MAC: Mines and Communities

Massacre And Mining / Kalinga Nagar: Before And After

Published by MAC on 2006-01-06

Massacre and Mining / Kalinga Nagar: Before and After

Xavier Dias / ADHIKAR

6th January 2006

Once again our Adivasis relatives have been slaughtered. This time executed by the Orissa State at the behest of Industry. The Kalinga Nagar massacre on 2nd Jan cannot be seen in isolation, but as a serial killing of Adivasis for the growth of industry. If we accept this fact, then, we have to decide whether this is going to be the last episode of the serial or if we should prepare ourselves for further installments. We should also realise that the State, the mainstream ruling class, are not going to protect us from the next one and therefore we have to protect ourselves. Therefore if this serial killing of us Adivasis has to be stopped, then we have to look at all the episodes together, at least on those that we have information on: they make our history, and only in their context can we find our solutions. Therefore Kalinga Nagar or the next episode to come should not be seen as an isolated incident. Unless we give this a serious thought we cannot think of putting an end to this history of serial killings.

The Kalinga Nagar massacre has once again exposed the racist character of Indian mainstream society and its ruling classes and castes. For industry and the market economy, the Adivasi is a hindrance to be removed and done away with. In the civilized world and in the English language this is called genocide.

For this reason, too, the spontaneous united reactions and protests of Adivasi organisations and some mainstream groups have to be strengthened and every strata of civil society has to be used to expose the roots of this state- and industry-sponsored violence.

The mineral industry, the most important wing of capitalism, was born amid the bloodshed of innocent Adivasi people from the times of the Mahabharata, right through to the slaughter of hundreds of Adivasi nations in all the continents, including the massacre of over 25,000 Santal Adivasis by the East India Company during the Santal Hul (1855). It is also ironic that we are presently commemorating the 150 years of the Santal Hul and Kalinga Nagar has come lest we forget.

It is not only here in the Indian subcontinent that massacres prelude mining. After the arrival of Christopher Columbus in America in the 15th century, over 20 million of our Adivasis relatives were slaughtered for the making of the Americas. This includes USA, Canada and the nations of South American. Similarly after the arrival of Captain Cook in present-day Australia in the 18th century, our aboriginal relatives there were slaughtered for the formation of Australia and New Zealand. These massacres were so brutal and inhuman that the British conquerors would return from hunting Adivasis and boast to each other about how many they had killed, when back in their evening clubs. The Inca Adivasi nation is another sad example. It was one of the greatest and glorious civilisations so large that it occupied a region that comprises present day Mexico, Guatemala and the neighbouring countries. The Inca civilisation had to be totally destroyed in order for the conquerors to loot the gold and silver that they possessed. It was like killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

In our Jharkhand homeland, the world’s first iron makers, our Asur kinfolk, were uprooted from their lands in order to cut them off from their art of iron smelting. Very few of them were able to survive this onslaught, and today they are reduced to landless contract labourers in the bauxite mines of Palamau. Their traditional methods of making iron had to be destroyed in order for the Tata Steel Co. to be born. History is full of such incidents, even though mainstream historians have failed to record them in their factual context.

This character of the mineral industry and its economic system, capitalism, has not changed and the ruling class of India with the strength of its caste system leads the racist civilized world who treats Adivasis and their society as an overburden. This fact too stays hidden from history and the unfortunate part of it is that some of our non-Adivasi supporters and well-wishers find it difficult to interpret is as it is.

Therefore it is we first who have to bring these facts to our people and take concrete political steps so that they become a serious part of our mass collective consciousness. In Jharkhand some steps have been taken and two of them need to be highlighted. The government has decided to handover thousands of acres of our land to the big business houses for the construction of mines, industry and simillar mega projects. If this plan is realised then over 55,000 of our Adivasi people in Jharkhand alone will be displaced.

In response to this threat, and in the past six months those villages have formed Bhumi Suraksha Sangatans (Organisations for the Protection of Our Lands) that have to date successfully organized ‘Janata Curfews’ preventing any Government or mining company personnel from entering their villages. Reinforcing their collective decision, not to give an inch of land, which they say is not negotiable. A new resistance movement has been born. They have taken two strategically important decisions:

The first being not to give any more land to industry or to the government - ‘if we give land it will only be big enough for their graves’- and the second one is not to allow political party leaders (netas) to lead their various movements. ‘if you want to support us then make it a part of your parties policy and support us in the State Assembly or Parliament’. This important political step has proved so powerful that it has frightened the companies used to deal with netas to break up mass movements and bulldoze their way in.

This decision has handicapped industry and the state and together with the exposure of their violent character in Kalinga Nagar, they are desperately looking for exits through cover-ups. Added to this predicament they are further taken aback by the angry reactions from all Adivasi Organisations. The total bandhs in Orissa and Jharkhand on the 7th Jan, the economic blockade of the Mumbai – Howrah railway line for over 48 hours, the ongoing blockade at Kalinga Nagar and many other similar reactions have put the fright into them, and for this reason industry would like to see Kalinga Nagar put into the past and eventually erased from public memory. The Tata Co. (for whose Steel Plant the Orissa Police were clearing off the Adivasis that day) is particularly interested for this year begins the centenary celebrations of their entry in Jharkhand, a time when they would like themselves to be seen as patrons of the Adivasi cause.

