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Fact finding: Chennai women’s narrow escape in Orissa

Posted by Admin on December 11, 2009

G Babu Jayakumar

CHENNAI: Two activists from Chennai were part of an all-woman fact-finding team, whose members were almost lynched on Wednesday by armed men claiming to be plainclothesmen at Narayanpatna in Orissa, where they had gone to enquire into reports of sexual assault of tribal women and other human rights violations by the police. Recounting the experience, Shweta Narayan of ‘The Other Media’ in Chennai, told Express over phone from Bhubaneswar on Thursday that there was a possibility of a ‘Salwa Judum’ type of outfit operating in Narayanpatna, where a police firing on November 20 killed two members of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh, a movement fighting for the dignity and rights of the local people there.Besides Narayan and Madhumita Dutta from Chennai, the team comprised seven others. The nine women had taken along Poru Chandra Sahu, a local man, after informing the Koraput district collector about their visit.

They also request the district collector to facilitate a meeting with imprisoned Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh activists, particularly a woman leader who was allegedly raped in police custody.But they were forced to flee Narayanpatna without speaking to a single tribal after being taunted, abused and beaten up by men inside the police station and on their return journey to Bondapalli, a border village in Andhra Pradesh, another shock awaited them. The women were confronted by an armed contingent of the Andhra Pradesh police, along with a cackle of gun-totting youth, just as they were about to heave a sigh of relief over crossing the border.

They were treated them like criminals, Shweta said, adding that the police officials probably had a ‘tip off’ about ‘anti-social elements’ fleeing Orissa. The women’s problems started when their vehicle was stopped in front of Narayanpatna police station around 10 am. As they went in to meet the station head, they noticed large number of men in uniform without name tags and some in plainclothes, who, they were told, were also police personnel. The women learnt that around 2,000 policemen in the area. The adivasi men, it was told, were former activists of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh, who had gone there to surrender.

After making provocative remarks like: ‘Where were you when our farms were burnt,’ ‘These women have come to sleep with the men here’ and so on, the men in the station turned restive. As the women decided to leave, a man shouted “maaro inko” (Beat them up). Kusum Karnik, a 75-year-old woman was injured when she tried to save the driver from being beaten up. Another woman was also assaulted and abused before the team sped away.Enroute to the Andhra border, the vehicle was blocked with bullock carts, sans bullock, and the driver and other man in the vehicle were beaten up. IE

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