In a first of its kind in Orissa, a ruling BJD MLA and his personal security officer (PSO) were killed by assailants on Saturday in front of more than 300 people at a public function in Maoist affected Nabarangpur district of Orissa.
Police said Jagabandhu Majhi (39), the wheel chair bound MLA from Umarkote assembly seat of the district, and his PSO PK Patro were shot at point blank range by three assailants at about 1pm, when he was distributing land pattas (record of rights) to landless tribals at Gona village - 80 km from the district headquarters and more than 500 km southwest of Bhubaneswar. Another tribal man was also injured in the firing.
The assailants, who came in a motorcycle, escaped with the pistol of the PSO. Independent sources said they raised Maoist slogans before leaving, but did not leave any Maoist literature claiming responsibility.As the forested village is near to the border of Chhatisgarh, police suspected Maoist hand in the murder, but did not rule out past personal enmity either as Majhi was known for taking up tribal cause against Bengladeshi refugees settled in the district.
"He had been attacked earlier also. Senior police officials have rushed to the spot. A clear picture would emerge after a detailed inquiry," said YB Khurania, IG (operations).
Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik ordered a crime branch (CB) probe into the incident few hours after the incident. "I am deeply shocked and grieved by the incident. He (Majhi) used to move around in a wheel chair.
I have put the CB on the job of investigating the terrible murder," Patnaik said.
The unmarried Majhi, who started his political career in 1998 after becoming the president of the local college, led tribals' fight against refugees from Bangladesh. The tribals alleged the settlers usurped their land.
He organised illegal tribals agitation in Raighar block against "illegal land encroachment" by the migrants from Bangladesh. In 2001, he went underground after the riots against the settlers in the block.
In 2004, Majhi fought the assembly elections as an Independent from Umarkote seat but lost. About 15 days before the elections, he was shot in the waist by assailants, which paralysed his legs making him wheel chair bound since then.
In 2009, he won the seat for the first time after being given a BJD ticket.