Orissa – Press note on violence unleashed by corporations

February 23, 2012

CORPORATE HIMSHA VIRODHI SAMANAWAYA SAMITI, ODISHA
(Coordination Committee Against Corporate Violence in Odisha )

Ever since the frontiers of the country were nakedly made open to the global economic and market forces for ruthless exploitation of the rich natural resources and for the launching of an unethical, unreasonable and unjust market with growing potential to expand itself to meet the artificially engineered needs of an expanding middle class, the pillars of democracy started crumbling down. History of centuries old, which keeps us reminding every now and then that India is land of unique and ugly social inequalities and which do overlap with economic boundaries quite often, was conveniently ignored. The dominance of market over everything else- social, political and economic was designed without giving any thought to the possibility that the gaps only will widen and the bridge may not be a reality in future history. The 1990s not only marked the rise of big capital and corporate raj, it did also witness the beginning of the death of democracy which could not be revived again without hardships and sacrifices. The 10th year of reforms began with bloody tribute to the corporate raj when three tribals Abhilash, Raghunath and Damodar laid down their lives in the altar of Utkal Alumina led by the Birlas while defending their right to life, livelihood and democracy on 16th December, 2000.

Corporate takeover of rich natural resources and state complicity in the crimes made its presence felt not only in Kashipur, it started reaching out to all resource rich places across the state. On January 2, 2006, 14 anti-displacement tribals in Kalinganagra were killed by the police for the Tatas. A few more died later in the hands of private goons and also because they were not allowed to take emergency health care as the entire area had been turned in to an open house prison. No mainstream political party came to their help. All basic services were stopped to the area. Hundreds of false cases were framed against the innocent villagers. The same situation was made to repeat in anti-POSCO agitation area. POSCO inspired assault was common place and innocent villagers did not have any escape route expecting that of courting arrest or to live a prisoner’s life. The story of repression by Vedanta is known all over the world. Sukru Majhi in Lanjigarh and Dula Mondal in Govindapur of POSCO agitation area are being remembered in their respective places as the ecological martyrs. The Bhusans have become more notorious then any one else. The Mittals, Uttam Galva and RSB metals are going ahead with their criminal activities in their respective areas.

But the incident that happened in Jindal’s Angul empire would shock any conscientious and right thinking citizen of a democracy. The victims of Jindal’s injustice had gone to the Angul factory of JSPL on Jauray 25, 2012 ( day before the Republic Day) to talk to the authorities for resolving their outstanding displacement and rehabilitation issues. Suddenly, the Jindal authority started attacking them. The women who were in the fore front were sexually assaulted and brutally attacked with sharp weapons. Even children who were in their mother’s lap could not escape the wrath of the company. About 200 innocent and peaceful protestors who were victims of Jindal’s land acquisition project were injured and six of them are still battling for survival. The demonstration of the Jindal displacement villages and violence affected people has entered 25th day today.

At the same time, the villagers of Rengapali near Lanjigarh Vedanta factory have been put in an open house prison by the company. All essential services to them have been stopped and people have been forced to live in atmosphere of fear and pollution. When they opposed the illegal expansion work of the company involving cutting off the only road to their village, they were brutally beaten up and 47 of them were arrested and put in judicial custody for three weeks. Now the police at the behest of the company are spreading terror in the area by threatening the Dongaria tribes of dire consequences if they dared to come to their scared spot on Niyamgiri for an annual puja in the last week of February. The Victims of Vedanta’s injustice and violence are being branded as Maoists -a convenient mechanism to crush any just movement.

Starting from Kashipur to Angul and from Tatas to the Jindals, Bhusans, Vedanta, Mittals and Birlas, the untold miseries and sufferings of the democratic citizens of the state is continuing with the Odisha state joining hands with perpetrators of violence and with democratic authorities shying away from constitutional responsibilities and obligations.

The Corporate Himsha Virodhi Samanawaya Samiti very strongly feels that the corporate engineered violence either done through the state police or by private militia must end if there is any respect for democracy and constitution in the state. The incidences of violence have become more commonplace these days with more and more innocent victims of irresponsible industrialization facing death and fatal injuries. The Samiti which has been formed by people belonging to left and progressive political forces are all working closely with the common men more particularly the tribals, dalits, farmers, fishermen, daily wage earners, landless peasants and helpless share croppers. The leaders of the Samiti have met the governor today and appealed him with a memorandum saying that, since the government of the day is visibly seen to be promoting the interests of the corporations, the chief minister will not act on its own wisdom to put a full stop to it. Thus, Rajyapaliji must intervene immediately and ask the chief minister to do the following:

1. To prepare a white paper on the plight of the displaced for the last 12 years. Where are they, how are they and how many cases have been registered against them, how many are in jails, how many have died and how many injured, how many have been compensated because of violence against them need to be clearly spelt out in the white paper and submitted in the floor of the Assembly.
2. To also report what action has been taken against criminal companies and culprit officials?
3. To form a statutory commission to record and investigate violence done on the people of an area where any corporate project is coming up and resistance to them is there in any form active or passive. The so called supporters of project or Sapakhyabadis are in fact corporate sponsored private goons who the state is knowingly promoting to crush any just and peaceful opposition.
4. To clearly give an order for investigation of the ruthless and brutal violence of Jindal Steel and Power Company in Angul where the women protesters have been sexually assaulted and mercilessly beaten up. No action has been taken against the company of the district police and administration who were complicity to the crimes.
5. Along with this we would also like to endorse the demands raised by Angul Jindal oustees that all the promises made to them by the company are met with which necessarily includes adequate compensation and employment for all of them. Lands forcibly taken may be returned with immediate effect.

The Members of Corporate Himsha Virodhi Samanawaya Samiti who addressed the meeting included Prafulla Samantara, Radhakant Sethi, Suresh Panigrahi, Sibaram, Bhalachandra, Rabi Behera, Mahendra Parida, Pramila Behera, Jayadeb Nayak, Dabur Kalundia, Yogendra Gadanayak, Janaki Rao Sima Sethi and others