Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

India: ‘Suspected Maoists’ arrest sparks debate

Posted by Mike E on August 20, 2008

villagers manning an anti-displacement blockade, Orissa

villagers manning an anti-displacement blockade, Jagatsinghpur District, Orissa

The following article appeared in the Statesman, August 17, 2008.

‘Suspected Maoists’ arrest sparks debate

JAGATSINGHPUR, Aug 17- The recent arrests of ‘suspected Maoists,’ particularly Pratima Das and Debendra Dash who were moving in broad daylight drawing attention of one and all by accompanying a foreign national David Pugh, has inevitably triggered a debate on whether anti-displacement activists were being dubbed and booked as ‘suspected Maoists’.

A section of human rights and social activists, poets and journalists raised questions on the recent police action here today. While a local Oriya daily newspaper had a front page editorial captioned ‘I am a Maoist,’ another magazine editor held a meeting at Bhubaneswar to decry state repression. The Oriya daily newspaper which carried a front page editorial claimed that Debendra Dash was a reporter working for the paper in Jagatsinghpur district.

Human rights activist and lawyer Biswapriya Kanungo contested the police claim that Dash had been arrested as a suspected Maoist and he was linked to an arms loot case of Sambalpur district. Kanungo noted out that the Sambalpur district police authorities had written to the Orissa Human Rights Commission in 2007 stating that they had no criminal case against Dash. This was after Dash had moved the Commission questioning his detention in 2006.

Several other social and people’s movement leaders like Prafulla Samantray, poet Asutosh Parida took part at a meeting convened by editor of quarterly magazine Nishan at Bhubaneswar today and raised doubts over the recent police action. Mr Lenin Kumar, editor of the magazine took serious exception to police versions appearing in a section of the media here that the arrested suspects had named his magazine. Nishan is not a mouthpiece or publication of any political party, he said.

He alleged that of late voice of protest against government policy or system in Orissa has been branded as an act of treason or terrorism. He referred to the Dr Binayak Sen case and noted Orissa may soon witness many more Binayak Sen’s being put behind bars.

Prafulla Samantray expressed concern over the increasing trend of foisting false cases against social activists who lead movements against displacement and mindless industrialization or SEZ.

Both Dash and Pratima have been arrested under section 121, 121 (A), 124 Indian Penal code, under section 17 of Criminal Law Amendment Act 1908 and under section 10 & 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967.

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