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News Release

Police Violence Against the Peoples of Kashipur Must Stop Immediately!

URGENT ACTION ALERT

This urgent action expires December 16, 2004.

Contents of this message:

  1. Urgent information on Kashipur, India
  2. Taking immediate action, what you can do about it
  3. Sample letter to Alcan officers and Orissa Chief Minister
  4. Background info

1) Urgent Information:

A variety of recent reports claim that despite the peoples' clear resistance, more armed police have been sent to the Kashipur region, and that the Collector and Police Superintendents are residing with the police platoons in the nearby town of Tikiri. Police have been reported to be arresting and harassing people indiscriminantly, including farmers returning from their fields. At the same time, thousands of people throughout the state are rallying against the police repression and the corporate encroachment on their lands. This rallying will culminate on Tuesday December 7th, where peoples from across the state will be demonstrating against this severe police violence serving foreign corporate interests. Likewise, as has been the case every year since 2000, the peoples will be marking "Kashipur Martyrs' Day" on December 16th with huge anti-mining, and anti-police violence rallies.

It is very possible that these demonstrations will result in much more severe violence against the peoples who have been brave enough to identify the state and companies as unjust encroachers on their land.

Our immediate efforts here in Montreal, and in North America in general, can very much help to mitigate this possible violence on the 7th and 16th of December.

2) Take Action:

a) Write to Alcan Inc. by e-mail with your concerns about this recent wave of police violence unleashed on the adivasis (Indigenous peoples) and dalits (low cast peoples) of Kashipur, Orissa, India. Sample letter below.

Please write to:
Michael Hanley, Alcan CEO of Bauxite and Alumina at
and CC the message to:
Alcan CEO Travis Engen at
Chief Minister of Orissa, Shri Naveen Patnaik at

b) Call Michael Hanley at: +1 514 848 8487 and ask him to do everything in his power as an officer of Alcan, holding a 45% share in this project, to stop all violence against the peoples of Kashipur. Let Alcan't know when you have taken action - please bcc alcantinindia(at)yahoo.com, or send us an e-mail after you have contacted Michael Hanley.

3) Sample Letter:

To:

Michael Hanley
President and CEO, Bauxite and Alumina, Alcan Inc.
Montreal, Canada
e-mail: michael.hanley(at)alcan.com

Shri Naveen Patnaik
Chief Minister - Orissa
Bhubaneswar, India
e-mail: cmo(at)ori.nic.in

Subject: Halt immediately brutal police action on peoples of Kashipur, Orissa.

December, 2004

Dear Sirs,

I am writing to you to bring to your attention our grave concerns regarding brutal police action against tribals in Kashipur Orissa in the last few days. You must be aware of the problems in Kashipur and surrounding areas of Orissa where adivasi and dalit communities have been agitating against your proposed bauxite mine and alumina refinery. The communities have been greatly concerned about the destruction of their livelihoods, communities and environment by this proposed project. Despite repeated requests from the tribal communities to stop The projects, the state government has recently stepped up its efforts to initiate the Utkal Alumina International Ltd. (UAIL) project in which you hold a 45% share. The state government is now using police force to start the bauxite mine and alumina refinery by violent means. In the past such use of police force has, as I am sure you are aware, resulted in the killing of three unarmed adivasis and serious injury of several others.

On Dec 1st, 2004 the district administration led by the Collector Dr. P K Meherda and the Superintendent of Police, accompanied by over 500 armed police,had gone to Karal village to inaugurate the approach road to your proposed bauxite mine on Baphlimali (from Totaguda to Paikokupakhal). A police outpost and a barrack for armed police in Karal were also to be inaugurated. Clearly the state as well as the companies involved are aware of the massive local opposition to your proposed project, given that it can not be initiated before establishing an intimidating police presence.

This inauguration was opposed by around 400 tribals, mostly women. In response, the police intimidated them with blank firings, and then resorted to a massive and indiscriminate lathi charge. The lathi charge took place at 3:00 PM. As per the reports, the tribals were beaten up badly. Around 16 people have been critically injured and three tribal women were still unconscious three and a half hours later. It has also come to our notice that people critically injured in the police lathi charge have not been taken for treatment to hospital but have instead been arrested and taken to Rayagada Jail. The critically injured persons, including dalit leader Saroj Naik, have been denied hospital care and so are now languishing in Rayagada jail.

