Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Throttling of Freedom of Thought and Expression (Orissa, India)

Orissa, India

We express our concern on the police raid of the house of Sri Dandapani Mohapatra, a writer and journalist. On 11th March 2010, while Sri Mohapatra was away in some meeting, violating all procedures, the police raided his house for nearly six hours ransacking all his belongings and not even allowing his ailing wife and children to take their food. The police had not given a copy of any search warrant to his family members, nor stated any reason for the raid. As per Sri Mohapatra the police took away a number of old journals such as Ghadaghadi, Inquilab and Marga O Chinta – none of which is proscribed by the government – without giving a seizure list, which is mandatory. In a democratic set up of government to possess such materials is within the purview of freedom of thought and expression. Strangely, the police have taken the signatures of Sri Mohaptra’s son and that of the local Sarpanch on a number of plain sheets of paper. We learnt from Sri Mohapatra that after raiding the house, the SDPO Chhatrapur had threatened him on the same day in the evening asking him to come to the Police station by 15th of March or face the dire consequences. It is ascertained from Sri Mohaptra that no criminal case is pending against him under any allegation. This is outright police highhandedness and gross misuse of power.

After talking to Sri Mohapatra and on perusal of some of his writings we have reasons to believe that the only intention of the police in raiding the house of Sri Mohapatra could be to suppress his dissent opinion – which he has been expressing through his writings continuously for the last many years – simply by terrorizing. It needs to be noted that Sri Dandapani Mohapatra is the General Secretary of Dakhshina Odisha Sahitya Sammelani, a literary organization of south Orissa, and has been associated with writing and publishing for a long time. He was publishing a satirical magazine called Ghadaghadi between 1984 to 1990. He has published a few books of his poems. Currently, he has been writing for a weekly tabloid called ‘Sahanamela’.

It is a matter of concern that the police, without following the due process of law, have disclosed to a section of media that the raid was undertaken due to suspected Maoist links.

We condemn the police action as it violates the fundamental rights of personal liberty as well as freedom of speech and expression. The police highhandedness is not only directed against the expression of dissent of Sri Mahapatra, it also gives a red signal to all such persons who express their dissent fearlessly. We urge upon the government to stop this undemocratic practice in general and to conduct a high level inquiry into the incident. We also appeal to all the freedom loving people to condemn such undemocratic activities.

Press Release by:
Pramodini Pradhan
Convenor, PUCL –Bhubaneswar
Biswapriya Kanungo, Advocate and Human Rights Activist

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