It has come to our notice that the Malkangiri police have registered a case against Sri Debaranjan Sarangi, an active member of Ganatantrik Adhikar Surakyaa Sangathan (GASS) Odisha on 9th August 2015 on the basis of an alleged complaint of a woman. According to the police notice served to Sri Sarangi, the allegations against him are under Section 294/341/323/354/354‐B/506(ii) of IPC (related to molestation of a woman). Knowing Sri Debaranjan and his activities as a social activist for so many years and a preliminary appraisal of the circumstances leading to the registration of this particular case against him, we have reasons to believe that it is a motivated and fabricated case by the police against him. Apart from registering the case, we have been informed that Sri Sarangi has been harassed and intimidated by the Malkangiri police and other security forces during his visit to the area. We condemn such motivated action of the Malkangiri police and highhandedness of the security forces. We also strongly object to using a woman by the police to falsely implicate Sri Debaranjan on charges of molestation, intimidation etc. without having any respect for her dignity. This, in our view, is utter misuse of laws by the Malkanagiri police.
It needs to be noted that for the last several years, Sri Debaranjan 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. He has also been regularly writing on these issues in various newspapers, magazines and the social media. Besides, Sri Debaranjan is also known as a documentary film maker. One of his documentary films, ‘At the Crossroads’ is about the sufferings of Adivasi people in south Odisha and how they are being affected by the state violence, on one hand, and the Maoist violence, on the other. One of the recent fact findings by GASS team, in which Sri Debaranjan was a member, has exposed the killing by the BSF, of Sri Ganga Kirsani, an Adivasi farmer of Koraput district. This matter has been agitated before the State Human Rights Commission which is still pending before it. The official enquiry report submitted to the Commission has now established that Sri Kirsani was innocent and not a Maoist.
Sri Debaranjan was in Malkangiri this month (8th and 9th August) for the shooting of a documentary on the land and agriculture issues affecting the Adivasis. It was during this visit that the security forces came to the place where he was staying and harassed him. They enquired about his activities and that of the GASS and asked him to come to the police station. Sri Debaranjan refused to go since they couldn’t explain why he should go. A team of security forces even followed him to the villages where he went to for shooting. Next day, two women police personnel came in the evening and again asked him to come to the police station. They too didn’t show any written document to that effect when asked by Sri Debaranjan. Sri Debaranjan refused to go to the PS and subsequently left Malkangiri. The same night police raided the place where he was staying and picked up his cameraman. The cameraman was detained in the police station for more than 24 hours. It needs to be noted that Sri Debaranjan doesn’t
even know the woman on whose alleged FIR the case has been registered against him, nor has there been any dispute with any woman.
Considering all these, we have reasons to believe that the case is motivated and malicious. It is clear that the real intention is to prevent Sri Debaranjan and GASS from doing the works they have been doing. We are concerned that by way of registerering such false cases, the state is now trying a new strategy to silence the voices of dissent, particularly that of the human rights defenders and organisations.
While condemning the action of the Malkangiri police we call upon the Odisha government to desist from such cheap and intimidating tactics to silence the voices of human rights defenders.
Dr. Golak Bihari Nath, Working President, Ganatanrik Adhikar Surakhya Sangathan (GASS) Mo‐9861407135
Biswapriya Kanungo, Advocate and Human Right Activist, Mo‐9861392021
Pramodini Pradhan, Convenor, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Mo ‐ 9439200989