2 January 2006, 14 tribal villagers were massacred by the Orissa Police at Kalinga Nagar in Jajpur district while protesting against their displacement by the Tatas. In 2006, the State government of Orissa set up a one-man Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice A.S. Naidu, a sitting judge in the Orissa High Court. On 9 April 2007, the Supreme Court annulled the Commission on the ground that it was headed by a sitting judge of a High Court. On 10 April 2007, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik stated that a new commission headed by a retired judge would start the investigation. By the end of 2007, the state government failed to appoint any person. The action is a powerful symbol of the levels of impunity in Orissa.
There has been massive alienation of tribal lands in Orissa. According to the Annual Report 2007-08 of the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, a total of 105,491 cases alleging alienation of 104,742 acres of land have been filed in the court in Orissa. An estimated 104,644 cases were disposed of by the court. Out of these 61,431 cases were disposed of in favor of tribals and 56,854 acres of land was restored to tribals.
According to NCRB a total of 1,153 crimes against the Dalits including 12 cases of murder, 52 cases of rape and 621 cases under the POA were registered in Orissa in 2006.
In June 2007, a Dalit woman identified
as Rashmita Seth and her family was barred for three days from using the
community tube well in Khandagiri Bari area on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar
after she lodged a first information report (FIR) against two persons who
assaulted and threatened to rape her younger sister Kalpana.
In August 2007, seven Dalits identified as Bideshi Nayak, Ramachandra, Sudama, Nilakantha, Sakhi, Sanju and Puspalata Nayak were reportedly ostracised from Goruala village near Puri for refusing to beat drums in a temple - a caste practice that their caste was expected to carry out.
VI. Violations of the prisoners’ rights
There were 70 jails of different categories with a total capacity of 9,125 in Orissa. However, more than 15,500 prisoners were detained in jails by the end August 2007.
The NHRC received information about death of 53 persons in judicial custody in Orissa during 1 April 2006 – 31 March 2007.
In March 2007, undertrial prisoner Sarat Biswal was allegedly tortured to death but the jail authorities claimed that he had committed suicide in the Jharpara special jail in Orissa. However, media reports suggested grounds for concern as the corpse had bleeding wounds inconsistent with suicide. Concern was further compounded by the jail authorities failure to allow media personnel to take pictures of the dead body.
On 28 August 2007, an under-trial prisoner identified as Muktikanta Muduli (40) of Simulipatna in Soro police station limits was tortured to death in Balasore Jail in Orissa. He was allegedly tied to the railings in the jail and tortured by four jail officials.
On 13 September 2007, an under-trial prisoner identified as Rabinarayan Bhoi was allegedly tortured to death in the Allipingal jail in Jagatsinghpur district of Orissa. The Superintendent of Allipingal jail, Bijaya Kumar Paikray claimed that the deceased suddenly complained of ‘uneasiness’ on 12 September 2007 and died on 13 September 2007 while being taken to the hospital.
In October 2007, undertrial prisoner Arsul Pradhan (62) allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself at the medical centre inside the Berhampur circle jail premises.
The plight of women prisoners was deplorable due to poor hygienic conditions. Female prisoners were not provided sanitary napkins in jails of Orissa. There were 494 women prisoners in various jails as in mid-March 2007 according to prison directorate.
In August 2007, the Orissa High Court issued directions to take measures to reduce overcrowding. Due to overcrowding prisoners had to live in sub-human conditions. Many prisoners reportedly suffer from serious ailments. Many prisoners died due to lack of medical care. The state government failed to provide adequate nutrition and medical care.
Christian minorities were subject to systematic attack from Hindu religious fundamentalists. The state failed to take appropriate action to stop the attacks or to bring the accused to justice.
On the morning of 24 December 2007, Christians were attacked by the Hindu fundamentalists who opposed celebration of Christmas at Bamunigam village under Daringibadi Block in Kandhamal district. The fundamentalists destroyed and looted shops of Christians and beat them up. On 25 December 2007, a huge Hindu mob again attacked Christians in Bamunigam area, entering into Christian villages burning down houses, churches and looting properties.
A fact finding team led by Dr. John Dayal, member of National Integration Council visited the affected areas on 29 December 2007 found that six Christians were killed, 600 houses belonging to the Christian were burnt, 70 churches/ institutions were attacked and torched, and the attacks affected 5,000 Christians. The worst affected districts were Kandhamal and Gajatati. In the Kandhmal district, the worst affected villages were Barakhama, Pobingia, Balliguda, Bamunigam, Sankharkhole, Sirtiguda, Dalagam, Irpiguda, Tikabali, Godapur and Daringibadi. Hundreds of villagers took shelter in the forests without food and water due to fear of further attacks from the Hindu mob. Those who could not flee, (in particular the old and infirm) were forced to renounce their Christian faith and convert to Hinduism. Hindu fundamentalists who also allegedly forced Christians to drink cow dung water, shaved their heads and forced them to bow to idols. The majority of the Christian victims were tribals.
