MAC: Mines and Communities

India: Police fire on anti-mining protesters in Hazaribagh, kills four

Published by MAC on 2016-10-01
Source: Thewire.in, IANS (2016-10-03)

Villagers initiated a Chita Satyagraha opposing land acquisition without their consent

Villagers in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand, Hazaribag district, vowed to continue their protest against state-run NTPC Ltd coal mine after four people were killed when police opened fire during clashes, forcing a halt to operations at the site.

The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has issued a statement condemning the police brutality.

See also:

2016-10-03 Photo coverage of police brutality in Hazaribag, India

2013-05-21 India: Police Repression in Hazaribagh

Charged with arson in Adivasi villages, Chhattisgarh police continues to light fires

Police constables burnt effigies of activists and journalists, and the Inspector General termed any opposition to the police as "anti-national".

Malini Subramaniam

http://scroll.in/article/819952/charged-for-arson-in-adivasi-villages-chhattisgarh-police-continues-to-light-fires

Oct 26, 2016

On Monday afternoon, simultaneously in the seven districts of Chhattisgarh's Bastar region, groups of policemen set out from police stations with effigies made of cloth stuffed with hay.

Pinned on the effigies were the photos of five people: Nandini Sundar, Professor of Sociology at Delhi University; Soni Sori, Adivasi activist and member of the Aam Aadmi Party; Manish Kunjam, President of Adivasi Mahasabha and a former MLA of the Communist Party of India (Marxist); Himanshu Kumar, social activist; Bela Bhatia, researcher and activist.

The policemen gathered at road crossings, shouting slogans against them, calling them "traitors" who had betrayed the country. They punched, kicked and burnt their effigies. In some places, they were called Maoists, in other places, they were accused of working for them. As the protest gathered momentum, a sixth effigy surfaced: I had been added to the gallery of "traitors".

This isn't the first time that activists and journalists have been targetted in Bastar. The scenes brought back memories of February 2016 when a mob had shouted slogans against me in Jagadalpur, burning my effigies, building pressure which eventually forced me to leave the region.

Those protests were spearheaded by a civil vigilante group, Samajik Ekta Manch, which, an investigation showed, worked at the behest of the police, while retaining a veneer of independence.

Now even that fig leaf has been dropped. Instead of upholding the law, the police itself is openly and brazenly targetting people who question it.

Indictment of the police

The protests are a reaction to the events of last week. On October 17, the Central Bureau of Investigation held Chhattisgarh police responsible for acts of arson in three Adivasi villages of Sukma district in 2011. In March that year, more than 200 homes and granaries in Morpalli, Tadmetla and Teemapuram were torched by the police in the course of an anti-Maoist operation. Five years later, seven auxiliary constables (former special police officers) have been charged by the CBI, and will face trial in a special court in Raipur.

This is an extremely significant development. The state, which has been in the grip of an armed insurgency by Maoist guerillas, most of whom are local Adivasis, has seen several cases where security forces stand accused of violence against ordinary civilians in the name of anti-Maoist operations. But most of these cases go uninvestigated, since the local police has no incentive to probe itself.

This is a rare case in which a central agency was entrusted with the investigation by the Supreme Court. In the course of the final hearings of a petition filed by Sundar and others against Salwa Judum, the anti-Maoist civil militia propped up by the state government in 2005, the judges took note of a plea by Swami Agnivesh, who had been attacked by a mob while he was taking relief supplies to the arson-hit villages. The mob was made up of members of the Salwa Judum.

Several men who worked for the Judum had been absorbed by the state police as special police officers. In May 2011, the Supreme Court held Salwa Judum and the appointment of the SPOs as unconstitutional. The state government disbanded nearly 5000 SPOs, only to reappoint most of them as sahayak aarakshaks, or auxiliary constables.

Seven such constables had been charged by the CBI. The protests on Monday were mostly staged by policemen drawn from their ranks. But support has come right from the top: the seniormost police officer of Bastar has defended the constables.

