MAC: Mines and Communities

Maoist army cripples Hindalco mining unit

Published by MAC on 2005-05-09

Rebel raid on giant - Maoist army cripples Hindalco mining unit

R. Krishna Das and Satish John, The Telegraph India

May 9 2005

Raipur/Mumbai: Maoists have picked out a mining unit of Hindalco, India's largest aluminium and copper producer, for the biggest guerrilla attack on a corporate facility in the country.

Around 200 Maoists, some of them armed with AK-47 rifles, stormed and shut down operations of the aluminium mining unit of Hindalco at Chhattisgarh's Saridih, around 490 km from the capital Raipur, on Saturday evening.

The extremists razed several buildings in the complex, using Hindalco's own bulldozers in what is suspected to be a revenge attack.

Saridih falls in Balrampur, an area worst affected by Naxalite violence in Chhattisgarh.

Balrampur superintendent of police Sitaram Kaluri said security forces taking part in raids on Maoist hideouts had stayed in the rest house and residential premises of the company while patrolling.

The officer said this could have misled the Naxalites into believing the company was assisting the police in operations against the extremists. None of the company's official at Saridih was willing to comment.

However, in Mumbai, where Hindalco has its corporate headquarters, a spokesperson said police protection in the area was withdrawn a week ago.

"They (the Maoists) used bulldozers to demolish buildings, including the laboratory, staff quarters, office buildings and a guesthouse," the spokesperson said.

Though mining at Saridih has come to a standstill, Hindalco, controlled by Kumar Mangalam Birla, said its national operations would not be affected as the company has other captive mines across the country.

Isolated attacks against big companies have been reported from militancy-affected areas in Andhra Pradesh and the Northeast. But the attack on the Hindalco establishment surpasses the earlier instances in its scale and style and resembles raids familiar to rebel bastions like Nepal.

Rarely have so many guerrillas ­ around 200 ­ launched a single operation against a company. The tried-and-tested formula is remote-controlled explosions or targeted attacks on individuals. Last year, suspected Naxalites attacked a Coca-Cola unit in Andhra by planting explosives ­ one of which went off, causing minor damage.

But the raid on the Saridih mining unit was more audacious and direct. The Balrampur superintendent of police said the Maoists came in trucks and other vehicles and cordoned off the area before launching the assault.

They first took senior officials, including geologist D.K. Sinha and chemical engineer R.K. Verma, hostage. They then took the officers to the mines, overpowered four security guards and seized the bulldozers.

The rebels first razed the guesthouse, then seven residential blocks and office premises. They also set fire to several documents.

The attackers wanted to damage a hospital and a temple, but many villagers who had gathered there dissuaded them. The officials were also let off unharmed on the request of the villagers, a police officer said.

The Maoists took away two trucks and a jeep after loading them with computers, almirahs, and other office furniture. Unofficial estimates put the damage to property at Rs 1 crore.

Hindalco Challenged at its Corporate office in Mumbai - Hindalco Urged to Withdraw from Mining Operations in Kashipur

May 12th, 2005

Kashipur Support Group, Mumbai.

Kashipur Support Group demanded the Hindalco company to immediately withdraw from all mining activities from the tribal areas of Kashipur, Orissa. This was conveyed to the company today at a protest march at its corporate headquarters in Worli, Mumbai.

Hindalco, a Birla company, is part of a consortium of private companies collectively known as UAIL (Utkal Alumina International Ltd) that was formed to initiate a project to extract bauxite ores and produce alumina. The project area is chiefly occupied by adivasis and dalits. This project, if executed will lead to large-scale displacement and loss of livelihood for these people. The Norwegian development agency, NORAD, has estimated that about 60000 people will be displaced by this project. The people of Kashipur have been opposing the project since its inception.

Representatives of different organisations, students and concerned citizens formed the hours-long protest in front of Hindalco. They sang songs, held placards and distributed leaflets to the general public highlighting the human rights violations, and social and environmental impacts of bauxite mining in the area.

In 2001, police fired at unarmed tribal protesters killing 3 people and since then the area witnessed large-scale police presence and repression. On December 01, 2004, Orissa police launched a brutal lathi charge on 400 adivasis, mostly women, who had gathered to peacefully protest against the inauguration of a new road to a proposed bauxite-mining site in Baphlimali owned by ALCAN (a Montreal based multi national company). As a result, 16 people were critically injured and three women were beaten unconscious. Since this incident, we understand that Kashipur, a seat of resistance against bauxite mining, has been in a state of virtual siege. Platoons of armed police with firing orders have occupied Kucheipadar village - the centre of the struggle.

The protesters also delivered an open letter to the Hindalco Company, to withdraw from Kashipur area and allow the indigenous people to decide over their future and livelihood. They further demanded immediate withdrawal of police force and all responsible for the police firing on innocent people be punished according to law.

Kashipur Support Group is an informal group of concerned organisations and individuals in Mumbai.

An Open letter to Hindalco Company

We, the concerned citizens from Mumbai, support the people of Kashipur, Orissa who are fighting to save the land they lived in and sustained them since generations, from mining companies including yours. Today, they are pushed to a stage that they have no other option than to struggle to protect their land, culture and their very livelihood. The serious violation of their rights demands that this struggle is not to be confined in the interiors of Kashipur but their plight has to be highlighted. We stand for true development, which values human life and environment. We further believe that the fight in Kashipur redefines the economic priorities and development perspectives of our country.

We are concerned about the gross violation of adivasi rights including their Constitutional right to decide on the developmental projects on their land. We oppose the attempts by the state, in collaboration with the company, to forcefully occupy their lands in the name of 'development'. It's a matter of shame that the so-called development and years of democracy and independence could not even bring a school to the area till now. The attempts to bring in developmental activities, in violation of their right to life, are just eyewash in the name of corporate responsibility. The large-scale mining of Bauxite in the region is destroying the ecological balance of the area. Unjust exploitation of water resources is resulting in drying up of water sources and the processing of bauxite is polluting the land, besides driving over 70,000 tribals destitute.

What the people are fighting for is to save the natural resources like forest, land and water from unsustainable exploitation and destruction of their livelihoods and communities. This is opposed to the 'rape and run' attitude of corporates and profit makers. They are fighting for their right to decide upon their future and the right kind of development they require.

The attempts by the state and companies to reign in terror and coerce people into submission are re-enactment of the imperial policies and autocratic state. The people in Kashipur have the solidarity of all those across the country, who fight for justice and peace.

We urge you to enter into a dialogue with the people and their organisation that are fighting in the area. We further request the state government to immediately withdraw the police force from the area. All the police officials who were responsible for the firing in 2000 should be brought to book.

If your involvement in Kashipur cannot be in the absence of large-scale human rights violation and environmental damages, the least you can do is to withdraw from the mining and let the people live with dignity.

Hope sense will prevail before forests come to war.

Hum Kashipur Sangharsh ke sath hai.

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