People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) condemns the arrest of Sri Dandapani Mohanty, who acted as one of the interlocutors on behalf of the Maoists, both in the abduction of Malkangiri Collector and that of the two Italian tourists. The way the Odisha police arrested Sri Mohanty, violating all rules pertaining to arrest and detention, shows its highhandedness and utter disregard for the law of the land. Moreover, Sri Mohanty’s arrest at this juncture raises several questions which the Odisha government must answer.

Sri Mohanty’s family members have alleged that he was picked up in the afternoon of 8th February by plain clothes policemen from near his residence in Berhampur. The family members were not informed of this by the police. The Supreme Court of India guidelines regarding arrest and detention clearly say that the police officials who carry out the arrest or interrogation should wear accurate, visible and clear identification and name tags with their designations. It also says that a memo of arrest must be prepared at the time of arrest which should be attested by at least one witness who may either be a family member of the person arrested or a respectable person of the locality where the arrest was made. It is shocking that the Odisha police have been continously violating these principle, particularly, when picking up people allegedly with Maoist activities or when the ‘accused’ are from the marginalised groups. It needs to be noted that in December last year Berhampur police had picked up Sri Sangram Mohanty, son of Sri Dandapani Mohanty, in the same manner. The police had actually picked up Sangram Mohanty from Berhampur town but falsely claimed that he was caught near Kamalapur gate near Mohana. A couple of year ago, Sri Gananath Patra, advisor of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha, Narayanpatna, was picked of exactly in the same manner. Apart from these ‘high profile cases’, PUCL has documented several cases in which the police have been blatantly violating the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court of India. The recent custodial death of one Sanjay Dehury on 1st January this year in Jarpada police station of Angul district was a result of such violation.

Secondly, the arrest of Sri Dandapani Mohanty, clearly exposes how the Odisha government has been misusing its power to harass anybody who it finds too uncomfortable. According to media reports, the police have claimed that there are at least 15 cases, including six non-bailable warrants, against Sri Mohanty. Sri Mohanty has been booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and as the media reported, the cases against Sri Mohanty included murder, extortion, burning buses and destroying telephone towers. Surprisingly, some of these cases lodged against Sri Mohanty are related to incidents that took place in 2009 and 2010. Then the simple question we ask is: why didn’t the police arrest Sri Mohanty earlier when there were serious charges against him? Sri Mohanty was no underground Maoist cadre and was openly involved in political activities. Then why did the police have to wait till 2013 to arrest him? And, how was that the Odisha government accepted his role as an interlocutor for the release of the abducted Malkangiri Collector and the two Italian tourists, if Sri Mohanty had murder charges against him, as claimed by the police now? Or, are these cases fabricated by the police to silence Sri Mohanty, who has been quite vocal in raising the issues affecting the Adivasis, including the ongoing repression on them by the security forces, in the name of fighting the Maoists?

PUCL demands that the Odisha government must respect the law of the land, whether it is dealing with the Maoists, their sympathisers or ordinary citizens.

Pramodini Pradhan

Convenor, PUCL-Odisha

Contact no. – 9439200989