Orissa tribal leader held for Maoist links


Bhubaneswar: A tribal leader, known for being part of agitations against large-scale industrial projects in Orissa, was arrested Wednesday for his alleged links with Maoist rebels, police said.

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Gananath Patra, advisor of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS) active in Koraput district, was arrested here Wednesday afternoon, police said.

Deputy Inspector General of Police Sanjeev Panda alleged that CMAS is a Maoist-backed outfit that had forcibly occupied hundreds of acres of farmland belonging to non-tribals in the district.

“The organisation members are also involved in a series of crimes,” he said.

“Patra was arrested for (his) Maoist link. There were more than two dozen criminal cases pending against him. This includes cases of murder, arson and rioting,” Panda told IANS.

While the CMAS has denied links with Maoists, its leaders say they are fighting for the rights of tribals in the region.

Patra, a former state secretary of Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist, is known for his movement against various industrial projects in the state.

He is one of the leaders who spearheaded a movement against the proposed national missile test range by the defence ministry at Baliapal in Balasore district in the 1980s.

Patra was also part of agitations against projects by several industrial houses including steel projects by Tata and South Korean steel major Posco.

“He is a prominent anti-displacement movement leader. The allegations against him are baseless,” human rights activist Prafulla Samantara told IANS.