Saturday, March 27, 2010

24 Platoons armed police for Kalinganagar tribals: Updates

As predicted earlier, the government and the goons have started a reign of terror against protesting tribals in Kalinganagar. The Bisthapan Birodhi Jana Manch (BBJM) and the villagers are resisting this ingress. Apparently one person has been shot and injured, people beaten up discriminately, houses burned and cattle shot.

The account of the 14 tribals who were killed in 2006 hasn't been settled yet- no proper enquiry, no punishment to the perpertrators of massacres against Indian citizens; and now the whole process has started once again. BBJM asks for justice, and it gets bullets in return.


Information from Kalinganager

On March 28,2010 the Bisthapan Birodhi Jan Manch leaders and villagers welcomed Jajpur District Collector and had a discussion with him on the controversial common corridor though they knew it very well the district administration had other motives. After talks with activists of Bisthapan Birodhi Jan Manch and more than 300 villagers the Collector assured them that there would be no construction activity for the Common Corridor Road till the matter is resolved through dialogue. But the administration has gone back on its words. They started the work yesterday and made a huge media publicity of the event to provoke people. In today's newspapers the SP has said 'protestors will not be spared' and the Collector is saying "construction of the road will happen at any cost."

This gave the manch no other alternative but to protest. But today 29 platoons of armed police with 60 officers and hundreds of BJD and Tata goons reached the place of dispute. They first denied media any entry to the place and the started attacking the peacful protesters. Many have been injured including women and children as indisciminate rubber bullet firing and lathi charge has taken place. They have entered the villages and unleashed a reign of terror. The villagers have tremendous patience and are still resisting peacefully. The area has become a war zone and more than a dozen people including women and children have been seriously injured.

This is being carried out under the supervision of IG Special Operations, Arun Sadangi. Despite Sec 144 being imposed in the area large number of Tata supporters, BJD cadre have assembled at the site and are giving instructions to the police. All people who have a conscience must act now as democracy in Kalinganagra is being butchered in the most vulgar manner and the political and bureaucratic leadership of the state have completely sold themselves to the Tatas. There has been absolutely not even a murmur of protest from any of the mainstream political party leaders which signifies the absolute power Tata wields over them. Just now reports reach us suggesting that firing has started in Baligootha village and where about of the leaders are not known.


As posted earlier, the anti-displacement movement in Kalinganagar has been facing increasing repression from the State Government as TATAs increase their efforts to launch the steel plant. Most people may remember that killing of 14 people in police firing in Kalinganagar was a turning point where it started becoming clear to common people of Orissa that the state government and the ruling elite had sold out to international extractive industries mafia; and that democracy was being buried under the avalanche of global capital flows and extraction of Orissa's natural resources. A state killing its citizens to facilitate international capital - it was a shock to the common folks of Orissa- and a realisation that the wonderful dreams of development were just dreams circulated by a neo-liberal world order, where 500 million elites of the world consume half the world resources; and that the relentless rape of colonised spaces such as Orissa was a neccessary corollary of the greed of the global elite.

In face of this relentless expansion of global extraction into the green heartlands of Orissa, the people of Kalinganagar responded by great fortitude and resolve - we will die but we will not leave our lands. The killings at Kalinganagar transformed what was just a collective effort to obtain more compensation for displacement, into a strong, no compromise movement for place and survival with dignity - and they have held off the state for last four years, inspite of being baricaded by police, arrests, coercion, attempts to bribe, vilification in the media, political pressures, withdrawal of all development support etc. Along with the anti-POSCO movement in Jagatsinghpur, they have become the flagbearers of a people's resistance against neo-liberal extraction, wherein Orissa is sought to be incorporated into the world global economy as a colonised hinterland on unequal terms.

The Orissan state- the sorry vestiges of the proud people of Kalinga and Utkal, an increasingly rump apparatus owned by mining mafia and corporates- has used all means to destroy these suprising shows of resistance by normally docile people. The fact that these tend to be non-violent and democratic makes the situation even more difficult for the state,which needs the fig leaf of democracy to continue serving its masters sitting in Mumbai and London. The tactics are manifold - and the most important one being terming these movements as Maoist, and therefore insurgents against the Indian state. No matter that all the violence has been onesided, against the protest movements - unleashed by state apparatus as well as private mafias; yet branding such movements as infiltrated by Maoists allows the government legitimacy to try to crush the movements. And so you have 24 platoons of armed police entering Kalinganagar area as of today, trying to squash a democratic upsurge against the exclusions and destructions caused by neo-liberal extraction. Who cares who many may die in this exercise on behalf of the TATAs?

