Open Letter to Navin Jindal

February 23, 2012

by Himanshu Kumar

I just finished watching a few videos showing security forces mercilessly beating villagers in Orissa, along with some heart wrenching pictures of the attack. One of the pictures was of a year and a half old child with a broken foot, another of a seventy year old woman with her blood drenched face, and yet another of a tear stricken eighty year old man with blood oozing from his forehead. Another video shows a labourer lying on a hospital bed with his broken leg, moaning from an unbearable pain, and unable to work for next three months.

I was seized with uncontrollable anger and shame as I watched these videos. I was ashamed of myself that while all these atrocities were being perpetrated, I was powerless to stop them. And who was the target of my anger? This I will describe in this letter.

Mr Jindal, according to one survey, you are the richest person in this country. You make more than 66 crore rupees annually. That comes to more than 5 crore rupees per month. As per Government economists, any villager who earns more than Rs 28 per day is not considered poor. So according to the Government, your income is 66000 times the income of an average person above the poverty line.

I cannot believe that you are so much richer than a person earning Rs 28 a day because you work 66000 times harder. You acquired your ill-gotten wealth by robbing the indigents of this country of the resources hidden beneath their lands, and by selling them. Do you see any difference between a hood who knives and robs someone on the one hand, and you who rob the poor by shedding their blood, on the other? You may disagree, but the poor on whom you have unleashed such brutality with the help of police and local hoods, cannot see even an iota of difference.

The civilized urban dwellers of this country are awed by your patriotism because the Supreme Court of India, as per a case filed by you, passed a judgement according to which every citizen of this country can hoist the tricolour every day at his or her home. But do you think that people mercilessly beaten by your hoods would be enthused to hoist the tricolour when the police and the Government who swear by it forcibly acquire their lands, and anyone brave enough to ask for compensation is brutally beaten by your hoods, and the police stands by silently during this open and ferocious attack on the public ?

Mr Jindal, this tricolour is symbolic of the equality between you on the one hand, and the millions of poor people of this country, for whom you have nothing but contempt, on the other. You should be thankful that the indigents of this country are not aware of this powerful symbolism, or else they would have grabbed you by the collar, dragged you out from your palatial dwellings, beaten you and brought you to the police station where the station in charge would have thrown you in prison, had his oath to the tricolour been sincere. But, Mr Jindal, it is clear you insist on soaking this tricolour with the blood of innocent people. Don’t you dare to turn the tricolour red. Otherwise the poor will drench this tricolour in their own blood, fly it, and then stand you in a queue, where you will be forced to work all day like other poor people to earn a daily wage of Rs 28. You run a management college. Do your students know that a vast gulf separates what your college teaches, and the barbarism inherent in your own ‘management style’? Do the students of the Jindal Global Law School know how its founder routinely tramples upon and has complete contempt for Law and Constitution.

In order to intimidate and harass villagers demanding compensation, you entrap them in false cases in faraway provinces, so that no one would dare to raise their voice against you. Before every land grab, your hired goons brutally attack anyone who dares to raise their voice against you. You bribe the police who throw such activists in prison. Just a few days ago, the Chhattisgarh Hight Court filed a summons against you, but given the contempt your company has for the Law, it did not even accept the notice. How can they even dare to serve the court order, when it is your money that pays for all the police vehicles in the Raigadh district, and when it is your money that has built all the police stations? Do you also teach the Law students in your college such brilliant ways to circumvent the Law?

To facilitate land grab for your benefit, the Junglemahal region of West Bengal is now infested with Government troops*. These poor soldiers are now fighting against the poor people of the region resisting the armed might of the State. The poor are killing each other. When this brutal war is over, when the poor have killed each other to the last, and when you have seized their lands, you will sell the precious mineral wealth underneath these lands to foreign multinationals.
You may call this lawless looting business as usual. But your violent, brazen and shameless deeds are continuously stoking the anger of millions in this country. We will make every effort to channel this anger lest it dissipate, so that they can realize the ideals of equality, and social and economic justice which form the bedrock of our Constitution, and so that India becomes a real democracy rather than the pathetic caricature it has become, where the faux symbolism of the tricolour matters more than its meaning.

If, after reading this letter, you think that I am wrong, I am willing to engage in a public discussion with you on these issues.

[* The proposed steel plant in Salboni in the West Bengal Junglemahal is not being built by the Naveen Jindal group (Jindal Steel and Power) but by the Sajjan Jindal group (Jindal Steel Works). However, the nature of land-grabbing and dispossession of the peasants is the same, and even the laws pertaining to acquisition of adivasi land have been violated. - Ed]