Five days after a 22-year-old man who had gone to a wildlife sanctuary with his friends for frolicking was beaten to death by jawans of Special Operation Group, Odisha’s elite anti-Maoist force, the State police today arrested four of the jawans on charges of murder and tampering of evidence.
In a statement before the State Assembly today, chief minister Naveen Patnaik said the family of Chittaranjan Sahu of Komna in Nuapada block would get Rs 10 lakh exgratia. Sahu’s brutalised body was recovered from Sunabeda wildlife sanctuary this morning, 5 days after he went missing. Apart from murder, the four jawans have also been charged with destruction of evidence as they tried to bury the body.
Naveen said the government will bear the expenses on the treatment of the two other youths injured in the assault by the security personnel. He also ordered a probe by a judicial magistrate into the murder case.
On August 16th evening, three youths – Chittaranjan Sahu, Nutan Nayak and Narendra Kaibarta – had gone to the Sunabeda wildlife sanctuary on a bike when they were picked up by the CRPF jawans on charges of stealing a truck owner’s battery and some parts of his vehicle. Truckowner Bulu Joshi’s truck had broken down in the middle of the sanctuary a day ago and the next day he had complained to the CRPF jawans stationed inside the sanctuary. The CRPF jawans reportedly found the three youths with the stolen battery and handed them over to the SOG camp at Soseng inside the 34000 sq km wide Sunabeda wildlife sanctuary.
Later in the night, two of the youths were reportedly subjected to torture following which Chittaranjan Sahu allegedly died. Sahu’s friend Nutan Nayak, who was also tortured by the SOG jawans, alleged that when he tried to wake him(Sahu) up on August 17 morning, he did not respond. “His mouth was open. I knew he was dead. When I asked SOG jawans what had happened, they brandished a cricket bat saying I too would also meet the same fate as Sahu if I opened my mouth,” said Nayak, who was first admitted to a hospital in Raipur town of Chhatisgarh. Narendra Kaibarta, who is a minor, however, was not tortured much. Two days ago the family members of the deceased had filed a complaint in this regard with Komna police station.
Following the incident, protests had broken out in the area against the SOG brutality. Hundreds of people of Komna block had gheraoed the police station and blocked national highway on August 19 alleging that the jawans had thrown away the body. After his body was recovered from Dhakili forest today, the enraged locals called an indefinite strike in the district demanding Rs 20 lakh compensation and a government job for the family of the deceased. Besides, they also asked the administration to bear all expenses of the injured persons who were beaten up by the jawans.
Five platoons of policemen have been deployed at Komna to maintain law and order. South Western range IG S Shyni and Commandant SOG have arrived at Nuapada to conduct a probe into the alleged death due to torture at the SOG camp.
Senior police officials said the SOG jawans had a very bad reputation in the camp and indulged in eve-teasing and harassing local people. “We would ensure that they are never able to rejoin police,” said a senior cop.
This is the second brutality by SOG jawans in less than a month. Last month, the SOG jawans in Kandhamal district had allegedly shot dead a Dalit couple while the latter were making phone calls on a hillock and tried to pass the killing as “encounter deaths”. The NHRC and Odisha Human Rights Comission have ordered a probe into the Kandhamal incident.