Shifting stances

On Saturday, the Inspector General of Bastar police, Shiv Ram Prasad Kalluri, addressed the media in Jagdalpur. "Whatever happened was under my instruction," he said. In 2011, Kalluri was the senior superintendent of police of Dantewada district (Sukma was part of Dantewada then).

"Main koi kayar nahin hun," he continued. I am not a coward. "If any action is to be taken, it should be taken against me as I was the SSP then...the FIR clearly states the police went under the instructions of the SSP. I am responsible."

Defending the police's actions, he said when security forces go to Maoist areas, "war is bound to erupt".

He added: "There will be firing, there will be blasts, and when there are bomb blasts, the thatched roof houses are bound to catch fire. We never said houses did not catch fire, but it happened in the course of police action. The police did not set them on fire."

Kalluri’s admission that the houses got burnt "in the course of police action" was in complete contrast to the stance maintained by the police for five years. The First Information Reports filed by the additional superintendent of police, D S Maravi, who led the security forces in the March 2011 operation, state that in the exchange of fire between the Maoists and the security personnel, the Maoists "torched the houses on the night of encounter".

Instead of explaining the change in stance, Kalluri turned belligerent. "Creating an atmosphere of doubt and trying to break the morale of the police who are taking care of internal security is unfair and anti-national," he concluded.

Sweeping allegations

On Monday, a statement released by a collective of police constables on social media reflected Kalluri's tone and tenor, but went one step further in making allegations against the five activists. The statement said they were participating in the loot of Bastar, and colluding with the Maoists for monetary gain. The money extracted by the Maoists, it added, was split between the five of them.

The policemen alleged that the activists and others were spreading propaganda against them. Foregrounding their Adivasi identity, they said they would never harm other Adivasis, but only help them. They did not stop to reflect on the fact that two of the people whose effigies they had burnt were also Adivasis.

The constables accused the activists of remaining silent when security forces were killed by the Maoists. They said that when the security forces acted against the Maoists, the activists rushed to defend them by claiming those arrested or killed were not Maoists but ordinary villagers. This weakened the morale of the security forces, they said.

They justified their act of burning our effigies as the only option to expose us, who they termed as gaddars (traitors). It is only when such traitors leave, will Bastar improve, they said. The irony is that both Kumar and I have already been forced out of Bastar. Bhatia, Sori and Kunjam have been repeatedly targetted and harassed. Sundar, who lives in Delhi, has found it hard to travel to Bastar for her field work.

What more does the police want to do?

The rule of law

Can serving policemen take to the streets in protest against citizens?

A N Upadhyay, the Director General of Chhattisgarh Police, did not take phone calls that I made to his office.

But a senior police officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the action amounted to a contravention of the Indian Police Act. Legal action could be taken against not only those who participated in the action, but also those who condoned it.

Speaking to me on phone, Nandini Sundar put it succinctly: "This was not so much an attack on activists rather on the Constitution, the Supreme Court and the independence of the CBI."

She has filed a petition in the Supreme Court, asking for Kunjam to be assigned a security guard from a central force, and Chhattisgarh police and associated vigilante groups be refrained from public display of hostility.

Sundar has also asked for action against Inspector General of police, Kalluri, "for orchestrating and encouraging the lawlessness displayed by the SPOs and other members of the police force, as well as for his own intemperate, intimidatory and provocative statements against the petitioners and other social activists, which has encouraged violence against them in the past, and is likely to do so in the future too."


A village under siege puts NTPC project in limbo

NTPC had started acquiring 8,000 acres across 28 villages for mining in 2006.

Satyavrat Mishra

http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/a-village-under-siege-puts-ntpc-project-in-limbo-116100301071_1.html

October 4, 2016

Dadikala — a small village just a couple of kilometres from Barkagaon, 30 km from Hazaribagh town — seems to be under siege.

