Condemn Police Brutality on Peaceful Mass Movement Against Corporate Loot in Odisha

January 29, 2022 0 By Yatharth

Editoril Board

Odisha Police Brutality | Statement

In 2015, Modi government sanctioned South Korea’s giant steel company POSCO to set up a steel plant by acquiring land at Dhinkiya, Nuagaon and Gadakunjag villages, in Erashama tehsil in Jagatsinghpura district of Odisha. It was a license to this MNC corporate to mint money by grabbing the tribal land rich in valuable mineral wealth, especially iron ore. As soon as the officers of the company began exterminating the tribals with the help of police, tribal villagers of the neighborhood organized ‘POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti’ and launched a massive mass movement against their forcible eviction. The corporate’s subservient Odisha government, at the behest of Delhi Durbar, increased the repression cycle, but angry mass  protest and resentment got fueled by police atrocities. The activists of the ‘Adivasi Zameen Bachao Andolan’ were not deterred even after hundreds of innocent people were arrested under the draconian Sedition law. The indomitable courage of the protesters won finally and the repressors had to flee. Government was forced to close the POSCO project in 2017.

The Odisha government, committed as it is like central government to serve their corporate masters, once again did the same thing and gave that land to Jindal Steel Plant in which more than 40,000 villagers are to be uprooted and are robbed of their only source of livelihood, their land. ‘Jindal Steel is going to invest more than 1 lakh crores there in the coming years’, Odisha CM is making this announcement as if Jindal is going to dole out that money as charity to the poor tribals! Whether it is indigenous or foreign, the process of loot by capital is the same. Grab the land forcefully from the villagers to squeeze iron ore and mint money exploiting the mineral wealth present in the land, this is the way it goes on. The first step of this ‘development’ is to forcibly expel the tribals who have been living there for centuries and take possession of their land. On Friday, January 14, the Odisha Police, faithfully in service of the Jindal Steel Company, arrived with a large force to devastate the tribals of their villages. Tribals of Dhinkiya, Nuagaon and Gadakunjag villages have a glorious tradition of not submitting to injustice. Seeing writing on the wall, the betel leaves workers-farmers organized ‘Jindal Pratirodh Bheetamati Suraksha Samiti’ and decided to resist and fight back. Odisha police cracked down on them and unleashed a reign of terror. Police resorted to brutal lathi charge and villagers were beaten mercilessly, even the sick, old, women and children were not spared. Police attack left more than 100 villagers seriously injured. Devendra Swain, Narendra Mohanty and 9 other activists leading the movement were arrested on the same day while they were lying injured in police lathi charge and 17 persons were arrested subsequently. To evade accountability, Odisha Police is repeating the same old story that villagers attacked them and 5 policemen were injured. Although the pictures and videos of the incident are screamingly telling the truth, the agitators are unarmed and the police are chasing them with sticks, beating brutally even those who have fallen on the ground. Women and children are clearly seen falling to ground and the policemen are beating them like beasts. Out of the 100 injured people, 8 are children below 11 years and 11 people are old above 60 years of age. Devendra Swain says, the seriously injured people were not even taken to the hospital, they were left there to die. Sushmita Satpathy, a class VII student, crying inconsolably, told media that the police beat all their family members black and blue as they have received money from the Jindals. Sushmita also told that their only crime is that they do not want to part with their land which is the only source of their livelihood. Crying her heart out, she further said that even a sick woman from their family was not spared.

The ‘Anti-displacement’ activists going from Bhubaneswar to the site of the incident had also been stopped by the Odisha Police. It is pertinent to note here that the police tried to arrest agitating leader Devendra Swain twice before attacking him on January 14th, but hundreds of women surrounded him and the police could not arrest him. Friday’s attack was launched to avenge that, ‘to teach the villagers a lesson for their daring’!! Commanding police officer brazenly used the Corona pandemic to justify police brutality, ‘500 villagers took out a rally and surrounded the police and when the police asked for a covid license, they could not produce, the police had to resort to a mild lathi charge.’ Shamelessness thy name is Odisha police!!

The villagers also say that no notice was given to them, the administration did not talk to them. They will not leave their land under any circumstances. If the state repression increases, the movement will increase. Just as POSCO was driven away, Jindal will also be driven away.

‘The Truth’ opposes barbaric police repression on peaceful mass movement. Not only the police but the Odisha administration and Central government are also responsible for this. We demand strict action against the guilty policemen, proper treatment and immediate and adequate compensation to the injured villagers. All the arrested agitators should be released immediately and the false cases against them should be withdrawn forth with. Whatever may be the purpose, no land can be acquired forcefully from the people living there.