Odisha minister says unaware of tribals’ killing; opposition flays government

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Bhubaneswar, July 10 (IANS) Even as Odisha’s tribal welfare minister on Sunday said he was unaware of the killing of five tribal villagers in Kandhamal district, the Congress and the BJP flayed the Navin Patnaik’s government on the issue.

Both opposition parties said a shutdown will be observed in Kandhamal district on Monday to protest the death of five villagers during an alleged gunfight between security personnel and Maoists on Friday night in Kurtumgarh village.

Terming the state government “anti-tribal”, Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram said a high-level team led by National Commission for then Scheduled Tribes Chairman Rameshwar Oraon will visit Kandhamal and submit a report on the killings to the Centre.

“(Chief Minister) Naveen Patnaik is responsible for the incident. It is a reflection of the anti-adivasi mindset of the state government. It’s a conspiracy of the (ruling) Biju Janata Dal to stifle the voice of the tribals,” said Oram.

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Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan demanded a judiciary probe into the matter.

“The inefficient government is responsible for the killing of innocent villagers. The matter should be probed by a sitting judge,” said Pradhan.

Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee President Prasad Harichandan said the party has decided to observe a shutdown in Kandhamal district on Monday to protest the death of the villagers in the crossfire.

Leader of Opposition Narasingh Mishra said killing of the tribals on the pretext of countering Maoists is most unfortunate.

“It reflects the government’s attitude towards them. A criminal case should be registered against the culprits,” said Mishra.

However, the BJD said the opposition parties are trying to give the killings a political colour.

“The Kandhamal incident was a mere accident. But the opposition parties are trying to give it a political colour for their benefit. The Chief Minister has already ordered a judiciary probe into the matter,” said BJD MP Prasanna Acharya.

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On the other hand, Odisha Tribal Welfare Minister Lal Bihari Himirika on Sunday pleaded ignorance about the Kandhamal incident.

“Where were the adivasis killed?” Himirika asked reporters.

“I don’t have any such information. Will see if any such thing has taken place. I was in my village. I came here today (Sunday). If this has happened, my department will surely inform me. I will see,” said the minister.



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