MAC: Mines and Communities

Many organisations roundly condemn police repression in Orissa

Published by MAC on 2019-03-19
Source: Statement, Hindustan Times (2019-03-19)

Vedanta at centre of citizens demands

A vast raft of Adivasi, Dalit and other civil society leaders has stridently condemned police actions which yesterday caused the death of two people at Vedanta's refinery in Odisha [see: BREAKING NEWS: Villager killed for demonstating against Vedanta  ]

CONDEMN CORPORATE VIOLENCE AND STATE VIOLENCE IN LANJIGARH!

UPHOLD THE RIGHT TO DISSENT OF THE STRUGGLING PEOPLE OF NIYAMGIRI!!

Bhubaneswar

March 19, 2019

We the undersigned, with deep anger and profound sorrow, condemn the
killing of the dalit activist Dani Batra at the gate of the Vedanta Alumina
refinery plant at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district yesterday morning. Sujit
Kumar Minj of the OISF has also been killed. Over 50 people were badly
injured in the brutal lathicharge by the Odisha Industrial Security Force
(OISF) and admitted to the Lanjigarh hospital.

As per media reports, a heavy clash took place between contract employees
of the refinery plant and the OISF personnel. The contract workers were
demanding permanent jobs, education for their children and provision of
jobs for more people. As villagers from Rengopali, Chatrapur and Bandhaguda
too joined the protest, the OISF forces present took the law into their own
hands.
We deplore the violent suppression on contract workers of the Lanjigarh
plant and on people from surrounding villages.

Their demands are an outcome of years of simmering discontent ever since
the company had acquired their land by making false promises of employment,
education, health care facilities among others. The Odisha state government
too has failed completely in making the company fulfil its promises.
Instead of listening to their just grievances on March 18, 2019, the
company let loose a reign of terror at the hands of the OISF. The entire
area is now under Section 144.

The state government has asked for 150 companies of Central Armed Police
Force from the Centre with the approach of the Lok Sabha and assembly
elections. It is in this atmosphere of tension and intimidation that people
are continuing to press for their just demands. It is deplorable that
instead of the government implementing the 2013 Gram Sabha verdict of the
people, the local administration has only increased the presence of CRPF
and its surveillance.

The entire of Niyamgiri has been subject to relentless state repression
ever since the gram sabha verdict. It is evident from the more recent
arrest of Lingaraj Azad who has been at the forefront of the struggle of
the people against bauxite mining.

The largely dalit community living around the Lanjigarh plant at the
foothills of the Niyamgiri mountain have been putting up with untold
suffering. The pollution caused by effluents discharged into the
Vamsadhara river has caused both deaths and diseases among the people
dependent on the river.

The creation of ash ponds too has been the biggest environmental hazard to
the Niyamgiri habitat with its rich diversity of flora and fauna. Indeed,
the corporate greed for bauxite from the mountain is making the company
flout all existing laws while the state government aids in providing
security forces and crushing the voices of its citizens.

In recent months, the administration has undertaken a series of repressive
measures curtailing people’s Right to Dissent. Dadi Kadraka and Jamu Gouda
have been through intense interrogation. Lada Sikaka was picked up by the
Raygada police and physically roughed up and interrogated and their protest
rally for October 23, 2018 was asked to be called off despite their having
obtained police permission.

The demand of the rally was to withdraw the CRPF and stop the routine
harassment of local people through daily surveillance and combing
operations. A public hearing was held near Trilochanpur where people
unanimously decried the setting up of yet another CRPF camp in the area.
Earlier, British Kumar, a dalit youth leader of the Bhumi Adhikar
Surakshya Samiti and a member of the CPI (M) had been detained in the
office of the SP of Kalahandi and severely beaten.

In recent years many random arrests of Dongria Kondhs have taken place such
as Saiba Pusika, Dasuru Kadraka and Bako Jakasika. Allegations of having
connections with Maoists had led to the detention of Kuni Sikaka and
Drimbli Jakasika in May 2017. The intense mental torture has led to the
suicide of Drika soon after emerging from prison life.

There are many more such incidents. The adivasis and dalits of Niyamgiri
are paying a very heavy price living in the midst of combing operations and
daily surveillance. Their struggle to save Niyamgiri by claiming the rights
of the dalits and adivasis over the mountain, its forests and land
continues. Niyamgiri is not only a source of life and livelihood but their
identity and cultural heritage too.

Very recently, thousands of adivasis and dalits, largely forest dwellers,
had marched in protest demanding the scrapping of the Supreme Court order
of February 13 that directed 21 states to evict 11.8 lakh forest dwellers
whose claims to forest land had been rejected. They were supported by many
mass organizations and Ambekarite organizations.

We demand strict accountability from the government and all political
leaders to ensure that lives, livelihoods and rights of all citizens of the
Niyamgiri region be upheld. Their struggle is a struggle for justice; for
the mountains, rivers, and streams; for a place on this planet that belongs
to them.
We urge all democratic and progressive forces to protest against corporate
violence against people!

We demand that the Odisha government:

o Initiate cases against Vedanta on charges of criminal conspiracy and
murder.

o Institute an enquiry into the incidents of killings and lathicharge by
SIT.

o Announce compensation of Rs 1 croreto next of kin of victims.

o Repeal of all cases pending against villagers for opposing Vedanta!

o Independent probe into the alleged encounter death of Manda Kadraka and
Bari Pidika.

o Withdrawal of CRPF and other security forces from the area.

o Thorough enquiry into the pollution and destruction caused by Vedanta and
their violation of environmental laws.

o Ensure a cleanup of the entire area that has been contaminated by toxic
discharge and effluents from the Lanjigarh plant.

o Implement the 2013 Gram Sabha verdict of the people of Niyamgiri!!

