The Human Rights Forum (HRF) condemns in the strongest terms the foisting of a false case by the Malkangiri police on human rights defender Deba Ranjan. We believe that the case booked against him under Section 354 (B) of IPC (relating to molestation of a woman) and other charges to be a completely fabricated one. Its sole purpose is to try and demoralise and malign Deba Ranjan and to stop him and the organisation he works with, the Ganatantrik Adhikar Surakhya Sangathan (GASS) from pursuing their human rights work. We demand that the Odisha government immediately direct the police to withdraw the false cases registered against Deba Ranjan.
Over the past two decades Deba Ranjan has been a consistent and passionate voice against injustice both within and outside Odisha. As a writer, film maker and human rights activist he has highlighted and critiqued policies of destructive development, unbridled mining practices, displacement, police impunity, atrocities on dalits, women and adivasis, the inhuman and ugly politics of hindutva and more recently issues of farmers’ suicides in a context of acute agrarian distress. It is this activism that the police seek to throttle by the filing of this false case. They have stooped to the level of misusing law pertaining to sexual violence on women in their attempt to browbeat Deba Ranjan.
Deba Ranjan is a long associate of not only the HRF and several rights organisations, he is a friend of many ongoing movements across the nation. He was part of a joint fact-finding exercise along with the well-known human rights activist late K Balagopal in the summer of 2009 that looked into police violence on adivasis in the name of curbing the Maoist movement in the districts of South Odissa. He has been part of extended fact-findings that investigated attacks on Christians in Khandhamal and Karnataka and on massacres of civilians by the paramilitary in South Chattisgarh. His documentary films depicting these and other issues with immense sensitivity have been screened in various States as well as in international fora.
Deba Ranjan and GASS are among the few voices in Odisha that are speaking out against governmental lies and distortions and are striving to draw out the truth. More recently, they have played a seminal role in bringing to light the extra-judicial killing by BSF personnel of an adivasi farmer Ganga Kirsani of Litiput village, Koraput district. This is one of those rare instances when it was even established officially that it was a killing by unilateral firing of the BSF.
We deplore this attempt by the State to scuttle voices of dissent. We call upon the Odisha government to sincerely address issues raised by human rights defenders in a democratic manner and to desist from such disgraceful attempts at framing dissenters.
S Jeevan Kumar (HRF president)
VS Krishna (HRF general secretary)