India: Tribal villagers displaced by fire set by Forest Department

Forest Department Burns Tribal Village to Ashes

Oct 12, 2012 by VideoVolunteers

On the morning of 15th June 2012, without any prior notice, the Forest Department broke into the houses of 18 tribal families. They used force to drive the families out before setting their homes on fire. When the men, women and children of the community tried protesting and pleading with the officials, they were threatened with consequences. In the end there wan’t much they could do. They ran with their lives and behind them, their homes and belongings — ration cards, school books, clothes, rations – were being reduced to ash.

The people of the Kiri Kasai Dorho tribal village in District Sundargarh, Odisha had been living in the region for over four generations. They used to live up the hill slope before but were forced to move downhill because years and years of the state’s promises of electricity, health centers and schools never materialized. They couldn’t move too far away because they rely on the forests for their livelihood.

This grievous violation would pass as yet another unheard atrocity committed by the state against the tribals. But IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent Amita Rahil Tuti, a tribal and an activist, came over from the neighboring state of Jharkhand to document the violation and the anguished voices of the people. Continue reading

Odisha, India: Commerce and transport shut down by mass actions against government’s war on the people

Last month, in an earlier bandh in Odisha against petrol prices, mass actions shut down train service

Maoist bandh hits life in west Odisha

SUDHIR MISHRA | BALANGIR | The Pioneer | Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Further asserting their consolidation in Balangir district and other parts of western Odisha, the Chhattisgarh-Odisha State Committee of the CPI-Maoist on Monday called a 24-hour bandh affecting normal life in Balangir, Bargarh, Nuapada and other western Odisha districts. The bandh came demanding halt to anti-insurgent operations, release of Maoists and innocent tribals from jails and opposing the proposed constitution of NCTC.

According to reports, in Ghunsar village, the generator of Airtel tower was burnt down by the Maoists which was preceded by road blockades between Khaprakhol and Lathor and Khaprakhol and Nuapada. They also set fire to a kendu leaf godown in Khaprakhol block area. SP R Prakash said the blockades were cleared in the morning.

Almost all shops, business establishments, petrol pumps in Khaprakhol remained closed during the bandh.

Police seized posters and registered a case in connection with the burning incident. Only after investigation, will it be known who burnt the generator of the cell phone tower, Prakash said.

The 24-hour bandh had its impact on the western Odisha districts with vehicular traffic of all kinds coming to a grinding halt even as business establishments and Government offices were open in many parts during the day.

A report from Nuapada said that bus service was paralysed resulting in no movement from Nuapada to Padampur and Chhattishgarh to Khariar.

The POSCO project in Odisha, India: Against all odds, a struggle continues

STEELY DETERMINATION: A June 2011 picture of villagers protesting against the acquisition of their land for the proposed Posco steel plant, in Jagatsinghpur. Photo: AP

June 21, 2012

Today marks seven years of protests against the Posco project

June 22 marks the seventh year of the struggle against the Posco project in Odisha. It was on this day in 2005 that the Odisha government and the South Korean steel company signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for what was stated to be the single biggest case of foreign investment in the country. Though the government has acquired over 2,000 acres of land for the plant, and Posco has set up a small office at the site, the project itself has been unable to take off, stalled by people’s protests against the displacement from land and livelihoods that it will cause.

The Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), which spearheads the struggle, will mark the anniversary with protest meetings in Jagastsinghpur district where the company plans to locate its $12 billion plant. The Samiti has appealed to “freedom lovers,” human rights groups, Dalits, fishing communities and indigenous people all across India to demonstrate their solidarity against the “corporate invasion” of their lands.

Cases filed against protesters

Over the last seven years, the protestors have had to pay a heavy price for their opposition to the project. Several leaders of the movement have been jailed.

The people of Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadakujung — the three gram panchayats that have fiercely fought off efforts by the Odisha government and Posco project to acquire land for the project — say paid goons have unleashed a reign of terror. And hundreds of cases, most of them fabricated, according to villagers, have been filed against them. Continue reading

India: Odisha legislator Hikaka agreed to resign; has now been released by Maoists

IANS  Bhubaneswar, April 26, 2012

Maoists release Odisha MLA Jhina Hikaka

Maoists on Thursday released Odisha legislator Jhina Hikakain the state’s Koraput district after holding him captive for more than a month.BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka.Reporters and photographers surrounded a relieved and healthy looking Hikaka as he came with a group of villagers to a mango garden at Balipeta, over 500 km from here, at about 10.30 am.

