Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

Stop Ruthless State & Corporate Violence on People of Orissa

Posted by Mike E on August 20, 2008

The following comes from Dave Pugh. He notes:

Amin Maharana, one of the four anti-displacement activists in Orissa arrested on trumped up charges, has finally been produced before a court, after being held incommunicado and tortured for five days.
Please read this statement. At the end of the statement is a list of email addresses and phone numbers you can use to demand the immediate release of these four courageous fighters for the people.

Stop Ruthless State and Corporate Violence on the People of Orissa

by the Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan (People’s Movement against Displacement and for Development)

Withdraw all trumped up charges and release Devendar Das, Protima Das, Amin Maharana and Pradeep Immediately and Unconditionally

End all projects that displace people and harm the Environment

The people of Orissa have been facing the worst kind of atrocities at present as state violence is coupled with corporate violence, resulting in large-scale displacement and destitution. Tens of millions of people are in the process of being forcefully evicted from their homes and hearths. Most of these people are adivasis, dalits and other poor farmers. The people everywhere in Orissa are resisting tooth and nail the planned forcible displacement of the people.

In Jagatsinghpur, a South Korean steel giant, Posco Company, was permitted use of large swathes of forestlands to build a $12 billion plant by the Supreme Court of India a few days ago. Apart from these forestlands which in fact are home for thousands of families, a huge amount of land is under the process of acquisition by use of force. The order of the Apex court will pave the way for forcible displacement of thousands of adivasis for the mining of bauxite in Niyamgiri Hills by Sterlite Industries Ltd., a frontal company of Vedanta Aluminium Industries (a British MNC), which is notorious for its corporate malpractices.

The order of the Supreme Court is against the existing laws related to the forestland and the Constitution of India. This order contradicts the 89th Amendment of the Constitution of India which clearly stipulates that no industry, mines or townships or any other construction activity can be undertaken without the consent of the Gram Sabhas of adivasis residing in the areas demarcated under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. The Supreme Court order will also nullify the implementation of the recently passed Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act and its rules, under which the lands occupied by the adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers on the forestlands should get the ownership of the land they have been tilling for years.

The mining in Niyamgiri now allowed by the Supreme Court will seriously upset the ecological equilibrium of this area. This area is very rich in bio-diversity including rare flora and fauna and many species of rare medicinal herbs. Niyamgiri Hills are also the source of important rivers like Nagavali and Vansudhara, which cater to the needs of many districts in Orissa including the southern coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh. The mining in this area will contravene the letter and spirit of the Environmental Protection Act 1986.

The Government of Orissa has signed agreements with many corporate houses involving millions of people to be displaced. The people resisting the Posco project which includes a huge steel plant (the single largest FDI project in India), large mining lands (in Kandadhar, Sundergarh districts) and a captive port in Paradeep, those who have been fighting against Sterlite Industries, Kalinganagar project of the Tatas and others have recently intensified their struggles. The valiant fight of the people in Kashipur against the Hindalco project is already well-known. Among other major struggles that are intensifying are against bauxite mining in Gandhamardhan, Koraput, Tata mines in Sukinda, by Ocil in Sundargarh to mention only a few. The struggle against Rourkela Steel Plant has been continuing for the last four decades, Tata Steel Plant in Kalinga Nagar, Bhushan Steel Industry, Dhenkanal, Mital Steel Plant and Keonjhar are other major projects that would displace huge numbers of people in the state if allowed to be carried out.

The people of Orissa are also fighting against water to be diverted to these industrial projects from Hirakud Dam in Sambalpur, and the people of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar and the surrounding areas are agitated against water diversion from Mahanadi River to the Posco project. Struggles are also erupting against Rengali Dam, Machkud Dam, and Lower Suktal Dam. The struggle against Gopalur SEZ is picking up day-by-day, turning into another major battle-field in the state.

Against this background, hundreds of struggling masses all over Orissa have been arrested while tens of thousands have been framed under false and trumped up charges. Thousands of adivasis have been put behind bars by the Orissa government. On 12th night of August, 2008, Protima Das, a woman advocate practicing at Bhuvaneswar High Court and Pradeep, an anti-displacement activist from Sukinda, were arrested along with David Pugh, a social scientist and teacher from the US, who was returning from Kalinganagar. Protima Das accompanied Pugh as a translator, while Pradeep as a route guide on the request of some democrats from Delhi. Pugh came to India as part of his study on the question of displacement of people in various countries of Asia, Latin America and Africa. He is a prominent social scientist involved in Study Commission No. 16 on ‘Displacement of People’ of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), which set up a committee of highly regarded professionals to study the issues related to industrialisation in the underdeveloped countries. The VVJVA condemns the illegal detention and psychological torture inflicted on Pugh by the Orissa police.