The role of local media in this process has often been reprehensile. Fed by the advertising revenues from corporates, as well as direct bribes, many of the local media outlets simply act as mouthpieces of police and corporate sector; and have tried their best to badmouth and discredit such movements. Are there honest scribes who will actually tell the stories from the perspective of people of Orissa- of these movements? Will the mainstream media cover it? Or they will bay for the blood of Rabindra Jarika- labelling him a maoist. Remember that gentle old man- Lalmohan Tudu- who was shot in cold blood by police in Lalgarh.

Those who are still interested in fate of the people of Orissa- you need to speak up before all voices of sanity and selfrespect are silenced by green notes and lead bullets.


URGENT: Tata sponsored 'Green Hunt' in Kalinga Nagar to destroy democratic tribal movement

Yesterday the Collector of Jajpur district assured Dabar Kalundia, a tribal leader of Bisthapan Birodhi Jan Manch (BBJM) that he would come to Baligotha village on 28 March for a meeting with the dissenting villagers and find a solution to the prevailing conflict. But within a day the Collector has broken his word as today about 24 platoons of armed policemen have been deployed in Kalinga Nagar to suppress the democratic & non-violent movement of the BBJM. It is feared that there will be bloodshed at a larger scale than 2 Jan 06 when 14 tribal men, women & children were killed in a police shootout. The villagers fear the police will attack tomorrow morning.

For more than 3 months now the resistance villages of Kalinga Nagar have been besieged by police forces who have randomly arrested dozens of villagers who stepped out of their village. People have been framed under false charges. There has been repeated midnight attacks by policemen and Tata goons to annihilate key activists of the BBJM. Hired assassins have also tried to eliminate the tribal leaders of the movement and one such attempt caused the death of Amin Banara of Baligotha village. Recently large number of police forces had been deployed on the pretext of building a road through the villages. Every attempt of the police and administration to quell the dissent of the people has been countered in democratic and non-violent ways by the BBJM.

The BBJM has clarified several times that it is not a Maoist backed organisation and does not want violence. The BBJM has made it clear that it will not accept displacement and mindless industrialisation that is already causing massive pollution in the area leading to widespread disease, crop failure, air, water & sound pollution. The Collector also agreed to the meeting only after the BBJM wrote several letters to him demanding that their concerns be addressed first as the Collector had been announcing in some meetings in the area that the Common Corridor Road would be built at any cost.

Surprisingly the print and electronic media have so far ignored developments in Kalinganagar which itself is a threat to democracy. Mainstream political parties also have reached a consensus with the ruling party which creates concerns among all citizens who understand the implications of mobilization of armed police in kalinganagar villages resisting Tata induced displacement.

We demand that the Govt should stop acting like a hired mercenary of Tata Steel company and withdraw all police forces from the area immediately. If there is any bloodshed the sole responsibility will lie on the Govt. The Govt should also give up the Common Corridor Road project as it will be built on fertile farm land and the community land of the tribals. The Govt should respect the sacrifice of the 14 tribals killed by the police and scrap the Tata project immediately. There should be no further displacement & dispossession of tribal people from their land. The Govt should immediately start working towards restoring peace in the area by assuring the tribals that there will be no attacks on them by the police or Tata goons. A medical team should be sent to the villages immediately as people have not been able to visit doctors for days in fear of arrest.

We appeal to all concerned citizens, progressive groups & media persons to raise their voice against the Fascist tendencies of the Govt and express solidarity with the tribals of Kalinga Nagar.

Prafulla Samnatara, Lok Shakti Abhijan
Lingaraj, Samajbadi Jan Parishad
Radhakant Sethi, CPI-ML Liberation
Prashanta Paikrai, PPSS
Bhalachandra Sadangi, CPI-ML New Democracy
Lingaraj Azad, NSS

A recent video clip of repression in Kainganagar can be found at this locations

Monday, March 15, 2010

NROs again

I had written about a certain set of NROs earlier at

Then recently a threat started on a listserve regarding operation greenhunt. One certain Mr. Manoj Padhi, whose heart apparently beats for Orissa and Oriyas had the following words to say about Orissa's tribals

""The answer to all these tribals is - " (tax) Money is not hanging in trees of tribal regions" so that the Government can pluck them and provide them all kinds of comfort."

