Corporate-State Foul-play in Kalinga Nagar: A Firsthand Report from Prasanta Pattanaik

A team of journalists from Bhubaneswar virtually demolished the invisible iron wall created by the Government of Orissa through its district administration for the benefit of corporate houses and barged into the tribal villages that had become out of bounds for any outsider for past many months.

Eminent journalist Prasanta Pattanaik, who led the team, gives us a firsthand narration. Here is what he says:

Journalists Expose Corporate-State Nexus in Kalinga Nagar

Indian Express reporter Mr Amulya Pati and many other working journalists were attacked on 5th April when they were covering the BJP team led by its State unit President Jual Oram that was trying to enter into Gobarghat and other tribal villages to have a spot study of how the inhabitants there were brutalized by the Police and Corporate goons combine on 29th March, 2010.

Earlier a team of Congress leaders headed by former MLA Mr Sarat Kumar Rout was also prevented from entering into the area.

No journalists were allowed to meet the affected tribals who were physically attacked by the police and corporate goons, their houses looted, personal belongings damaged and livestock taken away.

Every body was prevented from meeting the tortured tribals of Kalinga Nagar as the corporate-Government nexus did not like the picture of their plight to come to light.

Inspired by MUFP, Bhubaneswar based journalists had taken a decision on 7th April 2010 to go in a team to the “prohibited and deprived” villages on 8th April, decrying all prohibitory orders and to meet the people to bring the truth to light. Accordingly a team comprising Prasanta Patnaik, Chandra Mishra, Ramesh Chandra Mohanty, Sudhir Patnaik , Vivekananda Dash, Bhabani Parija, and Bhimsen Kumar had left for Kalinga Nagar.

The local journalists were so much intimidated by the perpetrators of state-terror that some of them even tried to persuade us not to meet the affected tribals. It transpired that they ware not daring to accompany us in fear of the S.P. and the Collector! However some young and energetic journalists of Jajpur district who came by motor cycles joined us. A team of the former category, traveling in a brand new white Innova bearing registration number 3333, driving ahead of us from Chadhei Dhara square stopped in front of Kalinga Nagar police station and did not proceed ahead while the bike riding team led us further.

After we drove about 100 meters from the police station we found the road was blocked with stones and branches of trees. Such blockages we found in three places. However our young friends from the locality removed all the blockades in order to facilitate our movement further.

Gobarghat and 12 other tribal villages which have been branded as the fortress cluster is virtually kept out of bound for civil society bodies, politicians and even mediapersons for past many months by the police and local administration allegedly under instructions from the State Government and particularly from Finance Minister Prafulla Chandra Ghadei, representing the Assembly constituency.

Over 8,000 tribals residing in 13 villages near Orissa’s most talked about steel hub Kalinga Nagar live in confinement and fear for past many months as their villages are surrounded by large contingents of armed police, who terrorize them at frequent intervals. Their only “crime” is that they oppose acquisition of their fertile agricultural land for construction of a mega steel plant by the Tatas. They were opposed to construction of a so-called “common corridor road” leading only to the proposed site of Tata’s steel plant. Though they had announced to go on “peaceful demonstration” to press their seven point demands, the corporate-Government nexus was determined to crush them by using brutal police and hired goons.

On 2nd January, 2006 13 tribals were killed in police firing and one policeman was also killed when the tribals resisted against construction of boundary wall for the Tatas with heavy police deployment. The tribals under the banner of “Bisthapan Birodhi Jana Mancha ” were protesting against their displacement from their home lands, agricultural lands and forests to pave way for acquisition of land for Tatas and other industrial houses. They were pleading that since over ten thousands acres of barren lands were available near adjacent Sukinda area, there was no justification on displacing the tribals of Kalinga Nagar, where they were living from time immemorial depending on agriculture and forest products.

When Tatas and the State Government are bent upon acquiring the land of the tribals, the tribals are also determined not to leave their land at any cost. Dabar Kalundia, one of the leaders of Bisthapan Birodhi Mancha, says, “We will not spare an inch of land for the purpose of establishment of industry. That will be like selling our own mother.We will not allow our mother soil ( mati maa ) to be raped before our eyes…One Govt. officer had approached me and had persuaded me to sale my land at a higher price for industry, I had asked him:what price will you demand to sell your mother?” The officer went back”. Interestingly enough, the administration has declared Dabar Kalundia as an ” absconder “, though he is moving freely in his village and talking to the media on camera.

Some of the tribals of the area alleged that, only to assist Tatas to construct their plant on the lands of the tribals, the State administration has started constructing a “corridor road” by forcefully acquiring the lands of the tribals.

As the local villagers were protesting against such activities of the corporate-Government nexus, their villages have been surrounded by large contingents of armed police for months together and they are not allowed to come out of the villages for marketing, to go to hospital or even to attend the schools.

The only primary school in the village with a student strength of 120 have been abandoned since past two years as a result the students have been denied right to education. No developmental work is taking place in the area as the Government officials have branded it as “disputed area.”

No mediaperson was allowed entry into the area to meet the people and bring their plight to light.

The villagers alleged that recently a group of policemen and goons had forcibly entered into Gobarghati and Chandoli villages after opening fire at the villagers who had gathered near the village. They set ablaze their straw heaps and paddy stocks. Whosoever was a little prosperous amongst them attracted ransacking of their households. Gadgets like TV, electric fans, sewing machines, chairs, tables, dish antennas, utensils, etc. were destroyed and valuables were looted. The police-goon-combine set ablaze a number of bicycles, motor cycles etc and took away chickens, goats, and other domestic animals and birds. All this happened when prohibitory orders under Section 144 of Cr.P.C. were imposed in the area.

Even though the local scribes were covering on duty the BJP team’s visit to the area the Corporate-State was determined to hide from public eyes, one of them, Amulya Pati, was deliberately beaten up by four of the goons quite close to the Minister hailing from the concerned constituency. A seriously injured Pati has named those in his F.I.R. But no action is yet initiated against because of their proximity to the Minister.

The villagers exhibited the rubber bullets and pellets fired at them that has injured and incapacitated around 30 of them.

A Sarvodaya activist, Dr.Biswajit, showed us the pellets which he had brought out from bodies of some injured persons by operation.

We were the fist team of scribes to visit the area on Friday. Earlier, though some TV and print media journalists had tried to enter the villages following the assault by the police and the anti-socials, they were prevented both by the police and goons. The cameras, cell phones and personal belongings of some scribes were snatched away and some of them were beaten up mercilessly.

We met Mr Amulya Pati at his house where he is undergoing treatment for injury. It may take about a month more for his recovery. Amulya informed the team that his main assaulters were henchmen of Finance Minister Mr Prafulla Ghadei and his M.L.A. son. Though he has mentioned the names of his assaulters in his F.I.R., the police so far have not cared to arrest them. We gathered from reliable sources that there were attempts to pressurize Mr. Pati to drop the names of two assaulters from the F.I.R.

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