India: Anti-mining activists killed by police in Orissa

Calls for urgent investigation, release of detained activist and end to harassment of protestors

Amnesty International has called on the authorities in the eastern Indian state of Orissa to ensure there is an independent investigation into the killings of two indigenous community leaders, Andrew Nachika and Singanna, by police and paramilitary personnel in Narayanpatna on 20 November.

The organisation has also called for the release of political activist Tapan Mishra, who was arrested after taking part in an attempt to discover what had happened in Narayanpatna, as well as an end to the harassment and intimidation of protestors in Orissa, one of India’s poorest states but one which has also been discovered to have enormous mineral wealth.

Andrew Nachika and Singanna were among a group of 80-100 other members of an indigenous people’s movement – Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) – which was peacefully protesting outside the Narayanpatna police station in Koraput district. The protestors demanded that the police stop harassing the indigenous communities who have been campaigning for an end to illegal mining in the area.

Eyewitnesses have informed Amnesty that the police firing began when Singanna entered the police station premises to talk to officials. Andrew Nachika was also shot dead and at least eight other protestors sustained injuries as police and paramilitary forces continued to fire on unarmed and fleeing protestors.

After the shooting the police raided a number of villages and arrested at least 50 other indigenous CMAS supporters in an attempt to locate the wounded protestors. Amnesty understands that those arrested are accused of several offences including ‘waging war against the State’ and ‘sedition,’ as the police have claimed that the CMAS has links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

A seven-member fact-finding team of social and political activists subsequently visited Narayanpatna to investigate into the killings and related arrests. Their report, released at a press conference in Orissa’s capital Bhubaneswar on 27 November, rejects the police claim of a CMAS-Maoist link and accuses the police of unnecessary use of force and arbitrary arrests. On 29 November, the police arrested one of the members of the fact-finding team, Tapan Mishra, claiming that he provided arms training to the banned Maoists.

Tapan Mishra is a known activist of the Communist Party of India (Maoist-Leninist) (Kanu Sanyal group), a recognised political party. Amnesty understands that Tapan Mishra has no links with any armed groups and that his arrest may be politically motivated. Following this arrest, other members of the fact-finding team have expressed fears of travelling to Narayanpatna. Amnesty International is concerned that the arrest over Tapan Mishra appears to be an attempt by the State authorities to intimidate and harass those attempting to investigate the lethal use of force by the police at Narayanpatna.

Amnesty International urges the Government of Orissa to:

* immediately order an independent, impartial and thorough investigation into the use of force by the police and ensure that any officer suspected of using force unnecessarily or excessively, including those who ordered the shootings or were otherwise responsible, is prosecuted in proceedings which meet international standards of fairness;

* provide reparations to the families of those killed, and to those who suffered injuries or other harm as a result of unnecessary use of force by police;

* ensure that police officials as far as possible apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms which should be used only if other means remain ineffective, and then only to the minimum extent required;

* ensure that the right to peaceful assembly is respected and protected and that police, when fulfilling their public order duties, respect human rights as provided in international treaties to which India is a state party, and stop harassing, intimidating and bringing politically-motivated charges against protestors and those engaged in defending human rights in Orissa.

The CMAS is a social movement of indigenous (or ‘adivasi’) communities in south-western Orissa. The group has been campaigning against illegal mining in their lands and habitats by non-adivasis, and against the production and consumption of illegal liquor in the region. Since May 2009 the CMAS has intensified its campaign, leading to some non-adivasi families fleeing their villages and attacks against CMAS supporters.

View latest press releases