Tribals have got two options.

· Maintain status quo and worship their god Niyamraja

· flow with science & technology wind and "earn" development with their own income/ sales tax money, instead of looking at Government, if they don't agree with Government's version of development (like mining Niyamagiri Hill)"

The brilliance of this comment illustrates the gap that exists between NROs who stay in USA, drive their SUVs and dip in their swimming pools in backyards and the tribal Oriya whose daily income, if any, is half a dollar. It also shows the utter alienations and disconnect between such NROs and common people of Orissa. Of course, part of it is that these NROs have been part of Orissa’s elite, used to a feudal-castebased system, where tribals and dalits are seen less than human – and therefore it is easy for them to graduate to the arrogance of a right-wing Americanism. Lets see what Mr. Padhi has to add to the above words of wisdom.

He goes on:

Many of us buying a home stead land in BBSR, Delhi, Gurgaon, etc.

Why ?

Why we don't buy land in a tribal area, where we can buy acres of land with in our budget?

For the same reason- why would any Businessman invest in tribal areas instead of Gurgaon, Faridabad and Noida ? Just to provide employment to tribals ? This is bad economics. Since you are against displacement of tribals, I guess, your vision of tribal development is - "Agriculture Only" === status quo

This was one of my choices. Tribals, if they don't want to be displaced, they have to live like that forever without expecting a share from the taxes of developed areas like BBSR, Berhampur or Rourkela.

Here is an analogy for Government vs Home owner Association. I live in a community, where the home owner association collects $300 per annum as HOA FEE. There are 1000 homes in the community and whatever they collect, would be spent for our community development such as swimming pool, club house, play areas, parks, walking trails.

There are other communities, with lesser homes - they collect $500 per annum for the same service. There are communities without swimming pools and they collect lesser amount. The point is - proportional service is offered by home owner associations, based on their income/fee collection.

Now apply this to tribals. They used to live in jungle by cutting woods, hunting animals - those are now illegal. Even Government has taken over "Kendu leaf" based income, which is used for "Beedi".

Now what's remaining for them ? Agriculture.

After independent, tribals were one of the biggest land losers as per the post-independence revenue records. Government is trying to correct the wrong by distributing them land pattas. So, without (sic!) negligible income (tax collection) from their region, what kind of Vision is possible ? They have to be parasites - i.e. depend on a share of tax income of developed cities/districts. Does center is able to distribute funds proportionately to states. No. Mamta Banarjee is taking 80% projects to Bengal. Lalu did the same for Bihar. Karunanidhi is getting more projects than Odisha.

And, without their negligible tax base, why would tribals expect that, the Government will channel others’ tax money to their area only ? Hence, any Vision without local tax income wouldn't be feasible and will die theoretical death. It sounds good to listen but won't be possible. Activists hate companies but NRGEA money is the result of 35% tax provided by corporate houses.

So, in short, in the absence of local tax money (please recall - lower the HOA fee, no swimming pool), there will be promises only from the Government. No quality of services.

But, if Vedanta comes and starts mining - local tax money will be generated and spent locally by their Municipality or corporation etc. Now, if they don't want to destroy the environment and wish to live like Amazon tribes, they are very much welcome. I will fully support their desire to live in the green belt provided, they don't want any thing from the Government's exchequer because they are not contributing any thing substantially to the Government's treasury.

So, let us drive Vedanta out and start a conditional signature campaign - "Mr. CM, leave us in our state and we want to live as Amazon tribe with the blessings of Mountain God Niyam Raja and we don't expect any thing from you - we are happy".

I love the arrogance of this man- comparing the State of Orissa to his Housing Association in some suburban city of USofA- the country of drone wars and long distance asssinations. I suppose for him the Maoists are “Taliban” with the beards shaved off, to be killed without any due process of law. Unfortunately for him – they still remain Indian citizens- though that doesn’t stop the government from killing them.

