Brutal Police Action on Tribals in Kashipur: Orissa Government Using Police Force to Start Alumina Plant

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

Joint Appeal to all Citizens and Organisations and Political Parties to Protect the Democratic Rights of the People and the Right to Protect their Livelihoods and Life
by Deshapremi Jana Samukhya and Prakrutika Sampad Surakhya Parishad, Kucheipadar, Kashipur, Rayagada

1. Under the direct command and the presence of the Rayagada District Collector Shri P.K. Mehrda, IAS, and Superintendent of Police Sri Sanjaya Kumar on December 1, 2004 the police have brutally attacked and critically injured 16 tribals and have arrested several of them (mostly women) when more than 300 tribals and Dalits were protesting against the Government’s forcible establishment of a Police Station along with a barrack for armed police at the village of D. Karol, near the proposed Alumina Plant site of UAIL (Utkal Alumina International Ltd.) at Doraguda.

2. The critically injured persons have been denied hospital care and they are now languishing in Rayagada jail. Several injured agitators are reportedly missing.

3. The Government has been trying to set-up this Police station since a long time but was not successful because of the agitation against the same by the Kashipur Movement under the leadership of Prakrutika Sampad Surakhya Parishad (PSSP). The police station is required by the company to suppress the Movement and carry out construction activity for the plant under armed police protection.

4. It interesting to note that while the people of Kashipur have been demanding setting-up of medical facilities and schools at all Panchayats, the Government chooses to set-up police stations at huge cost. People ask for medicines and the government gives them bullets.

5. On December 1, 2004 when the District Collector & Superintendent of Police, along with a big police force were trying to inaugurate the approach road to theplant site and the Police Station, the tribals and local people gathered at D. Karol and protested the action by the Government. After the police action in which blank firing, tear-gassing and lathi charge was resorted to, thousands of protesting tribals and dalits have gathered at D.Karol village. The district administration has brought in more than 1000 armed police force to the location. The situation is extremely tense.

6. The Kashipur Tribals and Dalits have been opposing the establishment of the proposed Rs.4500 crore [$1.25 million CDN] Alumina Plant of Utkal Alumina International Ltd. (UAIL, a joint venture of Aditya Birla Group and Alcan, a Canadian aluminum major). The peoples’ protest has been going on for the last 12 years as a consequence of which the Company has not been able to lay a single brick at the site in spite of the strong support by the State Government and all major political parties.

7. The peoples’ protest is based on the fact that the proposed bauxite mining and alumina refinery at Kashipur shall lead to the destruction of their fertile agricultural land, forests, mountains and perennial water-streams, the very basis of their livelihoods and livelihood of generations to come. The PSSP has been opposing the project because with bauxite mining the water holding capacity of the mountains shall be drastically reduced. The tribals have always believed that bauxite holds water and is the source of perennial water for their agriculture and drinking. Nearly 20,000 people shall be affected in 82 villages. The proposed project has employment potential of only 1000 and that too for only 20 years.

8. The State Government tried to suppress the anti-mining Movement by resorting to strong police action, which culminated in the killing of three tribals by police firing at Maikanch on December 16, 2000. After the killings, the Movement has gained even more ground. The Justice P.K. Mishra Commission, set-up to enquire about the Maikanch police firing, has clearly identified the Officers culpable for the incidence. However, the Government is yet to take any action. This is in spite of the fact that PSSP has lodged an FIR to this effect on October 19, 2004 after a rally of nearly 7000 tribals and dalits.

9. After the 2004 election the State Government has taken an aggressive posture in favour of mega industries and against those opposing mega industries. The Industry Minister Biswabhusan Harichandan in the floor of the Assembly said that those who protest against industries would be arrested. The Chief Minister in a recently held Collector’s conference on November 24, 2004 instructed the Collectors and Superintendent of Polices to strongly deal with those who oppose mega-industries.

10. The Revenue Divisional Commissioner (RDC) of Southern Division and the Collector and the Superintendent of Police (SP), Rayagada have reduced themselves to the position of project managers of Utkal Alumina Ltd. The major difference they enjoy vis-à-vis other company managers is that they can bring the power of the State to bear for the advancement of private corporate interest. Similar to the revenue and police administration in Kalahandi (Vedanta-Sterlite’s alumina project in Lanjigarh), the administration in Rayagada is also trying to push the construction of the UAIL project by hook or by crook. It has resorted to manufacturing peoples’ consent for support of the UAIL Plant through use of force, by bribing a few persons and declaring benefits for those who would be displaced.

11. The Government has been trying to confuse and divide the protesters by saying that the Village Kucheipadar (Centre of PSSP) shall not be included under the plant. But this is a gimmick meant to silence the protesters. In reality all the villages in Kashipur area except very few are against the project and only the workers of the ruling political parties such as BJD (Biju Janata Dal), BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), Congress (Party) and some workers of BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) favour the construction of the plant.

12. An all party (Congress, BJD, BJP and BSP) rally was organised on November 28, 2004 at Tikiri (11 km from the proposed plant site) by spending nearly Rs.22 lakhs [$60,000 CDN] and trucking nearly 5000 people from outside Kashipur area. The rally was planned to enter the proposed plant site. While this event was covered widely by all news papers of the state the fact that more than 2000 tribals led by Bhagaban Majhi, Convener, PSSP blocked the road to the proposed plant site on the same day was suppressed except one news paper. Shri Anantram Majhi of Congress party, the MLA from Kashipur was seen to be taking orders from Krushna Mohapatra (the established tribal exploiter and tribal land grabber of Kashipur) the local BJD leader, for this rally. This indicates clearly that the Congress, BJD, BJP and BSP are one as regards suppressing the people and favouring the Foreign and Indian Companies who want to loot our resources.

