New Delhi, June 13 (Calcutta Tube) Lingaram Kodopi, a tribal student from Chhattisgarh who police say is the ‘mastermind’ of an attack by suspected Maoists on a Congress leader’s house in the state’s Dantewada district, says he is ‘shocked and shattered’ by the allegation and can prove his innocence, but would rather commit suicide than surrender to the police as he feared for his life.
‘I am shocked and shattered. I want to prove that the wild charges by the Dantewada police against me are baseless. I hear they said that I am the mastermind behind the Maoist attack on a Congress leader’s house in our district recently,’ Lingaram said in a sobing voice here Tuesday.
‘I will prove my innocence. I will show all the documents and the proof for this. But as a tribal, I feel I should not surrender to the police. I fear for my life if they detain me. I feel like committing suicide with honour than surrendering to the police, who will torture me,’ Lingaram, 24, told IANS over the telephone.
The Lingaram case surfaced on Sunday, with the senior superintendent of police of Dantewada, S.R.P. Kalluri, issuing a media release that the July 7 attack on Congress leader Avdesh Kumar Gautam’s residence was ‘masterminded by Lingaram Kodopi, a resident of Sameli village’. The release alleged that Lingaram had ‘received training in terrorist techniques in Delhi and Gujarat in the last few months’.
‘I am not hiding anywhere. As I want to prove my innocence, I am not going to my college these days,’ Lingaram said.
Lingaram said: ‘I am thankful to my vakil sabheb (civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan) and swamiji (social activist and peace negotiator Swami Agnivesh) for taking up my case. I want the help of all the people. This is a conspiracy not just against me but all the tribal people.’
The police release went on to say that ‘Lingaram was in touch with writer Arundhati Roy, activist Medha Patkar and a professor of Delhi School of Economics, Nandini Sundar’. It also alleged that ‘Lingaram was tipped to succeed Communist Party of India (Maoist) spokesperson Azad’ after the latter was killed by the Andhra Pradesh police on July 2.
In the early hours of July 7, the residence of local Congress leader Avdesh Singh Gautam in Nukainar in Dantewada was attacked by suspected Maoists. Sanjay Singh, the brother-in-law of Gautam, and Dharmendra Lehari, his clerk, were kiled in the attack.
Gautam’s 12-year-old son was injured. Police said the target was Gautam, who has been controversial for his close links with Mahendra Karma, another Congress leader and founder of Salwa Judum, the anti-Maoist militia.
As reports of Lingaram being named as the ‘mastermind’ emerged, eminent civil rights activists and lawyers in Delhi extended him support. They also presented the tribal student before the media.
Patkar and Roy said in separate statements that the police attempt to ‘link them with the mastermind of the attack was a ill-conceived and baselss case’. Lingaram did not appear be involved, Patkar said.
Lingaram said that he had vaguely heard about Gautam.
‘His reputation is not good among the tribals. I am not a Maoist. I do not believe in their ways of violence. But I am a tribal. And I know the pains and problems of tribals,’ Lingaram told IANS.
Lingaram said this is not the first time he has been harassed and implicated in a false case by the Dantewada police. Last September, the police picked him from his village and kept him in detention for 40 days. It was only after a habeas corpus petition was filed in the Chhatisgarh High Court that he was released.
Lingaram said the police pressurised him to become a special police officer to fight the Maoists.
‘The police harassed me very much. My motorcycle is still with me but they damaged our tractor and threatened my parents,’ he recalled.
His parents, two bothers and a sister live in the village.
‘Life is very turbulent there. The April 6 Maoist attack (in which 75 Central Reserve Police Force troopers and a state police constable were killed) happened just 30 km from our house,’ he said.
Lingaram recalled it was Sudhanshu Chaudhary, a former Delhi-based broadcast journalist who is now in the US who inspired him to take up media studies.
‘He told me if I become a journalist, I will be able to take up the case of the tribals and unerprivileged,’ Lingaram said.
Meanwhile, Agnivesh told IANS over the telephone from Bhopal that he had taken up Lingaram’s case with union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai.
‘It is a clear case of state terrorism. If you implicate innocent youth, the consequences may be serious,’ Agnivesh said.
–Indo Asian News Service