Devendar Das, a Central Council member of Vithapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan (VVJVA), was taken from his house on the same night by the police and brought to the car in which Protima Das and Pradeep were arrested. All three were framed on serious politico-criminal cases under purely trumped up charges. They were falsely charged with having relations with Maoists. All three of them were psychologically tortured while David Pugh was separated and for 9 hours he was detained in a police station and later in his hotel room. He was forced to leave the country without completing his research work in Orissa. Before going to Orissa, Pugh extensively toured Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Nowhere had he faced any problems from the state governments. The Orissa government’s brutal pursuit of suppression of resisting people is so immediate and evident that the government doesn’t want the facts of brutal suppression of people in the course of displacing them from their natural habitats to be recorded for the outside world to know.

Amin Maharana, another Central Council member of VVJVA, was arrested at his hotel room of Yatri Niwas at around the same time. He had come to Bhubaneswar to attend an extended Steering Committee meeting of VVJVA which was held on 11 and 12 of August after a Public Hearing on the questions of displacement in Orissa. The Steering Committee meeting discussed seriously the Supreme Court’s decision to open up people’s forestlands and hills for unbridled exploitation, forcibly displacing the native inhabitants. Amin Maharana made a comprehensive report in this meeting on the anguish of the people affected in this region in the context of the constitutional crisis that arose after the decision of the highest court of the country against the existing laws and people. He also talked of a plan of action to save the lives of the people in the areas of Jagatsinghpur and Niyamgiri Hills. He was arrested within four hours after the meeting ended.

Amin Maharana was tortured in custody in the next five days by Orissa police officials brutally and illegally, while VVJVA and a number of democratic individuals from different parts of the country made all efforts to get him produced before a court of law. Finally he was produced on 17th of August, implicating him also in serious politico-criminal charges.

These attacks in Orissa on the anti-displacement activists are made by the Naveen Patnaik Government with a view to suppress the resistance movement against the forced displacement of people and to facilitate the sale of people’s lands and natural resources to the domestic and foreign corporate giants, thereby amassing huge commissions. The goons employed by the Posco Company in the areas of Jagatsinghpur and by the Tatas in Kalinga Nagar have been daily attacking the people, sometimes even killing them. Every corporate project in Orissa is employing huge coercive mechanisms trying to intimidate, divide and kill the resisting masses, actively assisted by the state government and its elite police forces.

Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan appeals to all democratic-minded individuals and organisations in the country and abroad to condemn the arrests of the anti-displacement activists in Orissa and the corporate and state violence on the people’s resistance movement.

Thus, there is an urgent need for all ILPS member organizations, supporters and friends and all other democratic and freedom loving organisations and individuals to demand that the trumped up cases against Protima, Devendar Das, Amin Maharana and Pradeep should be immediately withdrawn and they be released unconditionally. The Orissa Authorities should come up with a public apology for unjustified harassment of anti-displacement activists.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

(1) Please call the nearest Indian embassy or consulate.

(2) Write or call the following email addresses and phone numbers in Orissa and New Delhi:

1. National Human Rights Commission
NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg,
New Delhi-110001,India

0091-11-23385368
0091- 9810298900 (mobile)
Fax Nos. 1. 91-11-23384863 (Administration
0091-11-23386521 (Law Division)
0091-11-23073876 (Investigation)
E-Mail covdnhrc@nic.in

2. Shri Akhil Kumar Jain
Chief Executive Officer of the National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi
0091-11-23384856 (O)
Secretary General’s Email: sgnhrc@nic.in

3. Special Rapporteur
Damodar Sarangi, IPS (Retd) East Zone – 1:
Sikkim, West Bengal, Orissa, Andaman & Nicobar Islands
Plot No.4, Aurobindo Vila, Ananta Vihar, Pokhariput, Bhubaneswar – 751020
Email: dsarangi@yahoo.com

4. Chief Secretary of Government of Orissa:
0091 -674 – 2536700 (Phone)
0091- 674 – 2536700 (Fax)
Email: csori@ori.nic.in

5. ORISSA STATE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
Toshali Plaza Complex (2nd Floor),
Satya Nagar, P.O. Saheed Nagar,
Bhubaneswar-751007, Orissa
0091+ 0674 2564333/2390563 (Fax)

Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan
(People’s Movement against Displacement and for Development)

For more information about the International Campaign against Forced Displacement of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle, write to: info@no2displacement.com

In the U.S., write to: friendsofindianpeople@yahoo.com

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