Do Maoists Obstruct Development? No, say Participants in Kanak TV Debate

Do the Maoists obstruct development? Kanak TV raised this question on its open discussion board in the IDCOL Auditorium at Bhubaneswar on May 8.

The debate was coordinated by its founder, Sri Soumya Ranjan Patnaik.

“No” was the answer by deduction, as those who denigrated the Maoists also confessed that lack of development is the root cause of Maoist evolvement.

The ‘Yes’ side comprised Orissa’s finance minister Prafulla Ghadai, Opposition Chief Whip in Orissa Assembly Prasad Harichandan and former Director General of Police in the State, Gopal Nanda.

The ‘No’ side comprised CPI leader Prof. Abani Baral, Human Rights Activist, Advocate Biswapriya Kanungo and wife of Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda, Smt. Mili Panda.

Smt. Panda, who is recently released from illegal incarceration, rejected the suggestion sic passim in the subject of the debate itself that development in undeveloped areas is being hindered by the Maoists. The Maoists are the active voices of the people that are victims of government apathy and negligence. Maoists oppose misappropriation of development funds and hijacking of lands and natural resources by private companies. They are emancipation activists who have been making immeasurable sacrifices to serve the cause of the wretchedly poor, said Smt. Panda. How can those, who for the rights of the voiceless majority, have left the comforts of their homes and company of their families and roam over dangerous terrains daring false encounters, cooked up prosecution and rich media’s negative publicity, go against development of the people?she asked. She presented many instances of how people perish in villages sans health care, education facilities, home to live in, food to eat and water to drink. Those, who measure democracy in the yardstick of constituencies captured, cannot measure how pathetically people live, as plans and funds meant for their development get looted in transit by politico-bureaucratic-capitalist nexus. Those that oppose this looting are being branded as Maoists, she said.

Biswapriya Kanungo pointed out that the government has banned six socio-political forums in 2006 branding them as Maoist outfits. Why are they not coming forward with details of benefits they have achieved by the ban? he asked. If the government fails to give a benevolent rule, people will certainly go against the government. If, instead of correcting the wrongs it commits, the government unleashes state terror on people for going against the government that fails to give a benevolent rule, people will retaliate. Such retaliation should not be termed as obstruction to development, he said.

Prof. Baral observed that if the money the government is spending on hounding out Maoists by the police, could have been spent on real development of the people, Maoist activities could have been fizzled out in areas like Malkangiri. People have lost their entity in the priority list of the government, which has become a prisoner of mania for mining based industries. It is wrong to assume that with spread of mining based industries poverty shall be eradicated. The areas from where these industries are acquiring their fodders are getting economically ruined day by day, he said.

Finance Minister Gadai, who, could never have gone against the government’s policy and hence could not have said anything but “yes” in answer to the question under discussion, said that the Maoists are opposing the industries though industries mean development. Value addition to raw materials should help the State fetch more funds which would facilitate more investment in development programs, which the Maoists do not understand, he said.

The former police chief was expected to say “yes” to the question under debate; because anything than “yes” could have virtually been the same as disapproval of his own action against the Maoists during his regime as DGP. So, he painted the Maoists as cancer for eradication of which surgery, medicine and care at the same time are required. Yet, he confessed that the government’s wrong economic policies are responsible for evolvement of Maoist movement, particularly in tribal areas where industries are eating away the forests and depriving the tribals of their living environment. With shrinkage of forest areas and spread of mining in hills, their natural sources of livelihood have been severely tampered with and, for sustenance, they are being forced to mortgage whatever little lands have they and in the debt traps laid by moneylenders, they are losing their lands and thus in ruins without any remedy, they are in utter frustration. Maoists are exploiting the situation, he said.

The Opposition Chief Whip, belongs as he to the Congress, which has a Prime Minister to whom Maoists are left viruses, was supposed to say “yes, the Maoists are obstructing development.” And he said this. But, he also said, since 1960, the Maoists have been gaining ground because of the unending financial straits the majority of people are thrown into. Unbearable poverty on the one side vis-a-vis accumulation of plenty in few hands in the other side has given birth to Maoists movement, which can be controlled if priority of administration is addressed in right earnest to people’s development, said Sri Harichandan.

So, by deduction, the ‘yes’ side also said that the Maoists are not the obstruction to development, when all of the debaters except the finance minister were sure that the government’s wrong economic policies and lackadaisical approach to development has caused Maoist evolvement.