As you are well aware, the State Government has consistently tried to suppress the people's movement against your proposed mining project by resorting to strong police action, which culminated in the killing of three tribals. The killing was due to irresponsible police action, opening fire against unarmed villagers at Maikanch on December 16, 2000. The Justice P.K. Mishra Commission, set-up to enquire about the Maikanch police firing, clearly identified the officers culpable for the incidence, though no action has been taken against these identified officers. At this time, Alcan was already a shareholder in UAIL. The most recent incidents of December 1, 2004 are very similar in nature, intending to suppress the movement of the people demanding their rights.

These past and recent demonstrations of police brutality against opponents of your mining project have drawn the attention of various news media in India and Canada, and is being monitored by various Indian, Canadian and International NGOs.

Now, your company has a 45% share in UAIL. This severe police violence is being perpetrated in order to initiate as soon as possible your bauxite extraction and alumina refining project. I demand that as a responsible and respectful corporation, you immediately denounce these outrageous actions of the Orissa state government. I demand that you do everything in your power to stop the forceful and violent implementation of UAIL activities in the region of Kashipur. The people are intending to demonstrate against these police actions on Tuesday December 7th. As such, we expect that you will contact your Indian partners and the appropriate government officials immediately to make it clear that you will not accept violence against the people of Kashipur on this day, or any other day, for the establishment of UAIL.

Sincerely,

cc
Travis Engen
President and CEO, Alcan Inc.
Montreal, Canada
e-mail: travis.engen(at)alcan.com

4) Background info

Alcan't in India solidarity campaign, with urgent news from the Kashipur region of Orissa, India. In this region, several companies, including Alcan Inc. of Montreal, are hoping to establish huge bauxite mines and alumina refineries, at the cost of the livelihoods of thousands of indigenous and low-caste peoples who live in the areas. These local peoples have consistently demonstrated their opposition to this project through legal channels as well as through mass public mobilizations. However, the government of Orissa is bent on initiating these mega-industry projects even though the projects offer little in the way of employment, development or even tax revenue for the state.

During the last week of November 2004, politicians and bureaucrats held an all party meeting requesting that the Alcan mining project be launched at any cost and the opposition be suppressed.

On December 1st, under the direct command and in the presence of the District Collector (high-level bureaucrat) and Police Superintendent, hundreds of armed police tear-gassed, brutally attacked, and critically injured 16 indigenous peoples, most of them women, near the village of D-Karal.

Through violent and direct police repression, the Orissa government was attempting to forcibly inaugurate an approach road and police outpost for the proposed bauxite mine and alumina refinery of which Montreal's Alcan Inc. has a 45 percent share. Around 400 local indigenous people had gathered to prevent the activities of these violent state encroachers, as part of their continuing efforts to protect their lands and livelihoods.

After the December 1st attacks, many people are missing and are believed to be in secret police custody. Several reports further claim that many of the victims, although sustaining severe injuries, are not receiving any medical attention while in detention.

Both past and recent events demonstrate that this police violence is a conscious program of the Orissa government in support of the Alcan-backed aluminum project. As reported by the state-wide daily "Dharitri" on November 25, the Chief Minister (head of state) of Orissa, Shri Naveen Patnaik, gave clear instructions to state bureaucrats and police superintendents that all anti-mining movements must be firmly suppressed.

Furthermore, these recent attacks come on the eve of the fourth commemoration of the killings of three indigenous villagers who dared to speak out against the destructive mining project.

On December 16, 2000, Anhilas, Damodar, and Raghunath Jhodia were shot Dead by heavily armed state police who attacked their village after local people held a massive anti-mining meeting. Finally, as far back as 1998, village leader Mangta Majhi was effectively killed by police when they arrested him, severely beat him, and then allowed him to return home to die.

Alcan has previously denied culpability regarding police violence in Kashipur. The explicit nature of this December 1 incident, involving attempts to build an approach road and police outpost whose only purpose would be for the development Alcan's proposed aluminum project, directly call into question this Canadian company's claims of non-culpability and likewise its claims that this project is still only in its "conceptual" and "development" stages. Recent reports from India claim that the state government is attempting to establish the mine and refinery by January 2005, which is a full year earlier than Alcan was claiming the project would need to APPROVED by its own board of directors.

Please help us to stop this indiscriminant and severe police violence against the peoples of Kashipur, who are fighting just to protect their livelihoods. Write and call Alcan as soon as possible.

In solidarity,
Alcan't in India
alcantinindia(at)yahoo.com
www.saanet.org/alcant