Emotions ran high when the 37-year-old Biju Janata Dal (BJD) legislator, wearing a green kurta, hugged his wife Kaushalya and seconds after both broke down in tears.

“We’re glad that he is safe and unharmed,” party colleague Baijayant Panda told reporters.

The leftwing extremists, who kidnapped Hikaka from Laxmipur in Koraput on March 24, had on Wednesday announced that a ‘praja’, people’s, court decided to release him after he apologised to the rebels and the local villagers.

A Maoist leader calling herself ‘Aruna’, in an audio message aired by a local television channel here, had said the decision to release him was taken after he promised to resign from the assembly and the primary membership of the ruling BJD.

India: CPI (Maoist) wins freedom for tribal activists, in exchange for release of voyeurist-tour-guide in adivasi lands

Odisha: Italian hostage crisis over, MLA yet to be released

CNN-IBN, Apr 12, 2012

Bhubaneswar: Italian national Paolo Bosusco was on Thursday finally released by the Maoists in Odisha after spending a month in captivity. The government agreed to release 27 prisoners including 15 Maoists.

After getting released, Italian tourist Paolo Bosusco said, “I am a free man again. I always try to get my freedom, so let’s see the future. It was a unique experience of course, staying with them for such a long time. I have to learn lots of things, we can learn from everybody and they are human beings like any other human being so there is always something to learn.”

Bosusco’s freedom has been secured at a heavy price with the government agreeing to release 27 prisoners, which includes 15 members of the Chasi Muliya Adivasi Sangha, eight hardcore Maoists and four aides of Sabyasachi Panda.

Odisha: Italian hostage crisis over, MLA yet to be released

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said, “As you all are aware, Maoist released the second Italian hostage. I just had a word with Italian ambassador and we handed over the Italian. I request Maoist to release the abducted MLA as soon as possible.”

While the Naxals handed over Bosusco to negotiator Dandapani Mohanty, Jhina Hikaka, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MLA, is still in Naxal custody.

In addition to the release of prisoners demanded by Panda, the government will now have to content demands of the Odisha Andhra Border Zonal Committee for the MLA’s release.

The rival group has demanded that five of their sympathisers be released, including hardcore Maoist Ghasi. The government says it is examining the legalities. But one thing is clear, repeated hostage crises have exposed the Odisha government’s political vulnerability.


Maoists sought release mostly of tribal activists

by Prafulla Das, The Hindu,  April 13, 2012

It may sound strange, but it is true. Of the 27 persons whose release the Naveen Patnaik government assured Maoists for securing freedom for the abducted Italian Bosusco Paolo (since freed) and Biju Janata Dal legislator Jhina Hikaka, 24 are tribals and they reportedly have nothing to do with Naxals operating in their region in Orissa.

Of the remaining three, only two are Maoists, according to Dandapani Mohanty, convener of the Jan Adhikar Manch, who acted as interlocutor for talks with the government. The two Maoists are Murla Neelam Reddy and Setu Pangi, both hailing from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. The other person, Subhashree Das, is the wife of Sabyasachi Panda, secretary of the Odisha State Organising Committee of the Communist Party of India(Maoist), which had kidnapped Mr. Paolo from Kandhamal district on March 14.

26 persons yet to be released

Ms. Das was released from jail after a fast track court at Gunupur in Koraput district acquitted her on Tuesday. The remaining 26 persons were not released till Thursday.

Land rights activists

Mr. Mohanty told The Hindu that the 24 tribals, whose release was demanded by the two different groups of Maoists who had kidnapped Mr. Paolo and Mr. Hikaka, were activists of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS), a local outfit fighting for land rights for tribals for nearly two decades.

He said the cases against these activists pertained to an attack on the Narayanpatna police station in Koraput district, taking over possession of their land that had been in the custody of non-tribal families for long, and a quarrel between the two CMAS factions. Eighty-nine other CMAS activists, who faced similar cases, were already acquitted by different courts, Mr. Mohanty claimed. But many were still facing trial.

Common demand

As for the fresh demand by the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee of the CPI(Maoist) — which had abducted Mr. Hikaka from Koraput district on March 24 — for release of five more persons, Mr. Mohanty said only one of them, Ghasi, was a Maoist. The other four were social activist and CMAS advisor Gananath Patra and three activists of the tribal outfit that was fighting for land rights for tribal people as well as opposing liquor trade in their region.

Interestingly, both groups of Maoists had demanded the release of Mr. Patra, who was acquitted by a court in Koraput district during the day in a case of atrocities on Scheduled Caste people, for want of evidence. In the recent past, he was acquitted in an abduction case. But two more cases are still pending against him.