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Orissa Human Rights Commission asks for a Factual Report on Mob-Killing of Lodhas

Collector of the Mayurbhanj District has been asked by the Human Rights Commission, Orissa to submit “a general note on performance of the employment guarantee programme and other poverty alleviation schemes for the improvement of the condition of Lodhas”.

Taking up the case filed by Journalist Prasanta Patnaik and Advocate Biswapriya Kanungo on mob-killing of four of the landless and wretchedly poor Lodhas, details of which were rendered in these pages earlier, the Commission have noted, “The allegation made in the petition prima-facie reveals a sad state of affairs of a community for whom the state is supposed to take integrated development programmes and provide them protection”.

The Commission has sent a copy of the petition along with enclosures to the Collector requesting him “to get the matter inquired into and submit a factual report to the commission on the incident of 10 October 2010”.

The Commission expects that the factual report on mob-attack on the Lodhas leading to death of four of them as well as the general note on performance of programmes meant for their well-being would be submitted by the District Collector “within six weeks”.

Orissa Journalists Adopt Landmark Resolutions on Free Press on the Day of Media Unity

The historical convention of Journalists of Orissa, held in the State Information Center, (Jaya Dev Bhawan) has resolved to observe December 14 as the Day of Media Unity for Freedom of Press every year.

It was a congregation of scribes beyond boundaries of trade unions to express solidarity with Laxman Choudhury and his family, tortured by the State as he stayed true to the callings of his profession and went on filing reports on the nexus between the police and the marijuana underworld.

Choudhury was arrested by the police at Mohana on September 20, 2009 and thrown into the jail from where he was released on bail by the High Court of Orissa only on December 1. The police have framed up him under charges of sedition on flimsy grounds such as seizure of Maoist leaflets addressed to him in transit from a private bus.

Discretionary power over bail mustn’t be discriminatory

The system has gone so astray that when discernible looters of Orissa’s mineral wealth are granted bail or anticipatory bail in remarkable speed, it took a journalist long forty days to get back his liberty on bail from the High Court, even with a legal luminary like Jagannath Pattanayak voluntarily pleading his case, roared Rabi Das, stressing on the need for reform of laws governing bail so that the discretionary power no further remains discriminatory.

Protection of Freedom of Press a must for survival of democracy

Prasanta Patnaik, presiding over the convention, had set tone to the deliberations with the clear message that no journalist should feel abandoned by his friends in the profession when loyalty to his duties lands him / her in framed up cases or in any other disadvantage. The media unity evolved in protest against harassment of scribes will continue to stand solidly behind tortured scribes in future, he declared. He called into memory the atrocities perpetrated on uncompromising reporter Swaroop Jena by the fellows in power that were being exposed threadbare by him and how the unsung hero had finally succumbed to that brutality. He gave a vivid description of all the instances of atrocities the scribes have been subjected to because of their commitment to their profession and called upon all section of the public to stand with the scribes for protection of freedom of press.

Evil design of plutocracy needs be defeated

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak stated that since diversification of priority from welfare to industry, journalists in increasing numbers have been subjected to administrative atrocities in Orissa, because as sentinels of society they have exposed the foul play of the profiteers and their politico-executive cohorts. Swaroop Jena was the first victim. Portending more rigorous prosecution against journalist as plutocracy would try to tighten its grip, Pattanayak recalled Dr.Ambedkar, who, in his concluding answer to debates on the last day of the Constituent Assembly, had warned that economic dissimilarity, which the Assembly had been forced to accommodate under peculiar circumstances vitiated by overwhelming presence of the propertied class in it, would eventually destroy democracy if the first Parliament elected by the masses fails to remove the contradiction. Regrettably the Parliament failed and the contradiction is continuing and the agents of the rich have transformed democracy to plutocracy, he pointed out. Journalists are proud of comprising the forth estate in democracy. They cannot cherish changing to forth estate of plutocracy. Hence the agents of plutocracy never feel secured before a fearless press. This is why they use and will always use all the methods of intimidation against the uncompromising journalists, he warned and welcomed the emergence of the new media forum to save the last hope for democracy, the forth estate.

