MAC: Mines and Communities

India: Horror Tales from Jharkhand

Published by MAC on 2011-09-19
Source: The Pioneer (2011-09-22)

Indian armed forces have been accused of conniving with a Chinese company, in using force to remove villagers from their iron-rich land in the state of Jharkhand.

On 21 September, the villagers assembled in the state capital, conducting a day-long protest in which they demanded a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) inquiry into the  deaths of Mangal Honhaga and Soma Guria, allegedly caused by police during their attacks over recent weeks.

For earlier relevant MAC posting, see: India’s highest court lays bare assaults on the country’s poorest peoples

Horror Tales from Saranda

The Pioneer

14 September 2011

Tholkobad village [Jharkhand State], situated uphill in the dense sal forests of Saranda about 280 km away from the State capital, is one of the sites of Operation Anaconda, the month-long joint combing initiative against Maoists run by the State police and the Central Reserve Police Force. The locals here have a shocking account to narrate.

The villagers were allegedly forced to leave their homes during the combing operations. A few of them, who very recently returned to Tholkobad after a month to collect articles left behind, spoke to The Pioneer.

Binodini, a midday meal maker in the primary school of the village, said: "About a month ago, police entered the village and started shooting one morning. We stayed inside our homes, shivering in terror. They slapped us and asked us to leave our homes and took away our BPL cards, voter IDs, and land deeds given by the Government years ago. They destroyed everything. We fled to nearby villages, Karampada and Kiriburu. Today (September 8) we are returning to collect our stuff."

While seven of eight villages covered under the operation - Tiril Posi, Bitkelsoi, Gundijoda, Rattamati, Digha, Nayagaon and Baliba - faced the ire of the security forces, the identity proofs of Tholkobad residents were snatched and allegedly destroyed by forces.

Refuting the charges, IG Operations, CRPF, DK Pandey said, "Mere allegations made by the villagers won't help us get to the bottom of things. The investigation is on and the truth will come out."

According to the list of MoUs signed by the Arjun Munda Government in 2006, Electro Steel, a Chinese company, had been allotted land near Tholkobad to set up its mining reserves and export raw iron ore through the Sahebganj-Barhet road and the north-eastern corridor to China.

Gladson Dungdung, a member of the Planning Commission, said, "The Chinese company is mounting pressure on the State Government to take over the land as early as possible."

Setting up of operational mines in the reserves areas requires a mandatory undertaking from the company to maintain the standards of environmental balance to the Ministry of Environment and Forest and a written declaration that there is no violation of the Forests Rights Act.

"Companies are required just to clear two major hindrances on their way to set up mines in forest areas. Destroying evidence and identity proofs of villagers by the security forces is illegal," said Dungdung, who is also a renowned social worker.

In the case of Tholkobad village, the first condition should have been fulfilled by the company through plantation drives once the mines have been set up while the second criterion requires support from the Government to prove that the environment issue has been addressed in the area and the human population has been evacuated peacefully, thus making it clear that there is no violation of the provisions of the Forest Rights Act.

Dungdung said, "Forces resorted to violence in a planned manner, destroying the identification cards of Tholkobad villagers in around 50 households."

The DG of Jharkhand Police, GS Rath, said if the security forces have destroyed any such papers, then it might not have been intentional. "A CID investigation has been ordered. We will soon know what really happened."

Rubbishing the police claims that Operation Anaconda was a successful mission, PUCL leader Shashi Bhushan Pathak said: "In the name of action against Maoists, villagers were deprived of their rights to the land and forests in Jharkhand. The National Human Rights Commission should sit up and take note."


Rehab of villagers top priority after Saranda operation

Times of India

6 September 2011

JAMSHEDPUR: After the month-long Operation Monsoon in the dense forest covers of Saranda, rehabilitation of villagers remains the prime concern of the state administration. The re-establishment of civil administration in the isolated zone tops the priority list of government agencies.

The Kolhan commissionary has worked out phase wise development for Maoist-prone Saranda to win over the confidence of the villagers, largely sandwiched between armed Maoist cadres and security personnel.

"The administration has a definite plan for infusing normal civilian life back into Saranda and for this we have worked out schemes for phase-wise implementation," said Navin Kumar Singh, DIG-Kolhan.

He said health schemes would be carried out on a priority basis as large sections of villagers are left wanting effective health measures in the wake of non-existence of civil machinery for years.

"In the first phase we have to carry out the pending welfare schemes of the government and in the second phase we will draw area-specific development schemes and in the third phase agencies will focus on improving the overall life standard and income earning capacity of the affected villagers," said Singh here on Tuesday.

He, however, added that Maoist presence in the area, since the late Nineties, has only led to the situation deteriorating. The DIG claimed that the month-long operation against the leftwing ultras in Saranda, identified as Eastern Regional Bureau, (ERB) of the CPI Maoist prevented senior functionaries of the banned outfit from holding strategic meetings.

"After Bastar (in Chhattisgarh) Saranda was identified as the second liberated zone of the Maoists, but thankfully the operation destroyed their bureau's infrastructure and also senior functionaries couldn't hold strategic meetings in their claimed safe zone," said Singh.

The DIG said over a period of time the technical wing of the Maoists manufactured 100 mortars and a huge number of shells in the forest cover which was also the R&D centre for the outfit. The ultras also accumulated a large quantity of explosives and stored them in the houses of villagers to hoodwink security personnel.


Aggrieved inhabitants of Saranda demand justice

Daily Pioneer

22 September 2011 

Ranchi - Inhabitants of several villages under Saranda forest cover demanded justice against the atrocities done to them allegedly by the Jharkhand Police and CRPF jawans during the month long combing operation against Maoists.

The aggrieved villagers were in the State Capital to participate in a day-long dharna staged under the aegis of Jharkhand Human Rights Movement and Adivasi forums on Wednesday at Albert Ekka Chowk.

Demanding a CBI inquiry on the death of Mangal Honhaga and Soma Guria allegedly by police-forces, and arrest of the guilty police officers, the JHRM was protesting against the visit of Union Home Secretary Raj Kumar Singh to west Singhbhum.

President of JHRM, Sunil Minz during a day-long protest stated that Government is mulling to evacuate the area under a planned strategy. Operation Anaconda had begun to torture the innocent villagers, destroy their identity proofs such as Voter- Id cards, BPL cards and land-deeds, so as no claims can be made by them.

The land can thus be transferred to corporate houses for mining," said Minz while demanding justice to the victims of the month-long operation.

Several victims of Saranda were represented by Pator Gagrai, Sunia Soi, Vikram Mundari from Tirilposi village. Sunia, who was brutally beaten up by CRPF jawans by hanging him reverse, said, "We lived in a state of fear for more than a month. They ate our livestock, our stored food-grains and even destroyed our identity-proofs. We need justice."

The day-long protest demanded justice to the survivors and family-members of Mangal Honhaga and Soma Guria, Rs 10 lakh as compensation amount, government job, and protection to the family of the deceased.

Other demands included implementation of Forest Rights Act, PESA Act, re-instatement of education, medical and health facilities, drinking water facilities in villages under Saranda. JHRM also demanded cancellation of MoUs done for establishment of mining industries in Saranda.

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