The road to the village is heavily fortified and no one is being allowed there after four villagers were killed in police firing on Saturday. Everyone on this road is being photographed and vehicle registration numbers noted. The picturesque town of Barkagaon, too, has become a fortress after the incident. Rapid Action Force and armed policemen in full riot gear are stationed at every corner. The fear of police reprisal seems apparent, as all those Business Standard spoke to refused to be photographed.

Dadikala came under the limelight after Pawan Kumar (16), Abhishek Rai (18), Ranjan Rai (18) and Mohammad Mehtab Alam (29) were killed in police firing. The police said they were trying to dispel a mob that had wanted to free Congress Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from Barkagaon, Nirmala Devi. She has been leading a protest over compensation being paid to villagers for the land being acquired by NTPC for the Pakri Barwadih coal mining project. Police had taken her into custody for leading an agitation though Section 144 was imposed. Police officers said they were forced to open fire after the mob assaulted them. An additional superintendent of police (operations) and a circle officer were seriously injured in the incident. Their vehicles were also torched.

But the four who died were not part of the mob, allege locals. “They were innocent bystanders,” says Mohammed Rasid, who runs a small shop in Barkagaon. “They were not even part of the mob that had attacked the police team, which had taken Nirmala Devi into custody.”

Sanjay Mehto, a resident of Karanpura, says: “Those who were killed belonged to poor families. Pawan was a meritorious student, whose parents were daily wage earners. Mehtab Alam was a tailor and the sole breadwinner of his family.”

NTPC had started acquiring 8,000 acres across 28 villages for mining in 2006. Protests had started then. At the heart of the agitation was discontent over the Rs 2 lakh an acre compensation then promised by NTPC. In 2010, NTPC agreed to pay Rs 20 lakh an acre, after an agreement with the villagers. But this time around, the villagers started demanding compensation under the Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Act, 2013. The latest Act says four times the market value of land must be paid by a public sector utility for land acquisition.

The land being acquired is considered one of the most fertile in Jharkhand. Most people who were set to lose their land are farmers with small holdings. The proposed mine is claimed to be one of the largest coal blocks of Asia.

Surendra Sao, whose land was acquired for the project, says: “NTPC gave us Rs 20 lakh for an acre. That’s very low. According to the Act passed by the central government, we should get at least Rs 35 lakh.” Some are even demanding Rs 70 lakh an acre. Residents say this situation has come about because the district administration had stopped the sale of land in localities close to the mine to anyone except NTPC, according to the legal procedure of land acquisition.

However, administrative officials have another view. “In 2006, when NTPC decided to acquire land, people demanded higher compensation. It was raised to Rs 20 lakh an acre in 2010. However, now they are demanding even more. When we refused, they tried to hold us to ransom. How can this be justified?” asks a senior police officer. Sanjay Kumar, who runs a confectionery shop in Barkagaon market, becomes livid when someone asks him for a solution. “There is a solution to every problem, even Kashmir.

However, the authorities don’t want to listen to the people. Everyone is trying to score political gains. This is the third incident of firing over this issue in Barkagaon and half a dozen people have lost their lives. Political parties of every hue and colour have fired upon the people.” Police personnel eating in his shop nod.

The incident has scared away NTPC officials, its contractors and labourers. All of them have left the construction sites and offices in Barkagaon. “Nobody is here, the office is locked,” says Syeed Latif, an assistant sub-inspector at the site office. The six unit office complexes are empty and there are locks on every gate. Repeated calls to NTPC officials went unanswered. The NTPC power plant site is completely vacant. Nearby eateries are empty, its owners unsure of future prospects.

“It is a very big incident,” says Sunder Soni, owner of four eateries situated nearby. “There used to be more than 100 labourers working round the clock here. However, all of them left in a hurry on Saturday. It will be awhile before they return. The situation is very tense.”

However, police officers say the situation is under control and there is nothing to be worried about. “Everything is fine here, there is no need to be worried,” Barkagaon police station chief Vinay Kumar Gupta says with confidence. But the assertion in his voice fades when he is asked the route to Dadikala.