For him common people of Orissa, including tribals are parasites, existing on taxes of middle class and the corporate houses. Does he know by what means the Government of India (sorry the imperial british) obtained “rights” over the mineral and forest resources of tribal India? Does he know about the wars of resistance fought by the tribal communities – whose lands and forests have been sought to be taken away? Does he know about enclosures of commons- not only in India’s hinterland but also in the Americas.

I have a question to ask the NROs- is Mr. Padhi and his ideas representative of standard NRO thinking? Are all of you so out of touch with the reality of Orissa- or is this person an aberration, and outlier, a statistical anamoly. Can anyone respond to this?

I am also copying a response to stuff like this which I posted on the said listserve. The post was in support of Prashant Patanaik, the veteran journalist from Orissa, who pointed out that people who were screaming hoarse about the employment corporate houses would provide are silent about the nearly one lakh vacant posts in government jobs.

This was my post

the self-same intellectuals will than add - but government doesn't have the resources to employ one lakh people. Then you could point out that we are selling off our best quality iron ore, manganeses and bauxite for peanuts so that the miners and industrial houses can be subsidised - and that literally hundreds of thousands of crores of rupees have been siphoned off from the collective wealth of Orissa by the same companies and individuals who are being supported by the diaspora. You could also point out that inspite of the manyfold increase in mining output, the employment in mining sector has fallen over the years. And that the employment that these new industries would bring in is miniscule compared to the people they are displacing- and that this employment will go to the well educated people, mostly non-Oriyas. We could tell them that in the current situation, Orissa is being looted, legally and illegally, and that its only these movements who are trying to do something about it- and that almost everybody else with power and voice has sold out to outsiders.

In the larger picture, we could point out that zones of intense natural resource extraction have never benefitted from the same- maybe the example of Appalachia mountaintop mining or iron ore mines in Upper Peninsula of Michigan will help to convince Mr. Padhi. We could point out that such zones have almost always led to undemocratic governments and that in literature this affliction is called "resource curse" - countries like South Africa, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Bolivia, Peru, Iraq.”

We could point out the slums of Jamshedpur and Rourkela, where you can find the original "tribal" inhabitants of these areas- living in misery. We could point out that Rourkela, Jamshedpur, Koraput are outposts of internal colonisation.

We could claim that those who speak against Green Hunt and have approached the SC against Salwa Judum are not supporting Maoists - that in fact the naxalites, when they come to power (an impossibility), would be as vicious and cruel as the current dispensation, with their belief in a static ideology. That probably the first people that the armed revolution will target are the same "intellectuals" that one of the poster called "agents of China" for speaking out for the human and democratic rights of the poor.

We could point out that the process of creative destruction of capitalism implies that surplus populations sitting on resources needed by the powerful will be extinguished - and that development no longer means the development of everyone in India and Orissa- but the development of a vocal, powerful minority of Indians. That this planet doesn't have the resources to support a billion Indians to live in the same lifestyle that Mr. Padhi enjoys - and that his swimming pools and manicured lawns are "unprecedented" in human history - and that these are sustained by resource exploitation on a totally unsustainable and extractive basis. That the modern systems of wealth have been built on the destroyed lives of hundreds of people and unprecendented resource grabbing; and that what we see in Orissa is the continuation of the same processes. We can also point out that we are fast running out of resources that fuel his consumption life style.We may point out that the same processes which sustain his swimming pool and american lifestyle are also destroying our livelihood support systems, including our atmosphere.

However, all these would fall on deaf ears of those in the diaspora who are the multiple beneficiaries of the which grinds our people to dust. They were privileged when they were in Orissa- fattened by the cheap labor and cheap resources of their fellow citizens. And then they are privileged by the same processes of global circulations and extractions which allows them to maintain their swimming pools and SUVs in the US of A. They have transitioned smoothly from the privileges of feudal-caste society of Orissa to the capitalist societies of the west.

And then they have the gumption to advise people and their movements here- at the receiving end of all these processes - to support the same anti-democratic and anti-people entities to rape and ravage our land, treating our people as so much filth to be kicked out from their lands and livelihoods.As Satyasagar pointed out, Indian elite, unlike the western elite, doesn't consider the three fourth population of our country as human- and therefore denies their basic human rights. How can the diaspora (though with many exceptions), which has spawned from the same elite, be expected to think of the majority of Oriyas, including tribals, as human beings having certain basic rights. They dream of a glorious, utopian Orissa- yet this dream is an upper class/caste/diasporic nightmare/dream, where the poor don't exist- not because they have been "uplifted", but because they have been decimated or made invisible.

