Tuesday, June 28th, 2022 09:33:34

Kalinganagar Massacre The fifth anniversary of police firing on tribals was commemorated

Updated: January 22, 2011 2:01 pm

The Indian State, as it stands today, rests on the four tottering pillars, its all powerful legislature, a defunct and bound in red tape executive, a very touch-me-not holy cow judiciary and a corrupt to the core fourth estate. This is the jist of the experiences of the tribals of Kalinganagar as well as the whole nation.

                The 2nd of January 2011 marked five years of the Kalinganagar massacre. More than four thousand tribals from Odisha and elsewhere participated in a rally and held a meeting under the banner of Visthapan Virodhi Jana Manch (VVJM) to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the 2006 police firing that had claimed the lives of 18 tribals.

                The anti-displacement activists assembled at Ambagadia, the spot where the firing had occurred. Tribals, mostly women and children, with their traditional weapons and colourful attire took out a rally to Veerbhumi, the mass cremation ground where a 70-foot-high memorial column has been erected in memory of the victims.

                Carrying posters and banners, the tribals marched towards the memorial pillar where the victims were cremated en masse on the Kalinganagar industrial complex shouting slogans against the Naveen Patnaik government, district police administration and the Tatas.

                Representatives of various anti-displacement groups from other parts of the state expressed their solidarity with VVJM, which has been spearheading the anti-industrialisation movement in the area since 2006. Tribals from Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh also participated in the rally. There was representation from the clutch of Left parties, however the mainstream political parties, except the BJP, stayed away from the meet. The lone BJP representative paid homage to the victims and expressed his empathy with the cause. The irony of the displaced is well understood by the fact that the Enquiry Commission put forth to enquire the killings has been changed three times, no report is in the offing even though five years have passed.

                Kalinganagar will remain one black spot in the history of Modern Odisha. However the tragedy is that no lessons have been learnt. The Tatas have been successful in fragmenting the protestors, as they have lured some of the leaders with promises of jobs. Families were torn apart by rival views on their future prospects, with some brothers staying back and others opting for compensation from the company. On the same day, the Pro-Tata group under the banner of Visthapita Parivar Unyayan Parishad too held a parallel meeting at Trijanga, a resettlement colony which the Tata have constructed. Tulasi Munda, a well-known tribal activist was somehow roped in for addressing the meet, even though she was one of the most vehement protestor in the early days of the agitation.

                “Whoever tries to climb over our fence, we will try to climb over his house. Eighteen of our fellow men sacrificed their lives for tribals cause. We are ready to die, but will not spare even an inch of land. The death of our brothers shall not go in vain,” said VVJM secretary Rabindra Jarika.

                During my earlier visit to Chandia I met Charkadhar Haiburu, who had been spearheading the movement for three years. In a big blow to the VVJM, the Tatas were successful in luring him with a big fat carrot at the end of a short stick. He accepted the ex-gratia compensation and later showed up at the bhoomi pujan of the Steel Plant at Ambagadia. Ironically, his house adjoins the Veer Bhumi, today it was locked and bore a deserted look. Even the colonists in America, Mexico and later India had succeeded only after they had pitted brother against brother.

                Just fifty meters away from the memorial cenotaph, the Tata have already constructed the boundary wall. It will not be very long before the tall steel memorial with its bow and arrow is dwarfed by the rising smokestacks and chimneys of the proposed steel plant.

                In these ensuing five years, Odisha has seen many Kalinganagars. Posco, Vedanta, Niyamgiri Hills, Jindal etc all have their run. The state government is in the dock for violations of every law. The Naveen Patnaik administration has cocked a snook at every law of the land. Laws pertaining to the Environment, Wildlife, Forest, Tribes, the Companies Act, Human Rights etc have all been flouted. Court strictures, rulings and judgments have been given the go by. The absolute strength of the BJP in the State Assembly has created a Goliath mindset, in which no David stands a chance. The king can do no wrong and might is right. The Actonian adage rules the roost—“Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

                As this life and death battle on the issue of land aquisition is being waged across the length and breadth of the state, the policies of corporate land grab stand thoroughly exposed and discredited. The government tom toms its R&R Policy, saying that is the best in the country. Why there are no takers for this policy is another story. Balitutha, Jagatsinghpur; Niyamgiri, Khandadhar and Gandhamardhan are but just a few examples.

                The Land Acquisition Bill 2007, in the statement of objects and purposes, admits that ‘public purpose’ for which land is to be acquired has to be defined. However, very categorically it       enlarges the scope of ‘public purpose’ clause to include a huge swathe of public facilities, from electricity, communication and water supply to mining. The admission of mining as a category in infrastructure projects for public purpose is only to appease the big moneybags corporatists.

                There is a huge welcome arch on the road just after the bridge on the river Brahamani. IDCO welcomes one and all to the Kalinganagar Complex. On my way to the meeting I was stopped by a sizeable contingent of police forces, in battle ready fatigues, armed with automatic rifles. They were video graphing everyone, who was going to the rally. The tribals at the rally were armed with bows and arrows, machetes, sticks and spears. Rabindra Jarika and his ilk are fighting a losing battle. I wonder if there will be a sixth anniversary held next year. Whatever the outcome of this battle there is one irrevocable and tragic certainty the utter destruction of the way of life of these original inhabitants of the land.

By Anil Dhir from Ambagadia

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