Rajendra Mehto, a resident, asks: “Why don’t you ask the deputy commissioner whether NTPC has taken the approval of 70 per cent of the Gram Sabha members?” Under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, an entity has to get 70 per cent of the Gram Sabha members concerned to approve the acquisition of forest land.

The incident happened at a time when Chief Minister Raghubar Das and his high-powered team is hard-selling the state to prospective domestic and foreign investors. Das, who reached Ranchi on Sunday from the US, ordered a high-level probe into the matter. “We are trying to find who was behind the incident.  Justice will be done after a proper probe,” Chief Secretary Raj Bala Verma had told the media.

Police have lodged a First Information Report against the Barkagaon MLA, her husband Yogendra Sao, a former agriculture minister, 35 named and 100 unnamed persons for the violence and attacks. Sao was earlier ousted from the district for disturbing the law and order situation. However, the ouster order was later cancelled by a district court earlier this year.

Many villagers agree Sao is a discredited politician. But for the land-losers, he is their only leader. “He was branded a criminal as part of a conspiracy. He is the only person fighting for us. It was Sao who forced NTPC to increase compensation from Rs 8 lakh to Rs 20 lakh an acre. He was in jail when his wife fought the election and won by a huge margin. He has public support. Why don’t you question NTPC and the company’s agent and their goons?” asks one Mansoor Alam. 


Villagers in eastern India vow to keep up coal mine protest after four killed

Land conflicts erupt frequently in India, as more land is sought for industrial use and development projects in the fast-growing economy.

Jatindra Dash

Reuters - http://news.trust.org/item/20161003103309-a7u1f/

3 October 2016

Villagers in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand vowed to continue their protest against a coal mine after four people were killed when police opened fire during clashes at the weekend, forcing a halt to operations at the site.

Villagers in Hazaribag district say state-run NTPC Ltd has violated forestry rights and did not offer them jobs or adequate compensation when acquiring land for a coal mining site. A company official said compensation paid was fair.

"We will not bow down. We will intensify our agitation," Yogendra Saw, a protest leader, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday.

Conflicts over land rights erupt frequently in India, as more land is sought for industrial use and development projects in the fast-growing economy.

NTPC had paid the villagers 2 million rupees ($30,000) per acre as agreed, said B.B. Mohapatra, a human resources official at NTPC. Villagers were now demanding three to five times that amount, he said.

"The situation is very grave," he said.

"We have stopped work at the mine site. We will restart after the situation is back to normal," he said.

Police had been deployed in Hazaribag and the situation is "under control", senior police officer M.S. Bhatia said.

Several laws have been introduced in the past decade - including the Land Acquisition Act 2013 and the Forest Rights Act - to protect the rights of farmers and indigenous people. But some laws have been diluted in their implementation and not always helped the vulnerable, activists say.

In August, two people were killed in Gola district in Jharkhand when villagers protesting the loss of their homes to a power plant clashed with police.

Earlier this year, the Jharkhand government approved amendments to two laws to enable the acquisition of tribal land for commercial use.

Environmentalists have criticised the move, saying more checks and balances are needed to prevent the misuse of land in the resource-rich state where tensions run high between poor farmers and industrial developers.

($1 = 66.495 Indian rupees)

(Writing by Rina Chandran, Editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)


NAPM Condemns Dastardly Act of Police Terror in Hazaribagh Which Left Five Protestors Dead

Following violent clashes between the Jharkhand police and villagers protesting against the NTPC plant in Hazaribagh today which left five dead, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has issued a statement condemning the police brutality. A letter was also written to the NHRC demanding an immediate intervention. Share to support.

http://www.indiaresists.com/napm-condemns-dastardly-act-police-terror-hazaribagh-killing-five-people/

October 1, 2016

Early morning today Jharkhand Police opened fire on protesting villagers against the forcible land acquisition for a thermal power plant being built by NTPC in district Hazaribagh, Chirdudih area. The firing has left five people dead, 12 critically injured and nearly 50 injured. There is a curfew in the area, outsiders can’t go and many missing are yet to be traced.

