A Congress Party lawmaker is observing an indefinite hunger strike outside the Odisha Governor's residence in Bhubhaneshwar over a demand for the return of dead bodies of missing tribals, who have allegedly died in police custody.
Speaking to media, Pradeep Majhi claimed that he has information that four of the five tribal men arrested a few years ago by the Malkangiri District police for supporting Maoists, were dead. "The district police of Malkangiri has killed our four Adivasi (tribal) brothers after taking them in custody. We are sitting on an indefinite hunger strike in demand to get their dead bodies," said Majhi.
Majhi, along with family members of the missing tribals and various other supporters from Malkangiri and other surrounding tribal districts, went on an indefinite hunger strike three days ago. The sister of one of the missing tribals, Phulmati, said that the authorities were paying no heed to their grievances. "My brother, Trinath, has gone missing for the past eleven months, while he was under police custody. We have gone from pillar to post for information regarding him. We met the SDPO (Sub Divisional Police Officer) to the SP (Superintendent of Police), but nobody listened to our plea. We were obliged to sit on dharna (strike). It is three days of our strike, but nobody is listening to us," said Phulmati.
The Maoists, who say they are fighting for the rights of the poor and landless, control some of India's mineral-rich areas and operate in large swathes of the eastern, central and southern countryside. The Maoists, also known as Naxals, have killed police and politicians, and targeted government buildings and railway tracks in an insurgency that has killed thousands since the 1960s.
The rebels are estimated to number 7000 hardcore fighters in nearly a third of India's 630 districts.