MAC: Mines and Communities

Kalinganagar Update

Published by MAC on 2006-01-09

Kalinganagar Update

9th January 2006

After the bloodshed, the protests flow

Much of north eastern India was reported last weekend to have observed a strike, called for by many politicians and NGOs in response to the Kalinganagar massacre on January 2nd. The figure of thirteen shot dead (twelve tribal people and one policeman) is confirmed, though the number of wounded has yet to be fully counted.

Virtually every Indian political party - except for the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BLD) in Orissa's coalition government - has unequivocally condemned the police action, made in response to a demonstration against initial construction of a Tata steel plant in Jajpur, eastern Orissa. However, answers to some vital questions remain elusive. Were the firings carefully planned in advance? And were they intended to teach a deadly lesson to other communities resisting resource exploitation? What part did Tata, India's biggest private enterprise, play in preparing the way for the police atrocities (the company has issued a statement denying any role)?

To some observers, the media and political invasion of Kalinganagar over the past week smacks - at least partially - of opportunism. In particular, it has been noted that the implacable opposition of local Advisas ("tribal" people) to the steel plant has been mis-reported as primarily a quest for compensation and alternative land, rather than fundamental rights guaranteed under the country's constitution.

Meanwhile, in a scarcely-credible act of insensitivity, the state government of Chhattisgarh and Tata Steel have announced that they will be preceeding with land "acquisition" for yet another massive steel plant on tribal territory.

The following postings not only attempt to trace the aftermath of Kalinganagar - a name which will certainly go down in Indian history. We also reproduce a lengthy statement, made last October, by a Jajpur-based tribal organisation which tears apart various contentions made by Tata in defense of its steel project.

Finally, we have selected a number of recent Indian news stories, demonstrating that - however anomalous the events of January 2nd may appear (or some commentators wish it to seem) - numerous other Orissa mineral projects are waiting in line, simply for the go-ahead.

The impacts of some of these could be as bad as - if not worse than -those apprehended by the people of Kalingangar.

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