Felicitation to Choudhury is symbolic of media solidarity

Sudhir Pattanaik harped on consolidation of media unity even as Jatin Dash emphasized on eternal intelligence against impediments to freedom of press. RTI activist Biswajeet Mohanty, progressive advocate Biswapriya Kanungo and Prof. Nilamani Sahoo welcomed the convention and pledged their support to the community of scribes in their mission of protecting free press. Eminent activists like Uma Ballav Rath and Radhakanta Sethi were present. Jiten Padhi, Satyajit Mishra and Bana Bihari Mohanty expressed that the convention itself is indicative of how misuse of power against media has crossed tolerable limits. Soumyajit Pattanayak emphasized on the need of a space for solidifying togetherness amongst media persons. Prafulla Das in his introductory address expressed that the felicitation to Laxman Choudhury is symbolic of the solidarity of scribes in the cause of democracy and coordinated the convention.

Journalists have the right to peruse political literature including Maoist ones

On behalf of the media community, Sampad Mohapatra thanked Jagannath Pattanaik, former President of Bar Council of India, for having voluntarily taken up the case of Choudhury and for his pleadings, which fetched the bail. He also thanked Advocate Jayant Dash for his similar role in Lenin Roy case. It was a mockery of administration of law to have entertained a misconceived police allegation hurling sedition charges at Choudhury on the basis of its unilateral seizure of Maoist leaflets from a private bus conductor allegedly meant for delivery to him. Were it been real that Choudhury was the person to whom the leaflet packet was addressed, how any sane man could found sedition therein, he wondered. He declared that the journalists have the right to go through any political literature including that of the Maoists as that forms part of their professional needs to keep themselves abreast of political activities and hence, possession even of Maoist literature can never be construed as sedition. He moved the following Resolutions to which Rabi Das seconded and the entire House unanimously supported.

THE RESOLUTIONS:

1. Media Unity for Freedom Press Convention resolves to fight any attempt by the powers that be to muzzle or gag the Press. It also resolves to pledge support and all possible help to any one who faces attacks or threats in any form from any source while pursuing or performing his professional duties as a news person.

2. MUFP demands that the State Government pass necessary orders to ensure that prior to slapping charges such as sedition, waging war against the State and criminal conspiracy against any working journalist – whether accredited, self-employed or freelance- the concerned police officials seek the recorded approval of the State Home Department, preferably of its Secretary.

3. MUFP calls upon the Chief Minister to honour his promise to a delegation of scribes by withdrawing all charges leveled by the Mohana police against Sri Laxman Choudhury. A quick and favourable response by the Chief Minister in this matter will pave the path for a healthier interface between the media and the administration.

4. MUFP also calls upon the state government to take stringent action against the people who were behind the murderous attack on fellow journalist and green activist Sri Jagannath Bastia as well as the government employees who assaulted two journalists working for the Oriya daily, Arombh. The State should compensate them for all medical expenses incurred by them towards treatment.

5. MUFP expresses its sincere gratitude to leading High Court lawyer and former President of the All India Bar Council Sri Jagannath Patnaik who went out of his way to fight for the release of Sri Laxman Choudhury without expecting or taking a single rupee towards his professional fee. We also wish to thank all lawyers, rights activists, individuals and organizations, especially the Paris-based international body of journalists, the Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) who stood solidly behind our effort to get Sri Choudhury out of jail.

6. MUFP demands the setting up of a State Media Centre on the vacant space inside the Jaydev Bhawan premises with minimum facilities such as a media room that offers Broadband and P&T services on usual payment, an auditorium with a 200-seat capacity to be used for press briefings and conferences, a reading room, a library and a canteen. The state government should respond to this at the earliest.

7. MUFP resolves to launch under its own title i.e. Media Unity for Freedom of Press, a website that would serve as a common platform for journalists and those who defend and value press freedom. The website would also act as the watchdog of the free press and facilitate debate on issues, incidents and questions that have a bearing on freedom of press in particular and those affecting democratic norms and practices in general.

8. MUFP resolves to appeal to editors and management of all newspapers and channels both at the State and National level to ensure that media personnel working for them in rural, tribal and areas under ultra-political activities in the most difficult and challenging conditions are given proper recognition and identity cards. That could help them immensely vis-à-vis questions on their status raised randomly by the authorities especially the police.

AN UPDATE:


Years after the event, on September 12, 2013, the speech of Sri Subhas Chandra Pattanayak on foundation of MUFP, as recorded by Laxmi Prasad Pattanayak, was retrieved from old records. As it is of referral value in the life of MUFP, we are sharing the video above.