The Hostage Tangle: Orissa Offers A Case Study

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

“The existence of an armed struggle is indicative that the people are determined to put their faith only in violent methods. The very same people who had it constantly drummed into them that the only language they understand was that of force, now decide to express themselves with force. In fact the colonist has always shown them the path they should follow to liberation. The argument chosen by the colonized was conveyed to them by the colonist, and by an iron twist of fate it is now the colonized who state that it is the colonizer who only understands the language of force”.

Thus has said Frantz Fanon in ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ in its chapter: ON VIOLENCE.

On this matrix, Orissa, known before the 1980s as the most peaceful province of India, offers scopes for a case study.In the 80s, J. B. Pattanaik used his position as Chief Minister to initiate official priority on industries that has acquired a monstrous shape in the regime of Naveen Patnaik and has given birth to an era of hostage, which, earlier was beyond imagination.

Marginal farmers, agricultural workers, self-employed social forces, socially exploited people condemned as untouchables, forest dwelling tribes as simple-natured as flowers but as fearless as lions were the children of Orissa that had made their supreme sacrifices for the freedom of the country and, had given almost the entire integer of martyrs from the soil of Orissa, including the nation’s youngest martyr Baji Raut, to India in equipping the motherland with all the strength she was in dire need of to succeed in obtaining her independence.

But their dreams of independence are shattered by the rulers of the State after independence.

Industries and corporate companies have taken over the land and emerged as new colonizers.

The very same segment of people that brought us our freedom are being displaced for handing over their lands and living environment to foreign firm POSCO and its likes in Orissa by a chief minister who has no sacrifice for the State.

The very same segment of people from which proud patriots in so many numbers had jumped into martyrdom to make our struggle for freedom succeed – the tribals – are being brutally killed by the State government to help industries spread their empires, as witnessed in Kalinga Nagar for the benefit of Tata.

Tribes in Niyamagiri, tribes in Deomali, tribals everywhere in Orissa who depend on their living environment, everywhere the Oriyas who depend on their lands for living as self-employed people, are now threatened by industries, by land grabbers, by water grabbers, by mines mongers, by education traders, by builders, by illegal wealth accumulators, by the neo-rich, by the new colonizers.

Whosoever amongst the tribals, amongst the poor people, amongst the marginal farmers, amongst the self-employed social forces is not willing to be colonized, is being subjected to state-terror, to illegal arrests, to cooked up cases, to sedition charges, to fake encounters,to abductions by the State.

This, as Frantz Fanon in his quoted canonical words has said, has forced the innocent and tortured people to become violent. Their violence is a counter violence to violence by the State.

Branding their violence as Maoist terrorism is as misleading as contrary to reality. In reality, the tribals and illiterate people that are prosecuted under charges of being Maoists do not know abc of Maoism.

They are being tortured by the state, because they oppose in their own way the loot of funds meant for their welfare by persons in power, transfer of their land / living environment to industry owners and transnational traders and reduction of their independent status to colonized condition.

Rise of violence at par with corporate influence upon administration, with rise of state support to private industries, with rise of incarceration of small / marginal farmers, workers, tribals, self-employed social forces and economically weak but politically conscious persons in the State strongly suggests that the people have started violently replying the violence being perpetrated on them by the State. They have started violently reacting against being colonized. They are violent, because the State is addressing them in violent way.

The instant hostage tangle has its roots in this phenomenon. Mili Panda, wife of Naxal leader Sabyasachi Panda whom police is not yet able to arrest, was arrested and prosecuted and the climate of official highhandedness is so maddening that a court had taken cognizance of the case in blatant disrespect to prohibition laid down in law against that type of cases. The Orissa High Court ruled that it was wrong on part of the lower court to have taken cognizance of the case and ordered for her release. She was yet under detention despite the High Court order; because the State having no hesitation in misusing its power, had kept her behind the bars under guise of a case at Gunupur. Even in the court at Gunupur, the Gudari-Kutinguda firing in encounter case lodged against her has collapsed as unproved. In other words, the State government had made her a hostage. Similarly many poor people, despite failure of prosecution in courts and despite finding that the cases against them were false and baseless, are perishing in jails in order to keep people intimidated. Keeping any one in illegal detention after court’s release order is nothing but keeping him hostage. They are, thus, hostages that the State government has made them. And, it transpires from the you-release-we-release materials of negotiation revealed to public by the State that keeping an Italian and a ruling party MLA as hostages is linked directly with the hostages the government has made of people opposed to colonization.

So, the Orissa hostage tangle is not a matter of mere crime to silently watch, but a matter of political economy to seriously study.

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