The Orissa front: 44 civilian killings, most wanted leader, lots of bargaining power

The Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh, the Maoist frontal organisation that has successfully arm-twisted the Orissa government amid a hostage crisis, has a history of violence that has seen 44 civilians — including 19 tribals — killed since 2008 and some 5,500 people losing their homes till 2010, evicted because they would not join the outfit.

And CMAS leader Nachika Linga, who has now come overground with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik having invited him for talks, was one of Orissa’s “most wanted”, who faces 50 cases and who had rarely visited even his home so far, according to his mother Zuro.

Following the abduction of Jhina Hikaka, BJD MLA, the government has over the last couple of weeks capitulated to the demand by the CPI(Maoist)’s Andhra Orissa Border Special Zonal Committee to release 15 CMAS activists. Emboldened, Linga has even held a meeting in Narayanpatna demanding withdrawal of cases against CMAS activists.

The CMAS, based in Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon blocks of Koraput district, is nothing but a new avatar of two banned organisations say police and other government officials who have followed Linga’s activity over the last five or six years. The Chasi Mulia Samiti was a pro-Maoist organisation of peasants that was banned in 2006; Ryot Kuli Sangham, the other banned organisation, is based in Parvatipuram of Andhra Pradesh. Members of both came together to form the CMAS in 2006.

Linga, initially a bonded labourer in Narayanpatna who later fled to Parvatipuram of Vizianagaram district, was initially with the Ryot Kuli Sangham. He became a “most wanted” man after he allegedly led over 1,000 tribals under the banner of CMAS to launch an attack on Narayanpatna police station on November 20, 2009. Two CMAS leaders were killed.

The CMAS first came into prominence in 2006, when it captured some 50 acres of non-tribal land in the Podapadar gram panchayat. Linga was sentenced to imprisonment, charged with several cases including one of being a Maoist. He was acquitted of all charges in 2008.

“The CMAS and Nachika Linga showed their violent face in 2008, when he declared himself the organisation’s convener. With CMAS members, Linga formed Ghenua Bahini — men wearing red shirts and armed with traditional tribal weapons like bows and arrows,” said a government official in Koraput. “He started an armed movement against people who opposed him and those who did not join in the Sangh. They forcibly encroached their land, snatched their valuables and left many of them homeless. They did not even spare tribals who opposed them.”

Of the 5,500 people who lost their homes in Naryanpatna between 2008 and 2010, those most affected were in Podapadar gram panchayat where eight upper caste families, 264 Dalit families and 35 tribal families had to flee their homes. A hundred Dalit families in Balipeta gram panchayat, 105 Dalit and tribal families in Narayanapatna gram panchayat, 121 Dalit and tribal families in Kumbhari, 200 Dalit families in Talagumandi, 215 Dalit and tribal families in Bijaghati and 45 Dalit families in Tentulipadar, too, were driven away.

Here are some examples of the violence unleashed:

August 9, 2010. Arjun Kendruka, a CMAS leader fallen out of favour, is shot dead in Bondhugaon while riding a bicycle with his wife Rama Kendruka. He had opposed violence and contested the 2009 Assembly elections on a CPM ticket.

August 15, 2010. Maoists kill Ghasi Kendruka, a teaching assistant in Narayanpatna’s Dumsil village. Kendruka too opposed CMAS and Maoist violence. Some 50 armed men accompanied by about 150 CMAS drag him out of his house and slit his throat in front of his wife.

August 23, 2010. Five Maoists abduct Sikunu Meleka, a former Linga aide, from his house in Tentulipadar village of Narayanpatna along with 11 other persons. Maoists slit his throat; the others are released.

August 29, 2010. Maoists shoot dead Anand Kirsani, 38, zilla parishad member, Congress leader, and working president of Shanti Committee, at Dhusura village, Semiliguda. Kirsani, a Dalit, had opposed CMAS violence.

September 18, 2010. Maoists kill Kapur Khora and his son Disha, slitting their throats at a public meeting in Lachhamani village.

September 27, 2011. Maoists slit the throat of Mishra Turuk alias Khosla, a disabled person of Talagumandi village in Narayanpatna block, accusing him of being a police informer

November 23, 2011. Biswanath Kartasia, 60, survives after attackers slash at his throat in the market in Bikrampur village, Narayanpatna block . “I was gasping for breath. My wife took me hospital where I stayed 21 days,” says Kartasia, who now lives in Laxmipur block headquarters. He had resisted a CMAS invitation to join.

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