State violence in Kalinganagar

To:  Chief Minister of Orissa

We are deeply alarmed at the murderous attacks on adivasis in Orissa by the police working with mercenaries hired by Tata Steel. These brutal attacks took place on March 30th, 2010 in eight villages in Jajpur district — Chandia, Baligoth, Chama Kutli, Gobarghati, Garhpur, Belhari and Ambagaria. A citizens’ committee convened under the leadership of Justice Chaudhry Pratap Mishra (Retd. Judge of Orissa High Court) visited the affected regions and reported the police/mercenaries’ attack as“unwarranted” and “preplanned”. The committee noted that about 30-40 adivasis, including women and children have suffered bullet injuries and that the state has made no effort to treat the injured. The lack of medical access has resulted in the death of at least three people — Balema Goipai, Sikander Kalundia and Ghanshyam Kalundia. In addition, the miscreants wielding swords and other deadly weapons destroyed the villagers’ homes and belongings and damaged food grains and livestock.

The free presence of gangs of thugs, who seem to not fall under the purview of the existing prohibitory orders under Section 144, raises the specter of further attacks on the helpless villagers. The few journalists who managed to slip in past the district police’s forcible denial of access to the area, were greeted by an eerie silence and “found to their horror ransacked houses and damaged household articles.” Two journalists, Amulya Pati and Manas (Sambad) were attacked on April 5, 2010, as they were trying to reach Gobarghati and other tribal villages.

We note that these attacks on villagers are not isolated, but just the latest chapter in a long-term campaign of violence and intimidation launched by the state government with active support from Tata Steel’s mercenaries and local supporters of the Biju Janata Dal. On January 2, 2006 during a protest against the land takeover, unprovoked shooting by the police in Kalinganagar claimed the lives of twelve adivasis. The clear intent of these attacks is to forcibly drive the adivasis away from their homes and lands and build a common corridor road for the benefit of large corporate interests such as Tata Steel. Even as the police and illegal mercenary gangs continue their campaign of violence, the adivasi villagers have continued to exercise their democratic rights through non-violent means. All the adivasis demand is the cessation of forced displacement and compensation in the form of land for land. The adivasis have taken pains to point out that the existing industries are already interconnected by roads appropriate to their needs, and, in any case, unused lands exist for building the common corridor road such that no mass displacement would be required.

It is outrageous that the state has allied itself with mega corporate interests and unleashed such terror to crush the democratic aspirations of the very people it is supposed to represent. That the latest attacks were initiated only three days after a meeting between the district collector of Jajpur and the Bisthapan Birodhi Jan Manch, a local adivasi organization that has been spearheading the adivasi resistance against displacement, underscores the state’s contempt for its own citizens.

We express our solidarity toward the adivasi people fighting against the armed might of the corporate state and join other citizens groups to demand

  1. an immediate withdrawal of police forces from the area and cessation of attacks on the people by the police, Tata steel mercenaries and Biju Janata Dal gangs.
  2. speedy provision of medical assistance to people injured from the recent attacks and otherwise.
  3. prompt legal action against the police officers, corporate mercenaries, and political thugs engaged in acts of violence.
  4. an immediate halt to the common corridor project and an unequivocal commitment from the Chief Minister of Orissa to negotiate a settlement of the issue based on the common sense notion that those who depend on their land for their livelihood should be compensated in kind, and not cash. As observed by the Ministry of Rural Development in its recently released report, adivasis have borne the brunt of displacement due to development projects, and that such land alienation and the consequent distress migration has devastated adivasi families. The state needs to respect the fact that adivasi resistance to displacement stems from real life experiences and should therefore desist from any actions that would involve displacement until all the previously displaced people have been allotted agricultural land.
  5. steps to ensure safe and free movement of people in Jajpur district.
  6. financial compensation of at least Rs 1 lakh for every person injured in the firing during the attacks.

Sincerely,
The Undersigned


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