Odisha: Italian hostage crisis sparks mass tourist cancellations in state

, March 21, 2012

Bhubaneswar: Panic gripped Odisha’s fledgling tourism industry following mass cancellations of visit to the state in the backdrop of the Italian hostage crisis. Tour operators said they received a spate of communications from their counterparts in other states and abroad cancelling, in particular, package tours, most of which were scheduled for the last week of March and next month. “I had at least four package tours planned in the coming weeks. All have been cancelled. A major tour operator from Italy promoting a regular series of tours to Odisha has cancelled five bookings till October. The operator is now thinking of diverting the tourists to other states in the country,” said Benjamin, a city-based tour operator. “Many visitors have expressed their concern on the situation and are thinking of cancelling their program to Odisha,” he pointed out. Yugabrat Kar, a tour operator in Puri, echoed similar woes.

Maoists kidnapped four people on March 14 from a jungle on Kandhamal-Ganjam border, including two Italians, Bosusco Paolo and Claudio Colangelo, both of whom remain untraceable. Continue reading

India: Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression — Statement for International Women’s Day, March 8, 2012

Let us on this historic day reaffirm our commitment to:

* Resist the increasing assault on people’s land, other resources, livelihoods and lives
* Fight the increasing sexual assault in society at large, especially on women in mass struggles
* Rescue March 8 from the cacophony created by media, corporates and government to fearlessly forge ahead in the struggle for the liberation of all women

On this day, in 1857, women workers in the textile and garment industries in New York went on strike to protest against unfair wages, 12 hr working days, sexual harassment in the workplace and other inhuman working conditions. One of the first recorded strikes by women workers, they were fired upon by police and brutally repressed. Women’s participation in struggles increased subsequently across the world. So has the repression of the Indian state like many other countries, especially in the era of neo-liberal reforms. 

The crushing of dissent is making more women step forward in India. Whether to protect forests or rivers, a dwelling place or land, the future of children or safety of the elderly, source of livelihood or the right to dignity, women across the country are in the forefront of these struggles in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and other states.

While the relentless assault by national and international capital is forcibly dispossessing, displacing, starving and killing many, sexual violence is being used systematically by the State as a repressive measure through its armed forces, paramilitary and police. Women and girls are increasingly subjected to sexual violence, whether it is in a police station or on the way to one, and especially when they attempt to place their demands before authorities. 

A growing number of incidents reveal that the state is actively abetting the violence against women and facilitating the plunder of resources. Law makers are manipulating existing laws and enacting new ones that favor the corporations, big banks and other elite. New draconian laws and archaic ones like the Sedition Act are being used to silence dissent. Negotiation with elected representatives has become a farce as the forces of capital have taken control of the state, judiciary and the media. Police are often perpetrators of violence or abet as mute spectators or by failing to file FIRs. Instead of protecting people’s rights, with few exceptions, the judiciary like other custodians of law is crushing the hopes of ordinary people.

Woman attacked January 25, 2012, in the attack at Jindal Steel Plant in Angul

The following two incidences highlight the type of corporate and/or state sponsored/abetted violence on people, especially women who are at the forefront of struggles. On January 25, 2012 when the entire nation was gearing up for Republic day celebrations, 4000 men and women were peacefully marching to the Jindal Steel Plant in Angul to demand a more just compensation for the land forcibly grabbed from them and also the jobs promised to them by the company and Odisha Government. Security guards and hired goons brutally attacked them with iron rods and left many profusely bleeding. Women’s clothes were torn and there were reports of iron rods inserted into the private parts of some. When an FIR was lodged at the local police station, except for a token arrest of the security officer, none of the senior executives of the company culpable for the violence were arrested.

On January 31, 2012 fifteen women and two representatives of the non violent People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, which has been opposing the Koodankulam Nuclear Power plant since the late 1980s, went to meet with the GOI’s expert panel. They were attacked by Hindu Munnani and Congress thugs in the presence of local Congress leaders and police in the Collectorate’s Office in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu. During this attack, four women formed a human shield around the male representatives of PMANE. These badly injured women were from the fishing community, which has been at the forefront of the non-violent campaign along with Dalit workers, farmers, shopkeepers and women engaged in beedi rolling. They were kicked on the stomach, hit with helmets, hair was pulled and blouses torn. One woman had a fracture, another had her neck disc dislocated, while the Collector remained in his office and the police were mute spectators. Corporate as well as Central and State Government sponsored/abetted violence on democratic and peaceful mass movements in collusion with other local political parties, including Hindutva extremists are on the rise in our country. Continue reading