Odisha CM urged to withdraw false cases against activist

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Sep 5:

Several eminent personalities including human rights activists, litterateurs, journalists, trade union leaders and civil society leaders have urged the Odisha government to withdraw the false cases slapped by the Malkangiri police against Deba Ranjan Sarangi, a human rights activist and a member of Ganatrantik Adhikar Surakshya Sangathan (GASS), with immediate effect.

Human rights activist Debaranjan Sarangi
Human rights activist Debaranjan Sarangi

In a letter to chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday, they said Sarangi, a leading activist of the Kashipur movement, a member of GASS, and a well-known documentary film producer, has been associated with various human rights organisations and has been part of many fact-finding teams.

In that context, he has visited many areas of South Odisha and reported on many incidents of police atrocities on adivasis and dalits and highlighted several issues including the faulty policies of the state government, illegal mining, displacement and against communalization of the polity and in society.

This is the political context in which he is being targeted, they pointed out.

The rights activists said Sarangi had gone to Malkangiri district on a two-day visit on August 8 and 9 this year to shoot a documentary film when he was picked up and interrogated by the Special Branch of the Intelligence department. Subsequently, a number of false charges were filed against him by the Malkangiri Police, including charges pertaining to molestation under Section 354 (b) of the IPC, and under sections 354 and 323.

“We believe these charges to be patently false and absurd, and constitute nothing other than harassment and part of the continued persecution of democratic voices in this country,” they averred.

Justifying their contention, the rights activists said Deba Ranjan and GASS had brought to light the extra-judicial killing by BSF personnel of a tribal farmer Ganga Kirsani of Litiput village in Koraput district. “This is one of those rare instances when it was even established officially that it was a killing by unilateral firing of the BSF,” they pointed out.

“By slapping false charges on Deba Ranjan, the state government intends to suppress democratic voices in Odisha. We condemn such harassment, the shrinking of the democratic space, and request you to direct the Malkangiri police to withdraw the false charges slapped against Sarangi immediately and unconditionally,” they said in the letter.

Among the prominent personalities and civil society leaders who have signed the petition to the chief minister are Arundhati Roy, Volga, Anand Patwardhan, Sanjay Kak, Amar Kanwar, Madhusri Mukherjee, Rahul Roy, M Vimla, Xavier Dias, Sohini Ghosh, Soumitra Ghosh, Prof Uma Chakraborty, Prof Anand Chakraborty, Sitanshu Sekhar, Taru Dalmiya, Pramod Gupta, Sabnam Sheikh, New Trade Union Initiative, Sudhir Patnaik, Subrata Sahu, Chanda Ashani and All India Forum of Forest Movement.