Some of them were arrested when police
and Tata supporters raided the villages at midnight on two occasions.
During these raids the villagers were shot at with rubber bullets and
many women were severely beaten up with sticks.
At the same time today morning when Ghanshyam took his last breath, some 700 police force are said to have been deployed in the area especially near Gadapur village on the pretext that the few odd displaced families have to demolish their old houses. The people who are still staying in Gadapur have vacated the village in fear of violence by the police and large number of Tata goons who have assembled there. Preliminary reports from the area say that the demolition exercise is a more organized and seemingly innocuous version of the pillaging that took place by police and Tata goons in Baligotha village on 30 March '10.
he 30 March attack was the culmination of months of sporadic aggression by the Police and Tata goons. That day the Police simply did not try to maintain law and order, rather they first sprayed rubber bullets and plastic pellets upon the tribals, entered Baligotha village, set food stocks afire, poured kerosene in the wells, killed cattle, vandalised the memorials of the martyrs of 2nd Jan 06 police shootout, looted valuables, stole livestock and destroyed all sorts of electronic goods and gadgets like TVs, DVD players, Sewing machines, etc. Surprisingly this planned attack by some 27 platoons of armed security forces and 2 platoons of Operation Green Hunt forces along with a hundred odd crowd of Tata goons happened exactly two days after the District Magistrate met the villagers and assured them their grievances would be looked into. After the attack the DM did a volte-face and said to the media they would carry out construction of the Common Corridor Road (which the people are opposing) at any cost with the District SP adding that protestors would not be spared. Since 30 March the area has been out of bounds for the rest of the world with all roads leading to the devastated village being guarded by Tata goons, BJD cadre and the police. High profile politicians like Jual Oram of BJP and certain Congress members have been attacked and not allowed to visit Baligotha. In one of these attacks three journalists were beaten up, their cameras were snatched and their valuables were looted.
The Common Corridor road project is being espoused by the District Administration and IDCO as a harbinger of development to the area. But the locals point out that every factory in the area is well connected by road and has been functioning smoothly over the years. Moreover, the proposed 4-lane road project will cut through a 7-km stretch of tribal land including fertile farmland. The locals say that the rationale behind such a road project can only be to bring the much opposed Tata project as the Common Corridor will cut through the villages resisting the steel giant for the last 5 years. One of the natural advantages of the people opposing Tata has been that they have been able to assemble easily from across villages as the villages are next to each other. With a road cutting through they will be isolated and the police will gain easy access. After the police shootout on 2nd January '06 that claimed the lives of 14 men, women and children while opposing the construction of a wall for the proposed Tata project there were some half-hearted attempts made by the Govt. to resolve the issue through dialogue but were not pursued to a conclusive state. Rather another wave of repression was unleashed upon the people as on one side the leadership of the tribals was targeted by Tata goons and on the other key activists and leaders were framed under false charges. There were several murderous attacks on active leaders like Dabur Kalundia and Jogendra Jamunda. One such attack on Jogendra almost cost him his life when he was shot at from close range in front of the Kalinga Nagar police station while he was riding a bike with his mother. Dabur Kalundia was attacked by a Tata contractor Arbind Singh and his gang in front of the Rohit factory, Dabur survived but Amin Banara from his village succumbed to bullets in his chest. The tribal villages protesting against displacement in general and Tata in specific under the aegis of the Bisthapan Birodhi Jan Manch
(People's Forum Against Displacement) located amidst ten steel factories by companies like Jindal, Mesco, Mathan, Nilachal, Rohit, Dinabandhu, etc. have been gheraoed from all sides now. It seems the Common Corridor project will now dissect the resistance into two parts and tackle it systematically with some sort of clinical precision. The tribals are considered encroachers though they have been living on that land for generations and their demands for land in lieu of land has not been taken seriously by the Govt. On the other hand they have been repeatedly portrayed as Maoists though not a single incident of Maoist violence has been reported in the area in the last 5 years. Rather a non-violent democratic movement is being suppressed by a Govt. that is evidently working like a private mercenary of Tata Steel.
The State capital looks shockingly calm. The opposition leaders seem to be holidaying with their ruling counterparts to escape the hot summer when forcibly displaced tribals from different regions of the state are struggling in this alien land to earn their bread for the day braving the day temperature which has remained above 44 for the last few days.
(Author is a Senior Journalist and Media Activist from Orissa)