Advocates Oppose State Repression on Communities Resisting Mining Corporations in Kashipur


  • September 15, 2023
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State and capital has zeroed in on the rich bauxite and lime stone reserves of South Odisha now. The BJD-led state government and the BJP at the Centre are handing over dangars, mountains for meager profits to Vedanta, Adani, Dalmia Cement and Aditya Birla. The rights won through PESA and FRA after long years of people’s struggles have been compromised by the BJP-led government at the Centre through the amendment of Forest Conservation Act.

Since the beginning of August 2023 severe repression is leashed out on local Adivasi and Dalit communities in the bauxite zones of undivided Koraput and Kalahandi. Nine activists of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS), including front line leaders, have charges of UAPA foisted on them because of continued resistance against Vedanta. Individuals who have been extending support and solidarity to the protesting people are being repressed.

 

A statement by advocates who as students of democracy and the constitution view the prevailing situation in Kashipur as a matter of great concern.

 

Press Statement

 

“The rule of law does not do away with the unequal distribution of wealth and power, but reinforces that inequality with the authority of law.  It allocates wealth and poverty in such complicated and indirect ways as to leave the victims bewildered.” – Howard Zinn

 

Since the first week of August, in Raygada, Kalahandi and Koraput districts, there has been continuous state repression on people belonging to the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes, who have been protesting against Bauxite mining in the areas to protect their lives and livelihood, and on those individuals who have been extending support and solidarity to the protesting people. This not only goes against constitutional values but is also a mockery of the rule of law. As students of democracy and the constitution it is a matter of great concern for us.

 

Nine persons of the Niyamgiri Surakhsya Samiti, including its leaders, activists and supporters, have been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) with some of its stringent provisions. One of them has been abducted by the police, kept in illegal detention, physically tortured and then shown arrested and sent to jail. Similarly, in midnight raids of villages in Sijimali, Kutrumali and Manjingmali areas in Thuamul-Rampur and Kashipur blocks, 23 people have been arrested. In a similar operation one person from the Kodingamali area has been arrested. We strongly believe that protection of one’s livelihoods to live a life of dignity and to protest against any infringement on this is a fundamental right of citizens. Attempts have been made to manufacture consent of innocent people, who are opposed to the mining based development policies of the government, by means of fraud, trickery and allurement. And those who dissent, the police are using force to get their consent, which is criminalization of dissent.

 

What is of further concern is the way veteran environmentalist Sri Prafulla Samantara, was abducted with his hands tied and face covered, from a hotel in Rayagada and later dropped at his home in Brahmapur. Sri Samantara had gone there to extend legal assistance to the arrested people, and was to address a press meet to expose the role of the government, the police and the companies. We believe that the police are involved in this incident. In our view, using the police force like goons is a sign of a democratic state gradually turning into a police state.

 

We also feel that local people in their efforts to protect the hills and mountains, rivers and streams are not only protecting their lives and livelihoods, but also protecting nature and the commons for our future generations. At a time when the world is in the midst of a crisis due to climate change and efforts are being made at various levels to protect and conserve the natural environment and ecology, we feel that it is our fundamental constitutional duty to support their efforts.

 

Therefore, we demand that,

 

  • Police repression should stop immediately.

 

  • Formulate a development policy in consultation with the people, ensuring their dignity and which is in tune with their lives and culture, rather than pursuing development based on repression.

 

  • Let us not destroy the local environment and ecology in the name of development.

 

Signed by :

 

  1. Hrudananda Routray, Advocate
  2. Dhaneswar Mohanty, Adv.
  3. Umakanta Pattnaik, Adv.
  4. Dhanurdhar Sundaray, Adv.
  5. Binod Ku. Sahu, Adv.
  6. Pradeep Kumar Das Mohapatra, Adv.
  7. Sukeshi Maharana, Adv.
  8. Mruganka Mauli Pattnaik, Adv
  9. Bibhuti Bhushan Pattnaik, Adv.
  10. Sudhir Das, Adv.
  11. Akhyaya Ku. Nanda, Adv.
  12. Sirshendu Prasad Rout, Adv.
  13. Sukanta Ku. Behera, Adv.
  14. Bandita Rath, Adv
  15. Madhu Madhab Jena, Adv.
  16. Golak Prasad Naik, Adv.
  17. Dukhishyam Das, Adv.
  18. Bhaskar Ch. Maharana, Adv.
  19. Bijay Ku. Panda, Adv.
  20. Subhasish Panda, Adv
  21. Biswapriya Kanungo, Adv

 

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