The protests against the NTPC plant have been going on since 2010, when the project was announced. NTPC till date has forcibly and fraudulently acquired 8,056 acres of land. However, many issues even on the acquired land remains to be resolved, including higher compensation, employment and so on. Without meeting any of the promises and resolving the outstanding issues, attempts continue to be made to forcibly acquire more land, completely violating many provisions of the Land Act 2013.

Protests have been ongoing at the site and in last ten days thousands from different villages of the Barkagaon had been staging Kafan (shroud) satyagrah. Government rather than trying to resolve the situation tried to arrest one of the leaders and after resistance from the villagers resorted to police firing leading to death of five people.

National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) condemns this dastardly act of terror and unprovoked firing on the long resistance against the forcible acquisition of land. This incident comes barely few months after a police firing on villagers protesting ill impacts of thermal power plants left two dead in Ramgarh district. The impunity with which the Jharkhand government has been dealing with peaceful protests and several instances of opening fire on the peaceful protesters raises serious questions of violations of human rights and complete disregard for the law and order.

The incident also exposes the continued repression and exploitation of the adivasis and the land despite Jharkhand becoming a separate state in 2001. In 15 years, the Indian State and political class has only colluded with the private corporations for exploiting the natural resources. This has often faced stiff resistance from the people and led to manifold instances of police firing, imprisonment and torture. We support the demand of the people asserting their rights over their land, water, forests and minerals and stand in solidarity with their struggle.

We have written to the NHRC and asked them to urgently intervene in the matter and undertake the following action:

    To put a STOP TO THIS REIGN OF TERROR in Jharkhand.
    To immediately ask police to withdraw from the area and let injured be treated and no further violence be inflicted on them.
    To not start witchhunt and arrest of the villagers as we have witnessed in numerous instances in past.
    To take immediate action on the police officials who ordered firing and led to death of four people.
    To immediately ask the Jharkhand government to stop an end to the forcible land acquisition, which is rampant in the state and often has led to the death and imprisonment of the adivasis and farmers there.

Medha Patkar – Narmada Bachao Andolan and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM); Prafulla Samantara – Lok Shakti Abhiyan & Lingraj Azad – Samajwadi Jan Parishad – Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, NAPM, Odisha; Dr. Sunilam, Aradhna Bhargava – Kisan Sangharsh Samiti & Meera – Narmada Bachao Andolan, NAPM, MP; Suniti SR, Suhas Kolhekar, Prasad Bagwe – NAPM, Maharashtra; Gabriele Dietrich, Geetha Ramakrishnan – Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, NAPM, TN; C R Neelkandan – NAPM Kerala; P Chennaiah & Ramakrishnam Raju – NAPM Andhra Pradesh, Arundhati Dhuru, Richa Singh, Nandlal Master – NAPM, UP; Sister Celia – Domestic Workers Union & Rukmini V P, Garment Labour Union, NAPM, Karnataka; Vimal Bhai – Matu Jan sangathan & Jabar Singh, NAPM, Uttarakhand; Anand Mazgaonkar, Krishnakant – Paryavaran Suraksh Samiti, NAPM Gujarat; Kamayani Swami, Ashish Ranjan – Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan & Mahendra Yadav – Kosi Navnirman Manch, NAPM Bihar;Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmatgar, J S Walia, NAPM Haryana; Kailash Meena, NAPM Rajasthan; Amitava Mitra & Avik Saha, NAPM West Bengal; Bhupender Singh Rawat – Jan Sangharsh Vahini & Rajendra Ravi, Madhuresh Kumar – NAPM, Delhi


Police Firing on Anti-Mining Protesters in Hazaribagh Kills Four

Section 144 has been imposed in Badkagaon, Hazaribagh after serious casualties occurred in police firing on a local protest against forest land being acquired for coal-mining.

