Kandhamal encounter: Opposition raises question on SIT probe

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Bhubaneswar: A day after the Odisha government named members of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe into the killing of five persons during anti-Maoist operations by security personnel in Kandhamal on July 8, the opposition Congress and BJP today raised questions on the neutrality of the panel.

Both parties raised questions on the efficiency of Additional Director General (ADG), Mahendra Pratap, the chief of the Human Rights Protection Cell of the state police. As per the notification issued by the state home department, Pratap, a 1990-batch IPS officer, would supervise the probe.

“Giving supervision charge to Mahendra Pratap itself proves the state government’s bid to cover up the matter. This is because Pratap was suspended twice in his career on charges of dereliction in duty. How can an officer supervise a sensitive case like the Kandhamal police firing?” senior BJP leader Bijay Mohapatra asked.

Mohapatra pointed out that when Pratap was the SP of Gajapati district in 1998, he was suspended after a jail break at G Udaygiri.

“Then Naveen Patnaik was the BJD president and he had demanded action against Pratap,” Mohapatra said.

Leader of Opposition Narasingha Mishra of Congress also made similar allegations and raised questions on the government’s intention behind Pratap’s appointment.

“There is no dearth of good police officers in the state.

But, why did the Chief Minister choose Pratap?” Mishra asked.

“This is a clear bid to cover up the matter and give clean chit to the police which gunned down five innocent people including women and a child,” Mishra alleged.

The ruling BJD, however, rejected the opposition allegations.

“The state government wants a neutral investigation into the matter. The Chief Minister has ordered a SIT probe and judicial inquiry. Like rest of the state, the government also wants a neutral investigation,” BJD spokesman P K Deb said.

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