Signed:

Narendra Mohanty, Campaign against False and Fabricated Cases
Biswapriya Kanungo, Advocate and Activist
Pramodini Pradhan, PUCL
Ranjana Padhi, Activist and Writer
Surya Dash, Video Republic
Prashant Paikrai, PPSS
Rumita Kundu, Activist
Prafulla Samanatra, Lok Shakti Abhiyan
Sudhir Pattnaik, Journalist and Activist
Deba Mahapatra, Lohia Academy
Samir Sarkar, GASS
Debaranjan, GASS
Suresh Panigrahi, CPM
Mahendra Parida, CPI (ML) Liberation
Srikanta Mohanty, CPI ML
Pramila Behera, CPI ML Red Star
Subal Charan Sahoo, TUCI
Rajendra Barik, TUCI
Ramachandra Sahoo, Basti Surakshya Manch
Sudarshan Pradhan, Samajwadi Party, Odisha
Lenin Kumar, Poet and Activist
Chandranath Dani, Advocate, Human Rights Defenders Alert India (HRDA)
Swati Mishra, ISCUF
Sheikh Abdul Wali, Republican Party of India
D. Manjit PUDR, Delhi
Pratap Kumar Sahu, AORVA
Sailen Routray, PUCL
Satyajit Puha, ANVESHA
Bichitra Kumar Patra, Odisha Nirman Shramik Union
Nihar Kanti Dash, GASS
Biranchi Bariha, Jamin Jungle Adhikar Sangathan, Bargarh district
Bhishma Panji, Jamin Jungle Adhikar Sangathan,
Rakesh, AIKKS
Banshidhar Parida, AICCTU
Sanjib Patry
Bijay Kumar Panda, Advocate
Deepak Kumar Panda, National Cancer Campaign
Nilamani Patel, Jamin Jungle Adhikar Sangathan, Sundergarh
Gupdhar Bisoi, Jamin Jungle Adhikar Sangathan, Bolangir
Sricharan Behera, CSD Odisha


 

Two killed in protests at Vedanta’s Odisha refinery

According to the police, agitators from three local villages were staging
a sit-in outside the Vedanta refinery’s main gate to demand the
reinstatement of a villager who was fired two days ago.

Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar

19 March 2019

The villager who died in the OISF lathicharge has been identified as
45-year old Dani Patra, a contractual worker with Vedanta, while the OISF
guard killed was Havildar Major Sujit Kumar Minz.(AFP)

A Dalit employee of Vedanta Alumina’s 1.5 million tonne refinery in
Odisha’s Kalahandi district was killed and a guard of the Odisha
Industrial Security Force (OISF) burnt to death, when protesting locals
demanding permanent jobs clashed with police outside the refinery on
Monday. More than 30 persons were critically injured.

According to the police, agitators from three local villages were staging
a sit-in outside the Vedanta refinery’s main gate to demand the
reinstatement of a villager who was fired two days ago.

“At around 10 am, the protestors suddenly tried to force their way inside
when they were stopped by the OISF personnel. In the ensuing lathi-charge,
the villager died,” said B Gangadhar, superintendent of police in
Kalahandi. “ After that, locals stormed the refinery and burnt down
several offices including that of Vedanta’s security office, killing an
OISF guard.”

The villager who died in the OISF lathicharge has been identified as
45-year old Dani Patra, a contractual worker with Vedanta, while the OISF
guard killed was Havildar Major Sujit Kumar Minz.

OISF inspector, Ashok Kumar Roul, told HT that the protestors attacked the
security personnel and pelted stones first. “They were extremely violent
and refused to calm down. When the attack got severe, our personnel
attempted to push back the crowds,” he said.

OISF was raised in 2012 to protect public and private industrial
undertakings.

The villagers then sat on dharna with Patra’s body, demanding compensation
but were soon dispersed and prohibitory order Section 144 of the Criminal
Procedure Code (CrPC ) promulgated.

District Collector Parag Harshad Gavalli did not take HT’s calls. However,
locals in Lanjigarh alleged that today’s incident was the result of a
feeling of being short-changed by both Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal
(BJD) government and Vedanta. “People from three villages are being
displaced due to the expansion of an existing red mud pond at the
refinery,” said a district official who wished not to be quoted.

Red mud is bauxite residue, a toxic waste product of alumina manufacturing.

“Though the displaced have received compensation as per the Land
Acquisition Act, the issue of resettlement in the allocated new place is
still pending.”

The official said that many of those being displaced wanted permanent jobs
which the company was not willing to give.

The CEO of Vedanta’s Lanjigarh plant, Ajay Dixit, said that the violence
seemed premeditated.

“The videos that have come to us show that the villagers entered our
premises, burnt our CSR office and another that deals with community
development. If the agitation was peaceful, the OISF person would not have
died,” he said.

Dixit said the company has about 3000 people at the Lanjigarh plant, of
whom 2500 are contractual and the rest permanent employees.

“Of the contractual workers, over 80% comprises local people. It’s our
effort to employ more locals as permanent staff, but as it’s an automated
plant, we need people of certain skills which the locals may not possess.
We sincerely appeal to protestors not to resort to such acts, when every
situation can be resolved amicably through discussions.”

“Instead of using force, Vedanta and the government should initiate a
dialogue with the locals, who have been protesting democratically,” said
New Delhi-based Abhay Xaxa of the National Campaign for Adivasi Rights.
(With inputs from Pallabi Munsi in New Delhi).

 

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