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Villagers protest outside Vedanta refinery against ‘death in custody’

Villagers protest outside Vedanta refinery against ‘death in custody’

Tension prevailed in the Lanjigarh area of Kalahandi district on Saturday after a large number of residents sat on a dharna outside the main gate of the Vedanta alumina refinery demanding compensation of ₹10 lakh for the death of a fellow villager in judicial custody.Patnaik Harijan, a resident of Rengapalli village under Lanjigarh block, died early on Saturday at a government hospital in Burla where he was admitted by the Kalahandi jail authorities a day earlier.Body at protest siteThe agitating villagers had kept Harijan’s body at the dharna site. To avoid any untoward incident, the local administration imposed prohibitory orders in the area.Arrests after clashHarijan (45) was in judicial custody following his arrest four months ago in the wake of a clash between villagers and personnel of Odisha Industrial Security Force outside the refinery main gate on March 18. Dani Batra, a villager, and Sujit Minz, an OISF constable, were killed in the clash which broke out when the villagers were staging a demonstration demanding employment for locals in the refinery.A group of concerned citizens and organisations demanded a judicial probe into the circumstances leading to Harijan’s death. In a statement, as many as 23 activists, writers and lawyers alleged that while 29 people had been arrested in connection with the constable’s death, no proper investigation had been conducted to bring to light the manner in which Batra succumbed to injuries inflicted on him by the OISF men.The activists demanded punishment for all erring officers for their acts of negligence leading to the death of Harijan and a compensation of ₹50 lakh to his family.They further demanded withdrawal of all cases against those who are still in jail, a probe into the death of Batra and withdrawal of Central Reserve Police Force personnel from the Niyamgiri region.

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