PUBLIC AI Index: ASA 20/27/99
UA 175/99 Fear for safety 23 July 1999
INDIABasanti Panda (f), human rights defender
Members of the Singha Bahini Youth Club
There are fears for the safety of Basanti Panda and other members of the Singha
Bahini Youth Club (SBYC) in Orissa, after SYBC member Dileswar Dandasena was
murdered on 7 July 1999, allegedly by members of the “liquor mafia”. Basanti
Panda received a death threat on 9 July and has requested police protection.
Social activist Dileswar Dandasena was stabbed to death on the evening of 7
July, after he left the SBYC in Dharuadihi village in Sundargarh district.
A colleague of his witnessed several people running away from the murder scene.
Dileswar Dandasena had been actively campaigning for several years against
the illegal trade and sale of liquor by a “mafia” with the alleged connivance
of sections of the police force and local politicians, and had reportedly
received several death threats.
Colleagues of Dileswar Dandasena immediately attempted to file a First
Information Report (FIR) about the murder at the Dharuadihi police outpost.
However, the police at first refused to file a complaint. After several hours
of protest outside the Basma Police Station, Basanti Panda succeeded in filing
an FIR. The police filed several criminal cases against Basanti Panda and the
other protesters, alleging they had violently attacked the police station.
There were further widespread protests in the district, after which the police
arrested several people for the murder of Dileswar Dandasena. A committee of
the Orissa State Legislative Assembly headed by the Home Minister is reported
to be planning to visit the area to investigate the murder.
On 9 July, while they were in Sundargarh, Basanti Panda and a colleague were
chased by a group of men who threatened Basanti Panda with death if she continued
to pursue the case against those charged with the murder of Dileswar Dandasena.
Basanti Panda filed a complaint concerning this threat at Basma police station
the same day and a FIR was registered. She also requested police protection.
Basanti Panda has moved from her home and is being sheltered by fellow human
rights defenders in the state.
The sale of “country liquor”, produced in unlicenced stills, was prohibited
in Sundargarh district by the Orissa Government several years ago. This led
to a flourishing trade in illicit liquor in the district, which borders areas
where the sale of liquor is not prohibited. Women in Orissa and other states
of India have been at the forefront of campaigns against the sale of liquor.
They argue that it is a threat to household economies, as men spend large parts
of their families’ income on liquor.
However, in areas where liquor is prohibited, “mafias” regularly move in to
trade in illegal liquor. Such “mafias” often operate with the support of sections
of the police and local administration or politicians.
In Sundargarh district of Orissa there have been widespread allegations that
a “mafia” is operating, supported by sections of the police who are paid large
sums of money and powerful local politicians who are able to exert pressure
on the police and local administration not to take action against illegal trade