However, this was not an isolated case of Christian persecution in Orissa.
On 26 August 2007, a Catholic church was attacked by a mob in Raikia town, about 72 km from Phulbani. About 300 people forcibly broke into the church and smashed the doors and window panes. They also smashed the statues inside the Church and set fire to a truck parked outside the church.
On 28 July 2007, two nuns staying at girls hostel of St Ann's School at Baripada where arrested on the charges of alleged of illegal conversion to Christianity. They were charged under Section 4 of Freedom of Religion Act, and sent to jail.
On 2 June 2007, two pastors including Kanstantino Pariccha were attacked and allegedly beaten by Hindu extremists when they were preparing to hold a prayer meeting at Jamaguda in Gajapati district. They had to be admitted to Chelligada Government Hospital with serious internal injuries.
On 28 February 2007, hundreds of alleged Hindu activists attacked the Believers Church Bible College and its office located in Brajarajnagar in Jharsuguda district. The staff and students of the college were beaten up. When the police were informed, only five policemen arrived but they apparently failed to act to stop the mob as they attacked and destroyed the properties.
1. Firing probe panel fired - Disband Naidu Commission: SC, The Telegraph, 10 April 2007
2. Supreme Court of India, Court News, October-December 2007, Vol.II Issue No.4, available at http://www.supremecourtofindia.nic.in/CtNewsOct_Dec07.pdf
3. Cases piling up with rights panel, The Hindu, 10 September 2007
4. Rape cases are on the rise in Orissa, The Kalinga Times, 5 July 2007
6. Two women burnt alive for witchcraft, The Pragativadi.com, 9 November 2007
7. Information obtained by ACHR from NHRC by filing of RTI application
8. Tension after lock-up death, The Statesman, 18 May 2007
9. Custodial death in Khurda, The Pioneer, 24 May 2007
10. Police beat youth to death in Athgarh, The Kailinga Times, 16 June 2007
11. Cop suspended for torture, The Pragativdi, 24 April 2007
12. CRPF atrocity spurs protest, The Deccan Herald, 29 January 2007
13. Maoists kill three forest officials in Orissa, The Times of India, 1 February 2007
14. Suspected Maoists kill forester in Orissa, The Times of India, 9 May 2007
15. Blood spills in strike, again, The Telegraph, 23 June 2007
16. Two shot dead by naxals?, The Hindu, 6 August 2007
18. Maoist gun down Shanti Sena chief, The Pragativadi, 3 September 2007
19. 2006 Annual Report of National Crime Records Bureau
20. 2006 Annual Report of National Crime Records Bureau
21. Court orders release of tribal woman, The Hindu, 29 September 2007
22. Court glare on justice delayed, The Telegraph, 8 May 2007
23. May their tribes increase, The Hitavada, 14 January 2007
24. Bhuyan faces a challange of survival, The Hitavada, 14 January 2007
25. Tribals still live in palm leaf huts in Dhenkanal, The Indian Express, 22 December 2007
26. NREGA and rural employment: In Orissa, corruption robs the poor, The Hindu Business Line, 5 October 2007, available at: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/bline/2007/10/05/stories/2007100550250900.htm
27. Deaths spark hunger debates, The Statesman, 18 June 2007
28. “India’s richest lands are home to its poorest people”, The Hindu, 22 December 2007
29. Land oustees threaten to boycott panchayat poll, The Statesman, 14 February 2007
30. 50 years, dam oustees await aid, The Deccan Herald, 2 February 2007
31. Displaced villagers raise jobs pitch, The Statesman, 6 September 2007
32. Supreme Court bars British company from mining sacred hills, Survival International, 29 November 2007, http://www.survival-international.org/news/2696
33. Firing probe panel fired - Disband Naidu Commission: SC, The Telegraph, 10 April 2007
35. SC family in Orissa denied water access, The Hindustan Times, 2 July 2007
36. Dalits ostracised for defying temple order, The Times of India, 19 August 2007
37. Court cure for packed jails, The Telegraph, 24 August 2007
38. Information obtained by ACHR from NHRC by filing of RTI application
39. Undertrial dies in jail, The Pioneer, 16 March 2007
40. UTP dies in jail, The Pragativadi, 31 August 2007
41. Undertrial dies in jail, The Statesman, 14 September 2007
42. Prisoner commits suicide, The Hindu, 27 October 2007
43. Orissa govt to improve facilities for women prisoners, The Statesman, 14 March 2007
44. Court cure for packed jails, The Telegraph, 24 August 2007
45. Prisoners fall prey to neglect, The Telegraph, 19 June 2007
46. The complaint filed with the National Human Rights Commission by a number of non-governmental organizations on 31st December 2007, available at http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/1798/45/
47. All India Christian Council, see http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/215/45/
48. All India Christian Council, see http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/1538/45/
49. All India Christian Council, see http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/943/45/
50. All India Christian Council, see http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/1302/45/