In order to return to their previous position of freebooters, under which they prospered, they are today prepared to make some concessions, two of them being: a ‘better compensation package’ and a better ‘rehabilitation policy’. This is yet another trap for us to give up our lands.

In the past three weeks desperate attempts have been made to sell this trap to the Bhumi Suraksha Sangatans and the Adivasi people. Extremely worried that the industry’s profits will be affected, they are exploring all avenues that will get back to their pre-Kalinga Nagar times. The netas (political leaders), the media and some important Jharkhand intellectuals are being mustered in to sell to the Adivasis a compensation package better than the earlier one. In the coming days we will be seeing more lobbying, For this purpose conducting of conferences and seminars are being proposed to sell this idea, newspaper houses, social service institutions et al are being reined in.

In order not to get into this trap it is important for us to learn the history of the mineral industry, its penchant and necessity for massacre and the role of those who come to us in the makeup of sheep’s clothing but who are wolves underneath. Unfortunately some of them are our very own blood coming to us as ‘samjowtawadis’ (compromisers) It is therefore vital for us to realise that just as massacre and mining are two sides of the same coin, traps are being laid to hoodwink us where once we enter into it eventually amounts to giving up our lands.

Therefore all of us, especially our elders and the leaders of our movements, should realize that Kalinga Nagar or the Santal Hul or the killing of M Tirkey by the Bokaro police on 30th December, or the shooting of our Santal brothers in their homes in Nalla by the Jharkhand police should not be forgotten unless we get justice. We must study this trap and know well where all its wires lead. For this we have to understand who are, and what is happening behind our backs and over our heads.

The reality today is a battle ground between the Adivasis, the rightful owners of agricultural lands, the forest and the minerals beneath it, versus the owners of industry that have the full support of the state. In this battle if industry wins, we lose; if we lose it is our end, we will become like the millions of our relatives who are now ‘rejas and coolies’ (head loaders) in the mines and industries or we will have to continue to send more of our children to work as labourers in the fields of Punjab, the brick kilns everywhere or as domestic servants in the metro cities. If we are to survive such an ugly plight and survive as a society and culture with dignity, then this battle will be the decisive one. Giving up our lands means a sure death like that of rats and flies. There is no second alternative or path before us.

The good news and opportunity is that in this battle and especially after the Kalinga Nagar killings, industry has suffered a setback. They are now trying and desperately trying to recover from it. It is also a time for some of our opportunist leaders to put forward various analyses and alternatives. The wires web of wires in the trap. Some of them are.

? The present Chief Minister(s) who have signed this MOUs are responsible for our plight. How much truth is there in this view point? What will happen if the Chief Minister or the government changes? Are our state governments free to stop the greed of this demand for minerals and the march of capitalism and imperialism? In the new economic policies which our country has adopted, it is the market that is of prime importance and it is the economics of the markets that decide the political agendas. Therefore any individual or party that comes to us with the propaganda that they will not be like our present Chief Minister should be closely scrutinized. Put them under the microscope and see their past and history of performances. Like snakes they will enter our mind with promises of being better netas and then like chameleons change their colour once in the comfortable seat of power.

? The other analysis being put before us is that we Adivasis are too weak to fight the combined power of state and industry and therefore should “sit across the table, take what ever compensation we are given or later we may get nothing”. This alternative comes from a person who probably has no idea of the tremendous mass opposition to displacement that is taking place.

The alternative of submitting to the power of the rulers was also available before, at the time of the Santal Hul and Ulgulan Movement. But instead they opted to sacrifice their lives rather than surrender without a fight. Meek submission does not become the descendants of Hul Santhal, or Ulgulan or Bir Gangaram Kalundia. It is an alternative that we cannot accept.

? Yet another argument put forth is that the Adivasis are too ignorant to lead their movements and therefore it should be done by political leaders who have the experience. It is true that our village Adivasis may not understand many things that happen in the corridors of power but one thing they do understand is what will happen to them if they give up their lands. Therefore they do not need more intelligence to be firm on this decision they have taken. If there is more to know they also know where to get it from.

? Another analysis says that with the wealth of minerals beneath their lands the Adivasis can become rich; therefore they should negotiate with the Industry for a ‘partnership’ where they can share its wealth. Industrial mining in Jharkhand is now 150 years old, but can we name some Adivasis besides those who got permanent jobs who have become wealthy or obtained any benefit from this industry? If it did not happen in the past 150 years, how will this happen today? Most Adivasi who have land near forest and who have some irrigation are self sufficient the people have enough to eat and drink and live happily. If they want to improve on this present standard then would it not be better for them to improve their agricultural methords and fight for their control over the forest? In this way not only will their economy improve but their future generations too will have a guaranteed decent life.

We the people have to realise that our decision not to give an inch more of land for Industry and not to let the netas control our movements is a political step that is working and has strength because it has got Industry and the State worried. They should therefore be aware of those coming to them with alternatives that will trap them. Their only strength is to learn from history, understand their enemy, recognize who is on their side and keep the flag of resistance flying.

Ranchi. Jharkhand

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