Letter to Orissa Chief minister regarding Kalinga Nagar Firing

PEOPLE’S UNION FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS

To
The Chief Minister,
Government of Orissa

16 January 2006

Sir,

Re: Police Firing on Protestors in Kalinga Nagar, Jajpur District, Orissa

We are deeply shocked by the brutal firing on protestors in Kalinga Nagar, Jajpur District on 2 January 2006, in which twelve people were killed, and many others seriously injured. In a horrific aftermath, the hands of five victims were chopped off, a practice that defies comprehension and that has no place in a country that claims to be a modern democracy. There also are reports that the breasts and gentalia of these five people were chopped off.
It is deeply disturbing that this firing happened in the presence of the Collector and the Superintendent of Police, Jajpur district. The Collector and SP have since been transferred, but that merely minimizes the enormity of the crime for it is difficult to believe such a firing would have happened in their presence with their assent. They should instead be dismissed and criminal proceedings be initiated against them.
On the morning of 2 January, levelling of acquired land was attempted by Tata company officials under the protection of at least 12 platoons of heavily armed police personnel. This presence of such a huge police force suggests that the authorities were expecting resistance and were ready to meet it with force instead of dialogue. In fact, even as a four-member delegation of local tribals who had assembled at the spot went to meet the Collector and SP, there followed an unprovoked attack by the police. Tear gas was followed by an indiscriminate firing, which continued for several minutes. Those trying to flee were shot in the back. Others have been shot in the face and on the chest.
For many months, local tribals and other villagers have engaged in a bitter struggle to avoid displacement by the steel project of Tata Industries. In May last year, locals had also resisted the bhoomipuja of another private company, Maharashtra Seamless. The police beat up villagers arresting 25 women. Two children died for want of food as people ran away to hide in the forests in fear. Despite NHRC’s intervention, no action has been taken by your government in this case either.
The firing of 2 January and the police violence in May are symptomatic of the refusal of the Orissa government to engage in dialogue, in Kalinga Nagar and elsewhere in Orissa, with those who have been opposing industrial projects being thrust upon them. In a trend that has extremely grave consequences for democracy, the Orissa government is increasingly adamant in using police, special forces and the might of the state to push projects through against the stated wishes of the people. In December 2001, three protestors were killed in unwarranted police firing in Maikanch. For the last couple of years, the Orissa government has been hell-bent on pushing numerous projects through – be it UAIL, Hindalco, Vedanta Alumina, Posco, or the Tatas in Kalinganagar, among dozens of such industrial projects.
Visits by PUDR teams to some of these areas have confirmed that the Orissa government has also been violating established procedure regarding people’s consent and consultation since they know, as we all do, that most ordinary people in these areas oppose such projects. That opposition is based on the fact that mining operations and large industrial projects will displace people on a large scale, take away their lands, destroy their homes, forests, means of sustenance, and the environment. Historically, such industrial ‘development’ both in India and abroad has only benefited corporations and urban elites, and local tribals and the poor pay the price. We unequivocally oppose this entire pattern of development, of which tribals, dalits, and the agrarian poor have only been the victims. This development trajectory can only lead to further impoverishment, popular opposition, and intensified state violence, for which it is the government, not the people, which is responsible.

We demand that the Orissa government should immediately:

1. Initiate a prompt investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the killings in Kalinga Nagar;
2.Dismiss the District Collector and the SP and initiate criminal proceedings against them and all other officials responsible for the firing;
3. Publish a list of the dead and injured;
4. Award Rs 20,00,000 as compensation to the next of kin of those killed in the
firing, and Rs 10,00,000 to those injured;
5. Cease evictions and withdraw all projects in Kalinga Nagar; and
6. Put an immediate end to the indiscriminate mining and plunder of people's resources.

Paramjeet Singh
Secretary, People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR)
Address: 5 Miranda House Teachers’ Flats, Chhatra Marg, Delhi University
Delhi 110007