Ankush Vengurlekar

http://thewire.in/70306/hazaribagh-four-dead-police-firing-anti-mining-protest/

1 October, 2016

On May 31, villagers in the area initiated a Chita Satyagraha opposing the land acquisition without their consent. Government officials intervened and promised to resolve the matter, asking them to dismiss the satyagraha.

On September 15, the villagers began a Kafan (Shroud) Satyagraha, demanding that the district collector investigate whether the NTPC had obtained the approval of the gram sabha, as required by law.

“More than a thousand villagers had been sleeping at the protest site, where five companies of police and one company of the Rapid Action Force were deployed today morning,” said Birendra Kumar, from the Ekta Parishad coalition.

“At 4 am, the CO [circle officer] and other members of the force started pushing protesters to ask them to vacate the path ahead of NTPC’s heavy machinery. On resisting, the women who were sitting at the head of the group started to be dragged by their hair by the police. [Congress MLA] Nirmala Devi, who was leading the protest, was arrested in the morning also.”

“The news that women were being beaten was relayed to nearby villages, and more villagers poured into the site. To diffuse the crowd, the police first fired tear gas,” Kumar said. “When tear gas too didn’t control the crowd, the police opened fire on these protesters. Three people died on the spot, and over 40 are injured. Reports of more deaths are coming in from the Sadar Hospital, Hazaribagh.”

An additional superintendent of police and a circle officer were also reportedly hurt. A Jharkhand police spokesperson said the police only opened fire in self-defence. “The enraged villagers did charge at the police, but there were no serious injuries,” Kumar said.

Section 144 is in effect in Hazaribagh while villagers scramble for information about those who have been injured and carried to the hospitals. The beginning of Navratri has been a bloody one in the villages of Barkagaon block, Hazaribagh and villagers anger towards NTPC is peaking.


Four Jharkhand villagers killed in police firing

IANS - http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/4-Jharkhand-villagers-killed-in-police-firing-in-Hazaribagh-district/2016/10/01/article3634240.ece

1 October, 2016

At least four villagers were killed and more than 20 injured in police firing in Jharkhand's Hazaribagh district on Saturday morning, an officer said.

"Prohibitory orders were imposed in area. The situation is under control. Additional forces were sent to spot," Inspector General Operation and Police spokesperson M.S. Bhatia told IANS.

According to Bhatia, the problem began when police took Congress legislator Nirmala Devi from Barkagaon in Hazaribagh into custody.

She has been staging a protest at the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) plant gate for last few days.

"The NTPC was finding difficulties in taking heavy machines inside the work area. Police took custody of the Congress legislator. The villagers forcefully freed Nirmala Devi and abducted Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP), Circle Officer (CO) and thrashed them brutally. Additional reinforcement were sent. The aggressive villagers continued pelting stones on the police," said Bhatia.

At least six policemen were critically injured and two police vehicles torched after which the police opened fire at the villagers.

The ASP was rushed to Ranchi for treatment.

The villagers supported by the opposition parties were protesting against land acquisition and low compensation amount by the NTPC.

Earlier, former Congress MLA of Barkagaon Yogendra Sao fought for the cause of the villagers and later his wife Nirmala Devi, now MLA, supported them.

The NTPC Barkagaon project is facing protest since 2004.

In 2010, coal mines in the area were allocated to the NTPC but work could not begin.

The entire opposition showing solidarity with the villagers had visited the Barkagaon in July this year.

The NTPC had lodged an FIR against former Chief Minister and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajantantrik (JVM-P) president Babulal Marandi, former central minister and Congress leader Subodh Kant Sahay and others for entering into the mining area without permission.

Earlier in August, the opposition leaders had surrendered in the Hazaribagh court but the police refused to arrest them.

The issue was taken by Chief Minister Raghubar Das. Hazaribagh MP and central minister Jayant Sinha and former central minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha held meeting with the Chief Minister and villagers.

The opposition parties have condemned the firing.

Last month, two persons were killed in police firing in Ramgarh district during protests for land acquisition and proper compensation. The villagers were protesting against the Inland Power at Gola.

 

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