13. The Government is trying to do all this in order to create a positive environment for rapid industrialisation in Orissa. Incidentally the State Government has received proposals for an investment of Rs. 2,50,000 crores [$69.5 billion CDN] during the next 5-10 years in big and mega industries. Most of these investments are in aluminium, steel and infrastructure industries (roads, ports, power, etc.).

14. It is interesting to note that this entire investment of Rs. 2,50,000 crores shall lead to an employment potential of only 1,75,000 as against the present unemployment level of 20 lakh [2 million](and another at least 20 lakh who are underemployed and who will be losing employment). As against this only Rs. 5000 crores [$1.39 million Canadian] if invested in cottage industries, small and medium industries and big industries shall create employment of nearly 1 crore (10 million) people. The proposed Kashipur Aluminum plant with an investment of Rs. 4,500 crores has a meagre employment potential of only 1000 and that too only for 20 years (after which the bauxite mines of the area will be exhausted) as against 20,000 persons who would lose their livelihoods and resources.

15. The core of the issue is forcible establishment of mega industries at gunpoint that give nothing to the people and takes away their and their future generation’s livelihoods. The Government wants to go for rapid industrialization through setting up of mega and big industries that threaten the livelihood base of the majority of the population. The Rs. 2,50,000 crores planned to be invested by the corporates in Orissa would lead to displacement of more than 10 lakh [1 million] families (the Government of Orissa has admitted that at least 2.5 lakh [250,000] people would be displaced as a consequence of 20 mining projects and 5 big dam projects), exhaust its entire mining resources within the next 50 years, and lead to massive environmental and ecosystem degradation leading to erosion of life sustaining natural resources for the local people. The indutrialisation would lead to pollution and drying up of all rivers and ground water in the state.

16. The State’s ruling elite’s obsession with mining and industrialization is a mask for ruthless stripping away of the environmental and mineral wealth of Orissa for their own personal and class interests. This is the current face of colonization, where global mining corporates collaborate with the ruling elite of the State to obtain access to the minerals and other natural resources at throwaway prices. The Tangarpada mines verdict of the High Court exposes the conspiracy between the ruling class and the corporate sector, where it has ruled that the chromite mine lease to a private corporate house should be cancelled as the current condition would have led to a loss of Rs. 20,000 crores [$5.56 billion CDN] to Orissa. Similarly, the bauxite mining lease for the mountains of Niyamgiri and Khandualmali are surrounded by allegations of large-scale kickbacks. In its greed to sell off the resources of the State, the ruling elite has even omitted to comply with its own Forest Conservation Act in Niyamgiri, and allowed felling of forests without seeking permission from the Central Government. The fate of the tribal and poor who stand in the way of this ruthless loot of State’s resources seems to be bullets and lathis. The massive personal gain by the politicians and bureaucrats explains the extreme haste and interest with which they are pushing the opening up of the State’s resources to global capital. The desire for development through industrialization is but a mask -- no country or state in the world has become developed simply by exploiting its mineral resources. The example of Bihar and Jharkhand next door should serve as a lesson. There are a large number of countries such as Iraq which are being colonized by imperial powers and transnationals precisely because they are rich in mineral resources. This seems to be that fate that awaits Orissa. The doors for Orissa’s colonization have been opened by World Bank loans and the administrative reforms facilitated by DFID (the British Department for International Development), pushing the same neo-liberal agendas which have destroyed the economies of the countries like Argentina, Brazil and Mexico and has pushed masses of those countries to complete destitution and desperation. It needs to be remembered that the same DFID, seen as the saviour of Orissa, is complicit with the Tony Blair Government in the imperial loot and destruction of Iraq.

17. The desperate resistance by the tribal people of Kashipur against the UAIL is therefore not just a struggle against effective genocide of their lives and cultures, but it is also the leading edge of the struggle against the onslaught of global imperialism and attempt of the international capitalist class to appropriate the lifespaces and lives of all marginalized people. This struggle must be supported by all progressives.

Our Appeal: Since, the administration is determined to suppress the people’s movement in Kashipur which is evident from the fact that despite the protest of tribals and dalits yesterday and the subsequent brutal police action against them, sources from Rayagada suggest that the collector and Superintendent of Police have gone to the area with more armed forces to repeat the abandoned programmes of yesterday.

All groups working for the protection of democratic rights of the vulnerable people must get into action immediately to prevent any further violation of democratic rights of the peaceful tribal agitators.

All Political parties claiming to be working for the cause of the tribals and dalits and are aware of the implications of the loot going on in the name of rapid industrialisation should also take exemplary steps to prevent any further atrocities on the people and persuade the government to abandon the Alumina projects.
We request the media to publicise widely our views and report fairly and impartially on the actual field situation by organising immediate field trips.

Gananath Patra, CPI (ML)
Bhalachandra Sarangi, CPI (ML- New democracy)
Lingaraj, Samajwadi Janparishad
Shivram, CPI (ML-Red Flag)
Rajendra Sarangi, Loka Pakhya
Bidyadhar Majhi, Co-convener (PSSP)