On 23 May 2016, criminals and right-wing activists brutally killed 55-year-old Adangu Gomango, a highly respected tribal representative of the Saura people, in the village of Kumarabandha, Ganjam district, Odisha state. He was murdered while sleeping on the verandah of his own house.
As a local leader of both the All-India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha (AIKMS, the farmers’ wing of the Communist Party of India) and Lok Sangram Manch, Adangu was defending the socio-economic and forest rights of the Saura people.
Adangu Gomango belonged to a poor tribal family of Kumarabandha. He had been active in the organisation of the Saura people in Ganjam district since 2001, under the banner of Lok Sangram Manch and AIKMS.
Adangu was an effective public speaker who was well versed in Saura, the local tribal language of the Saura people. He had immense faith in the power of peoples’ struggle. Right till the end he never stopped standing up for the Saura people and inspired them to organise themselves in their fight for basic rights.
In 2013, with the support of local landlords and ruling party leaders, Gomango was physically attacked by armed gunmen of Bajarang Dal, the youth movement of the Hindu right-wing party Vishva Hindu Parishad.
A few days before his murder, a clash between his fellow tribesmen and landlords of the neighboring village took place over forest land. The Saura people had received legal titles to these forest lands which the landlords wanted to take by force.
According to AIKMS national committee secretary Bhala Chandra Sarangi, the Saura people of the Gajapati district had migrated more than six decades ago to the jungle region of Ganjam district because government developmental schemes were not reaching the Saura people.
According to a local source, the landless Saura people have been provided pattas – records of land ownership – under the Forest Rights Act, and yet their lands have still not been recognised. “This has led to tussles between tribals and non-tribals in the region. We suspect the murder of Adangu was related to this tussle as he was leading protests for land rights in the area”, the source added.