A tribal family has suffered grave injury for sheltering a group of armed men from the rain for only a short time. The Mahji family's woes add to a catalogue of incidents where police high-handedness has led to the suffering of innocent villagers caught between the police and the naxals.
It was a stormy night and Mr Suresh Kumuti Majhi was about to go to bed. There was a knock on the door. Suresh was startled to find seven armed persons requesting shelter until the rains stopped. Left with no option, he allowed them inside and when the rains subsided, the armed men disappeared in the darkness.
A few hours later 80 policemen armed to the teeth surrounded his house and began questioning Suresh about the persons who had taken shelter.
Terrified, the entire Majhi family pleaded with the policemen that they had only given shelter to the armed persons for a few minutes and were unaware as to who they were or where they had disappeared.
Later in the morning a battered and bruised Suresh was handed over to the Mohona police station . The next day, the wife of Suresh lodged an FIR at the Adava Police Station stating that she and her brother-in-law were beaten up by the police and that during the search operation the policemen had taken away Rs 10,000 and a mobile set from the house.
The local sarpanch and a few other persons also accompanied the lady to the police station and wanted to know the reason behind the police high-handedness.
The sarpanch asked the police what a poor tribal was supposed to do when people with guns come and ask for shelter for a few moments? The Adava IIC Mr Narvat Kiro pacified the locals, saying that they were in no way involved. It was the Kandhamal police who had whisked away Mr Suresh Majhi from his house and handed him over to his police station, the IIC said.
"In future, such incidents will not occur and the policemen from the neighbouring districts will be requested not to misbehave or beat up locals without any reason," said apologetic policemen of Adava and Mohona area.
Suresh was released and taken to Berhampur Hospital for treatment.
Such ghastly incidents of police high-handedness, causing great harm to innocent tribals living in remote villages, may come as a shock to urbanites, but for the villagers in naxal-infested districts it is a rather routine phenomenon. The continual cry of the tribals: "We are sandwiched between the police and the naxals".
The incident took place last week, just at the time when DGP Mr Manmohan Praharaj was claiming that Orissa police have an excellent human rights track record.
Statesman News Service, 22 JUNE 2009