India's Tata accused of harassing tribal protestorsPublished by MAC on 2010-03-31
Source: Joint Statement (2010-03-26)
Over several years, global conglomerate, Tata, has been trying to open a major steel plant at Kalinga Nagar in the Indian state of Orissa.
It was forced to drop the plans in January 2006, after police opened fire on demonstrators, killing 14 tribal people and a policeman. See: http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=3506
For most of the intervening period, resistant locals maintained a road blockade on access to the factory site.
Last year, the Tatas were accused of financially assisting the Indian military's "Operation Green Hunt" - which aims at wiping out Maoist guerrillas, operating in the indigenous hinterland.
This claim was rebutted by Tata in early March. See: http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=9950
However, a number of prominent groups in Orissa now claim that Tata "goons", aligned with the administration, have been harassing local people who oppose re-opening of the Kalinga Nagar plant site.
In particular, they say, a non-violent local movement - the BBJM - is being falsely targeted as a "terrorist" front.
URGENT: Tata sponsored 'Green Hunt' in Kalinga Nagar to destroy democratic tribal movement
Statement by Orissa NGOs/political parties
26 March 2010
Yesterday the Collector of Jajpur district assured Dabar Kalundia, a tribal leader of Bisthapan Birodhi Jan Manch (BBJM), that he would come to Baligotha village on 28 March for a meeting with the dissenting villagers and find a solution to the prevailing conflict.
But within a day the Collector has broken his word as today about 24 platoons of armed policemen have been deployed in Kalinga Nagar to suppress the democratic & non-violent movement of the BBJM.
It is feared that there will be bloodshed at a larger scale than 2 Jan 06 when 14 tribal men, women & children were killed in a police shootout. The villagers fear the police will attack tomorrow morning.
For more than 3 months now the resistance villages of Kalinga Nagar have been besieged by police forces who have randomly arrested dozens of villagers who stepped out of their village. People have been framed under false charges.
There has been repeated midnight attacks by policemen and Tata goons to annihilate key activists of the BBJM.
Hired assassins have also tried to eliminate the tribal leaders of the movement and one such attempt caused the death of Amin Banara of Baligotha village. Recently large number of police forces had been deployed on the pretext of building a road through the villages. Every attempt of the police and administration to quell the dissent of the people has been countered in democratic and non-violent ways by the BBJM.
The BBJM has clarified several times that it is not a Maoist backed organisation and does not want violence. The BBJM has made it clear that it will not accept displacement and mindless industrialisation that is already causing massive pollution in the area leading to widespread disease, crop failure, air, water & sound pollution.
The Collector also agreed to the meeting only after the BBJM wrote several letters to him demanding that their concerns be addressed first, as the Collector had been announcing in some meetings in the area that the Common Corridor Road would be built at any cost.
Surprisingly the print and electronic media have so far ignored developments in Kalinganagar which itself is a threat to democracy. Mainstream political parties also have reached a consensus with the ruling party which creates concerns among all citizens who understand the implications of mobilization of armed police in kalinganagar villages resisting Tata induced displacement.
We demand that the Govt should stop acting like a hired mercenary of Tata Steel company and withdraw all police forces from the area immediately. If there is any bloodshed the sole responsibility will lie on the Govt.
The Govt should also give up the Common Corridor Road project as it will be built on fertile farm land and the community land of the tribals. The Govt should respect the sacrifice of the 14 tribals killed by the police and scrap the Tata project immediately.
There should be no further displacement & dispossession of tribal people from their land. The Govt should immediately start working towards restoring peace in the area by assuring the tribals that there will be no attacks on them by the police or Tata goons.
A medical team should be sent to the villages immediately as people have not been able to visit doctors for days in fear of arrest.
We appeal to all concerned citizens, progressive groups & media persons to raise their voice against the Fascist tendencies of the Govt and express solidarity with the tribals of Kalinga Nagar.
Prafulla Samnatara, Lok Shakti Abhijan
Lingaraj, Samajbadi Jan Parishad
Radhakant Sethi, CPI-ML Liberation
Prashanta Paikrai, PPSS
Bhalachandra Sadangi, CPI-ML New Democracy
Lingaraj Azad, NSS