Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The anti-people administration run by Naveen Patnaik in Orissa has been sharply censored by the Amnesty International in a recent statement. It has stated that justice continues to elude the victims of Kalinga Nagar massacre and that the Orissa Government has failed to fully address their concerns over displacement and threat to their livelihood.

Media scholar Saswat Pattanayak shows why 12 tribals were murdered by the Orissa state police at Kalinga Nagar in commemoration of the supreme sacrifice the tribals offered on January 2, last year, while protesting against the illegal, and inhuman encroachment of their sweet little homes by a profit-mongering private industry giant. As many as 13 industrial plants had been declared to be set up in Kalinga Nagar itself, resulting in evacuation of thousands of indigenous people from their own lands, sans adequate compensations, relocation benefits, education or healthcare assurances, let alone alternative residences. Countless people were left in the lurch because one private company got greedier and bought the conscience of few dozens of political opportunists. And when the people were told that their villages were going to be leveled –meaning, their carefully worshiped houses were to be razed off the grounds without seeking any of their approvals, some tribals thought they should protest he has said.

He has correctly said that Orissa’s working class people are doubly oppressed – by the military-industrial nexus of the government in power, and by the educated and elite section of its own population that dance to the tunes of opportunism and betray the poor people’s causes.

And, he has recapitulated, Despite the odds, when tribals staged a non-violent protest, the police state, under obligation from industry pimps, opened fire and murdered them mercilessly. And this, despite the very fresh memories of killings of tribals in Rayagada done under the same BJP-BJD regime led by Naveen Patnaik”.

We in these pages had reported,

A dozen of her most beloved and innocent children, the tribals, were massacred by agents of capitalism on the 2nd day of January 2006 simply because they ventured to add collective strength to their demand for protection of their fundamental rights from the avarice of industry; in this case, from the Tata house at Kalinga Nagar in Jajpur.

Navin Patnaik has reduced Orissa to a pleasure ground of brutality. Not only twelve proletariats of the tribal community, while participating in a very peaceful sitting-in demonstration, were gunshot by the Police, but also they were butchered. Hands of as many as five of them were chopped off by government doctors, as reportedly admitted by them, under insistent orders of higher authorities. None in authority has supported the doctors. It is obvious, therefore, that the five tribals subdued by the police and taken away from the spot were brutalized till death in police custody and later the doctors commandeered to conduct post-mortem test were to concoct explanations to show that the chopping off was an after-death-medico-legal-necessity.

Medico-legal procedures never countenance this.

Then why the hands were chopped off? No exercise is necessary to guess the answer. Archers by birth, the tribals use their hands to suit. A message was to be sent to them that they won’t be allowed to use bow and arrow for protection of their properties from industrial acquisition. We do not find any reason to disagree with the apprehension that the hands of the five tribal agitators were chopped off because of this.

The brutality did not end here. Breasts of tribal women and penes of tribal men were also chopped off as observed by their relatives at the time of cremation and reported by a fact-finding delegate of the National Commission on Schedule Tribes. Following the exposure, Chief Minister Navin Patnaik has informed the Press that this particular matter will be addressed to the State Human Rights Commission for investigation. When a judicial commission of enquiry is announced in the matter of the massacre, is the CM in want of knowledge that the HRC has no jurisdiction to entertain any request to conduct any enquiry over any aspect that has any link with the said massacre? Why has he started playing the cards of HRC? If not in fidgetiness, he is surely in a covering up business. If the later is true, what does he want to cover-up? He perhaps wants to cover-up the criminal intent behind the ghastly act. As is well known, the tribal communities understand symbolic messages. They see different phenomena in different symbols. Breasts and penes are symbolic of continuity of their clans. By chopping off these two most vital organs, the message that their reproduction would be interfered with if they go against the Industry was intended to be transmitted.

Now the Amnesty International has stated,

The adivasi protestors belong to the Munda community and are affiliated to Bistapan Birodhi Jan Manch, a group protesting against displacement at Kalinga Nagar. Kalinga Nagar is being promoted as an industrial area by the state Government-owned Industrial Development Corporation (IDCO).

In the last five years, the Orissa Government has signed 45 agreements to set up various industrial plants in the state. Of these, thirteen major steel plants are coming up at Kalinga Nagar, where more than 100 chrome washing plants are already in operation.

The adivasis at Kalinga Nagar allege that IDCO has been acquiring their lands either through force or at a low price and selling the same land to various companies at a high price. They also allege that they were not consulted or provided with access to information, and are excluded from the decision-making processes that affect their livelihood.

The police firing last year occurred after months of protests from adivasis who claimed that they had received inadequate financial compensation for the land acquired from them for the proposed Tata Steel plant.

Not satisfied with the State and Union Governments’ offer of monetary compensation for the families of the victims of the police firing, the adivasis have been demanding:
* disciplinary action against those responsible for the deaths;
* dropping of cases against their community leaders;
* granting of equivalent farm land in lieu of land acquired from them;
* an end to further displacement due to other industrial projects in the area; and
* that the State Government recognise that the adivasis have the right to development and the use of resources in areas of their traditional habitation.

A number of developments over the last year point to a situation where time may be running out for the state government to resolve these issues of contention. The adivasis at Kalinga Nagar continue to barricade the proposed plant site and a few neighbouring villages and prevent entry of officials in the area until their demands are met. A memorial to the victims of the police firing has been erected there. The latest round of talks between the adivasi representatives and the State Government, held in May, have failed to provide any practical solution. Also, the judicial inquiry ordered by the state government into the firing faces an uncertain future after India’s Supreme Court recently ruled that judicial inquiries should be headed by retired and not sitting high court judges.

And so stating it has reminded the Orissa Government that it has the responsibility to:

ensure speedy justice and adequate compensation to the victims of the Kalinga Nagar police firing. The state government must prosecute those suspected of being responsible for human rights violations, including excessive use of force, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment;
withdraw cases levelled against those peacefully expressing their right to freedom of expression over issues relating to development plans at Kalinga Nagar;
announce a consistent policy of full consultation with the communities at Kalinga Nagar before any development project affecting their livelihood can take place;
ensure full scale consultation about the human rights impact of economic decisions with those to be affected, including with adivasi activists and with non-governmental organizations. These are vital means through which human rights are safeguarded in the context of development;
and ensure that, where populations are resettled, there are just, adequate and culturally-sensitive rehabilitation, resettlement and reparation schemes in force for those affected.

We have nothing more to say at the moment except quoting from Saswat’s noteworthy note that “right to self-determination has been inherent in Orissa’s history–from the ages of the Kalinga War to the days of Kalinga Nagar. Just the way, the Kalinga War was fought with bloodbath, Kalinga Nagar met the similar fate. Entirely innocent people, yet valiant and brave, unarmed to fight the ancient and modern emperors, protested for sure, and paid the price”.

And to warn Navin Patnaik that people of Orissa cannot be taken for granted for all time to come. The land-grabbers and the pimps of the imperialists in the Government may take note of this.

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