Let us stop paying attention to them - those who dream of Vedanta Universities and the shining metro of BBSR, built on the bleached lives, destroyed livelihoods and extracted labor of our people. The struggles of people for their rights and justice is too important to waste time with these long distance advisors.”


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Vedanta finds itself in deep end of both FCA and FRA

Vedanta is apparently violating both the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and the Forest Rights Act, 2006 - as found by a Ministry of Environment & Forest Team. This officially substantiates what many of us have been trying to tell the state and central government for quite some time. It also shows the contempt with which Vedanta holds the rule of law in India - that in fact the infamous Supreme Court order which allowed Vedanta's proxy Sterlite to carry out mining of Niyamgiri was premised on the assumption that Vedanta hadn't violated the forest laws; and that Sterlite - its sister company, would be responsible enough to carry of "good mining" without violating laws on Niyamgiri. That Vedanta has merrily flouted this premise of the Court shows how confident it was to be able to buy out all regulatory authorities. Unfortunately, like the CEC before this- it seems to have found that certain forest officials and experts can't be bought. Now we need to see if the MoEF, i.e. the Indian Government has the guts to say no to this lawbreaker in its quest to mine the sacred Niyamgiri.

Vedanta flouted forest conservation norms, says report

The Hindu, New Delhi, March 13 2010

Vedanta Aluminium has violated forest conservation guidelines and has failed to follow the Forest Rights Act in letter and spirit at a proposed bauxite mine project in the Niyamgiri Hills of Orissa, according to a report submitted by a three-member team to the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

After receiving allegations about the project earlier this year, the Ministry constituted the team – with a forestry official, a former government wildlife official and an independent sociology expert - to inspect the site and speak to all stakeholders. The team's report was considered by the Forest Advisory Committee of the Ministry on Friday, and the Orissa government was asked to provide an explanation for the violations, according to Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests.

The company has built an incomplete mine access road passing through both forest and non-forest areas and has constructed 47 pillars for a conveyor corridor before receiving clearances, in violation of the Forest Conservation Act guidelines, according to a site inspection by J.K. Tewari, Chief Conservator of Forests. So far as wildlife was concerned, Vinod Rishi, former Additional Director General of the Wildlife Institute of India, has said that if no further diversion of forest land for mining is allowed, the Niyamgiri ecosystem would be able to recover.

It is the report of Usha Ramanathan from the Centre for Study of Developing Society, which is the most damning. She says that the Forest Rights Act has yet to be implemented in the area. The local Dongria Kond tribals have not been made fully aware of their land rights, nor have they been consulted about the mining project, because under the strict definition, they are not displaced people.

However, Dr. Ramanathan notes that “the disruption of their habitat and way of life…may lead to the destruction of the Dongria Konds as a Primitive Tribal Group.” She also documents cases of repression of public opinion and dissent by both the company and local authorities and reports of pollution by Vedanta's nearby refinery. In fact, she says that Vedanta Aluminium's involvement in the project may itself violate a Supreme Court order.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A new video by Samadrusti Channel on the ongoing repression in Kalinganagar

Somehow Kalinganagar seems to have slipped out of the consciousness of the chattering classes- who are currently more distracted by the so called threats posed by the Maoists, who are supposed to take over the Indian State by 2050 - a red herring of quite large proportions. Meanwhile my friends who keep track of movements and corporates say that the state is OK with the maoists- what they are really afraid of are the kinds of movements that we have seen in Kalinganagar against TATAs and against POSCO in Jagatsinghpur- for these non-violent movements operating within the democratic spaces strip away the mask from the faces of the state and the ruling elite - and their pretensions to democracy.

Therefore the deseperate attempts at all times to link these movements with the maoists - see what happened in Narayanpatna and Lalgarh. And the Maoists are obliging the government quite well by infiltrating these areas, providing the state the space to paint these movements as security risks and to eradicate them with brutality. Lalmohan Tudu's assasination is an example. The same efforts have been made to paint Kalinganagar movement as Maoists, and as teh video below shows, efforts to suppress the movement. The real puppeteers in this drama sit in Mumbai and Jamshedpur in their AC offices, and are voted the most popular Indians.