MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2006-01-30



30th January 2006

Public Interest Groups walk into Tata Steel office in Bangalore risking arrest and submit representation

Today, Jan 30th, is Martyrs' Day -- in memory of Gandhiji's sacrifice and all those who have laid down their lives to protect our freedom and our common future.

Tragically this year began for the tribal communities in Kalinganagar in Orissa, with the brutal killings of 12 of their own, simply because they disagreed with the Orissa Government's and Tata Steel's proposal to set up a massive steel plant on their land.For long communities displaced for mining and industrialisation have not been adequately compensated or rehabilitated, including by Tata Steel.Fearing their fate would be the same, the project affected communities of Kalinganagar wanted to be properly compensated first before being dispossessed.

Tata Steel Ltd (TSL), has been allotted 2400 acres in Kalinga Nagar for the construction of a six million tonne plant. The land that the government purchased at the rate of Rs. 37,000/- per acre in 1994 from some of the affected families (not all affected have been yet counted for project impact and rehabilitation), was sold to the Tata Co. for Rs. 3,35,000/- thus making for the State a net profit ofRs 715,200,000 and at the same time giving the Tata Company a savings of over Rs. 87,600,000 over the market price. The current market price ranges between Rs. 5,00,000 to 7,00,000 per acre.It was this dispute over compensation that was on the negotiation table till 2nd January and was the reason why the people had assembled to prevent the bull-dozers from destroying their houses and taking over their lands that fatal day.On the land-rights question the Adivasis were in possession of the land making any entry on their land illegal.They were in their right to question the operations of the Orissa Government and Tata Co. on their land on that day.

In this context when the tribals demanded of the Deputy Commissioner of the Jajpur district, the police and Tata company officials to stop building a wall around their land, they did not realise they were walking into a trap. All they wanted to do was reason with the administration against building the wall till such time they understood what this project was all about and accepted to give up their lands if in the wider public interest and on fair terms.The administration refused to negotiate.At this time, one of the tribals tripped on a string of a dynamite planted by Tata Steel in the football field where people had gathered.The dynamite went off destroying his leg and caused panic.As anger spread across those gathered against such terrible violence, the police started lobbying tear gas shells and also opening fire without warning.

Six people died on the spot.Several were innocent bystanders, including women and children.Most were shot through the back, clearly indicating they were retreating.Six more that were injured were removed by the police ostensibly to a hospital.But they never came out alive.Their bodies were returned later and horrifically found to be missing breasts (in the case of women) and genital organs in the case of men.This is in addition to all their hands being cut off.Orissa State, the police and the Tatas were sending an ominous message by this sexually perverted cold-blooded murder.

Tatas refuse to accept responsibility even morally:

In light of such a heinous crime, all that Tata Steel has done is to disown any responsibility in this crime.Sanjay Choudhry, a Tata spokesman has commented in an email: "..., at the risk of your thinking that we are trying to save our skins, thatTata Steel has been in discussions with the villagers for overa year and that has been our way since all time."Mr. Choudhry simply does not even understand the implications of how grave these violations are and proceeds to claim indifferently : ".industrialization is imminent andthe only way to improvethe standard of life of all the people of the area. The only issue is that of resettlement and rehablitation at mutually agreed terms."

Not only does this reflect very poorly on India's corporate leader, but it clearly send the message out that the Tatas too believe that corporate profit is prime, even over lives and livelihoods. Such tactics would put to shame even British Gen. Dyer who was responsible for the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre.

Such injustice as in Kalinganagar cannot be tolerated.It must be thoroughly investigated and the guilty arrested, be they amongst the police, Orissa state administration or the Tatas.

Simply stated Tata Steel must get out of Kalinganagar.Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Group, must own moral responsibility for the Kalinganagar massacre and brutal mutilation that followed.All demands made by the joint committee of the tribal and project affected communities in Kalinganagar must be adhered to.

Bangalore Groups protest Kalinganagar massacre by walking into Tata Steel's Bangalore office:

To ensure that Tata Steel which has so far been reticent and dismissive of such just demands, and to protest against their continued disowning of any responsibility for the brutal massacre, representatives of Environment Support Group, EQUATIONS, CIEDS Collective and various individuals walked into the Tata Steel office to submit a representation with the above demands (signed representation enclosed).

Three children aged 4, 5 and 8, nine women and five men walked into the Tata Steel office in Bangalore peacefully holding placards with messages such as: Tatas: Making Steel out of Blood; Tatas Benefit over Tribal Rights; Tata Steel: Strength over Justice; Tatas: Look your Hands are Bloody!; etc.The office was filled with over fifty men of Tata Steel who were shocked by this sudden presence and messages.Realising this was a statement of their guilt, they quickly proceeded to collectively accost this small number.

The Tata Steel men started surrounded this group, shouting violently at the women and children, even pushing them around and using bad language.The protestors informed them that they were well aware that they are breaking "the Law", but doing it for a just cause.Tata Steel was reminded that they were well within their rights to
call the police if they wished to, but had no business to shout at the small gathering at all, especially when almost all of Tata Steel employees were men, some quite brazen in their behaviour. Soon this crowd began to threaten dire action and even pushed out several women.Two women, three children, and four men were left inside and locked in.One of the Tata Steel employees also attempted to grab a camera which was with the protestors.

Tata Steel employees were repeatedly told that the purpose of this willing entry into their office was to submit a representation in protest against the Kalinganagar killings.That once a key representative came forward and accepted this representation, the protestors would leave.Without heeding to this plea, Tata Steel called in the police, who initially were only men. Eventually an Inspector arrived to arrest the protestors, and he was informed that he could not arrest unless there were women police, as the protestors included women and children.Women police were called in eventually, about an hour after the protestors had been locked inside.

The police demanded of Tata Steel to lodge a complaint so that the arrest could be executed.But for reasons best known to them key executive of Tata Steel who were in constant touch with their Headquarters did not want to lodge an official complaint to execute the arrest.As a result the protestors were allowed to go.

It is a sad statement of Tata Steel's corporate culture that they had to use aggressive behaviour against peaceful protestors who merely wanted them to remember the Kalinganagar victims were victims of crime by a corporate-state nexus for profit at any cost.The Bangalore action was but a symbolic peaceful protest in memory of the
12 killed in Kalinganagar, for their people now proclaim:"We will not allow OUR habitat - land, water and forest-that supports our life to be overrun by industrialists or the State"


Leo F. Saldanha, Subbu Sastry, Mallesh K. R., Priya, Rohan D'souza, Malavika, Arathi, Shubra of Environment Support Group

Vidya Rangan, Aditi Chanchani, and Kavita Kanan of Equations

Altaf Ahmed of CIEDS Collective

Vidhi Parthasarathy of Vikasana School

Lakshmi Nilakantan and children, especially Prahlad (8) who understands why he came for the protest.

Environment Support Group ®
S-3, Rajashree Apartments, 18/57, 1st Main Road, S. R. K. Gardens,
Jayanagar, Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore 560041. INDIA
Telefax: 91-80-26341977/26531339/26534364 Telefax: 91-80-51179912
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