State has withdrawn cases against 9,110 tribals

Bhubaneswar: The state government on Thursday said it has withdrawn minor cases against tribals a day after Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh asked Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to free those innocent from the community in jails the state.

"The state government has already withdrawn cases against 9,110 tribals booked for minor offences," Environment and Forests Minister Debi Prasad Mishra told reporters, responding to the suggestions made by Ramesh. Claiming that the state government was aware of the rights of tribals, Mishra said a maximum number have been allotted land `pattas` under the Forest Rights Acts, 2006.

Noting that most cases related to minor forest produce, Chief Secretary B K Patnaik said "We have been regularly reviewing cases against tribals and offences of minor nature are being withdrawn. The process is continuing." In a letter to the chief minister, Ramesh had on Wednesday said the state government must ensure justice to a large number of innocent tribals `unfairly` jailed.

"Clearly something must be done urgently to ensure justice to innocent and unfairly jailed adivasis or to those adivasis who are in jail on very flimsy ground," Ramesh had said in the letter. Human rights activist Biswapriya Kanungo, however, alleged that hundreds of tribals were in jail after being branded as Maoists.