Congress to raise the issue of Kandhamal deaths in Parliament

Bhubaneswar: Asking Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to own responsibility for the death of five persons in Kandhamal, Congress on Sunday said it would raise the issue in Parliament as such killings in the name of anti-Naxal drive shows BJD regime's "anti-tribal and anti-Dalit" psyche.

"The chief minister must own moral responsibility for the killing of five persons including a 13-month-old child, in tribal-dominated Kandhamal district recently. The state's own force was involved in it," senior Congress leaders Kishore Chandra Deb and Jairam Ramesh told reporters in Bhubaneswar.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

They were briefing reporters after a five-member Congress team formed by party president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday visited the site of the incident that took place on the night of 8 July at Gumudumaha village and interacted with relatives of those killed and injured in the tragedy.

Coming down heavily on the chief minister for the incident, both Deb and Ramesh said four such incidents has taken place during the past 12 months — two in Kandhamal and one each in Nuapada and Kalahandi districts — but Patnaik has been maintaining silence.

Asking Patnaik to take concrete steps to prevent recurrence of such incidents involving police, they said a mistake can happen once or twice due to carelessness.

But it has happened four times in a year, which showed the BJD government's mindset to work against the interests of tribals and dalits, said Ramesh accusing the Patnaik government of failing to deal with such incidents with sympathy and sensitiveness.

Stating that Congress would raise the issue both in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, they said the five-member team would submit a report on its fact-finding visit very soon.

Rubbishing the version that the incident took place duringpolice-Maoist crossfire, the Congress leaders claimed that the killing of five villagers a fortnight ago was nothing but a cold-blooded murder as evidence showed there was firing from only one side and there was no encounter.

The elite Special Operation Group (SOG) created by Odisha government is supposed to deal with law and order problems and not to kill innocent civilians, Deb said adding they should be trained and sensitised properly and made to follow standard operating procedures (SOP).

Hitting out at the BJD government over backwardness in Kandhamal, both Deb and Ramesh said there is no road to Gumudumaha village which is also deprived of safe 'drinking water' supply. Huge funds including Rs 7,500 crore for rural development given to the state during UPA-rule appeared to have remained unutilised, they claimed.

Claiming that Odisha received maximum funds for welfare and development programmes during UPA's rule, Ramesh and Deb said despite this the situation in Kandhamal was pathetic as people of the tribal-dominated district were far from socio-economic mainstream and deprived of development.

Noting that Panchayat elections in the state was fast approaching, Ramesh said Congress would corner the ruling BJD and seek detailed accounts about utilisation of central funds meant for various programmes and schemes.

Basic facilities are yet to be provided to tribals, they said demanding stern action against those responsible for the killing of the villagers.

Mounting a scathing attack on the chief minister, former union minister Deb said poor people, particularly tribals and dalits, were suffering due to Patnaik's lack of understanding and knowledge of Odia language and people's problems.

Moreover, the state government also failed to properly implement the Forest Rights Act, 2006, they said.

Besides Deb and Ramesh, the other team members of Congress who visited Kandhamal were Arun Oraon, Vincent Pala and KH Muniyappa.

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Updated Date: Jul 24, 2016 19:09:06 IST

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