THE POGROM AND THE PREDICAMENT

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is in a predicament over the Kalinga Nagar pogrom.

The relatives of the annihilated Adivasis (Tribal people) have refused on 23rd May 2006 to receive what the Government was prompting them to receive as the chopped off palms of five of their martyrs whom the State Police had killed on 2nd January 2006 to protect Tata interest at Kalinga Nagar in Jajpur District continue to show how inhuman could be a government under control of the rich.

These are not their palms. These do not look like their palms. Tell us which palm belongs to whom so that with that palm the last rituals of that man could be performed.

These are the words of the tribal people of Kalinga Nagar who are suspecting that the Government is trying to hoodwink them with palms cut off from some other corpses somewhere after the National Human Rights Commission asked Orissa administration to return the palms of the killed people for their last ritual.

This is a serious situation. The Adivasis have blocked the main road for around five months following the massacre. Spiritually superstitious to the core, they are unable to perform the last rites of the martyrs without their respective palms, which were cut off from their bodies by the State. And they cannot live in peace without performing the last rituals.

The question that refuses to subside is: why the palms of the massacred people were chopped off their bodies? The palms had no role in medico-legal investigation. We had a breaking analysis in these pages earlier. But the authorities have never thrown any light on the issue. Why the palms were cut off and in which way that helped the Law should have been placed before the people. But bureaucracy that masterminded the killing has never allowed this to happen. The possible reason is: it was not a massacre; it was an act of pogrom carried out with meticulous planning. Not only the palms of male members of the tribes were chopped off but also breasts of female members of the community on whose bodies post-mortem examinations were conducted were cut off. This must not have been done without any motive. And the motive could not have been anything other than transmitting a message to the tribal people that if they don’t cooperate, their future progeny would be threatened. Breasts of females symbolizing source of livelihood of the new born and hands of males symbolizing source of sustenance and protection, the message was formulated to terrify the tribal agitators who by birth and tradition rely upon symbols in every sphere of existence. Is it not indicative of a pogrom? The patrons of plutocracy in our officialdom, whose agents perpetrated this pogrom on experimental basis, are so shrewd that they have used Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik as such a shield that they would stay safe for ever by evading public gaze.

Mark the scenario. Naveen Patnaik has not killed anybody personally. When people were killed at Kalinga Nagar what should have been his reaction as a Chief Minister? As the leader of the people? He should have rushed to the spot, like he has visited hooch victims of Ganjam district so many times. But he has never gone to Kalinga Nagar till date. The bureaucracy has not advised the Chief Minister to personally visit the victimized people to assuage them as their leader. This has worsened the matter further; but as a result of his refusal to visit the spot, he has no first hand knowledge on what really has happened at Kalinga Nagar even as this is enough for general public to look at him with suspicion.

When he rose above Orissa’s political horizon, he had no political experience. The sycophants of late Biju Patnaik had prevailed upon him to accept their leadership.

These sycophants were with Biju Patnaik to derive personal gain, as minus Biju Patnaik they were non-entities in Orissa politics. After his demise they were political orphans. No political party was willing to adopt them. Therefore they had prompted Naveen Patnaik to join politics and by projecting him and rallying round him, they were sure to benefit.

After occupying power, Naveen slowly but steadily understood the foul game his colleagues were playing and therefore, instead of relying upon party colleagues, started relying upon the bureaucracy.

Taking advantage of this, a mischievous section of the bureaucracy has misled him into the trap of private capital from where it is now impossible for him to come out.

In the name of development of our people, his Government has been displacing them from their inherited lands and natural habitats.

He is now known more for his allegiance to industrialists than to people of Orissa. His Government is doing everything to handover Orissa’s mineral wealth to the industrial community without caring for the stake the future generation of the Oriyas should be having in it.

Mineral ores are not created in a day. The Nature has taken millions of years to create them. Orissa has a heavy stock of these ores of different groups over which our people and their heirs have the geographical right. A Government is to manage this right of the people and their heirs. And a Government is temporary. It is authorized by the people to manage their assets and affairs for a temporary period, say for five years. How can such a Government lease out all the mineral ores to private industries, mostly outsiders, to be exhausted within, say, twenty years? Heirs of the present generation of Oriyas shall also have Orissa as their motherland and shall also have the right to take advantage of the resources their motherland should be possessing. If the entire stock of mineral ores is exhausted by the present Government, it cannot but be termed as a treachery against our people.

Naveen Patnaik may not be personally and solely responsible for this treachery against the people. But whom to blame if Orissa has been, during his regime, reduced to a pleasure garden of non-Oriya operators whose sole aim is to exploit its human and natural resources?

To what extent Orissa has been pushed into this plutocratic trap can be judged from the conduct of Bhusan Steel. Its pet and procured goons opened fire on our people on 20th May 2006 at its plant site in Dhenkanal district fatally injuring as many as ten persons in an attempt to scare away the displaced and disadvantaged people who have been agitating against annexation even of their community burial ground and cattle grazing field by the said industry.

This incident has a striking similarity with the Kalinga Nagar incident. Local people at both the places have been brutally and deliberately shot at in order to suppress opposition to grabbing of their land and habitats by the Industries. But there is a difference between the strategies adopted in both the cases. In the first instance, Tata had used the State apparatus in perpetrating the pogrom against the agitating people. But as the government was thrashed threadbare in the Assembly for this criminal collaboration with the Tatas, a new strategy for using contractors and contract killers instead of magistrates and police has been evolved. Bhusan Steel’s use of Orissa Stevedores offers the first glimpse of experimentation of this strategy.

Thanks to the Collector of Dhenkanal, Ms. Usha Padhi, a lady officer of uncommon commitment to principles, Bhusan Steel’s unlawful activities have been somewhat exposed and some of the culprits who had shot at the people have been apprehended. But the State Government has not taken any action against Bhusan Steel, the main culprit, as yet.

People of Dhenkanal are deeply disturbed over absence of action against the Industry even though its unlawful activities are well known to the Government. Penal proceedings against hired goons would not be a punishment against Bhusan Steel. If Naveen is to show that his Government is more loyal to the people of Orissa than to private industries, the lease and license granted to Bhusan Steel should be forthwith withdrawn for proven offense against the people of Orissa and use of third party agencies for execution of any construction and/or operation of any factory or site by any industry should be banned with provisions for cancellation of the lease/license when this ban is contravened.

If Industries try to subjugate our people by using hired killers like this, Naveen Patnaik and his band of politicians as well as the shrewd bureaucrats who have more concern for industrialists than the people should do better by looking at Kalinga Nagar as a referral point.

There the State was used in a pogrom against poor Adivasis. But they have clamped a blockade on the road which the Government has not dared to interfere with even though about five long months have elapsed. The Government has tried to gain over them by offering a whooping sum of five lakhs of Rupees to each of the bereaved families. But, though in a condition of inanition, they have refused to receive the money. They may be absolutely illiterate. But to them between subjugation and a sum of Rupees five lakhs, the later carries no meaning.

It would be better if Naveen Patnaik and his band understand this peculiar mindset of rural Orissa. People of Orissa can sacrifice anything in order not to sacrifice their love for their soil.

As he does not know Oriya, he does not have a free interaction with the people of Orissa. Therefore, perhaps, he has failed to feel that he is being looked at askance for the eagerness he has shown so far for serving the interest of private industrialists.

Because of this, along with him, Orissa is also in a predicament.

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  1. Issues like these make me agree with Arundhati Roy, who makes the claim that India is a country that steals from the poor (land acquisitions etc.) and subsidizes the rich.

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