People's Version Of
By Independent Media
06 January, 2006
At a protest in Kalinganagar, Orissa,on 2nd January, 2006 the State police opened fire on a protest by local tribals against the takeover and seizure of their land by a Tata Steel plant. Sixteen people died on the spot, four more died in the hospital, and a police constable was also killed in the clash
Based on discussions with the people of Kalinganagar and representatives of Visthapit Virodhi Janamanch, following version of events at Kalinganagar on 2 nd January, 2006 have emerged :
The District Administration has been trying to take over the land for TATA steel for the last few months after an attempt to start construction on 9 th May, 2005 was foiled by resistance by the local adibasis, who claimed that they will not vacate the land till their demands are met. From 23rd December, 2005, rumors started flying the district administration and the company may try to take over the land soon. The message was again conveyed to the administration that such a move will lead to do or die resistance.
During their annual get together at Chandiya on Jan 1st, the people came to know through a leak in the administration that the TATAs would initiate Boundary wall construction on the 2nd January, 2006 without taking the consent of the people. The tribals decided to oppose attempt as they have opposed other attempts earlier.
On 2nd January, 2006 morning, the district administration including the Collector and the SP and TATA Steel officials reached the site with a bulldozer, and started construction of the boundary wall. The team was escorted by 12 platoons of armed police armed with sophisticated weapons.
On seeing the beginning of the work, approximately 100 tribals gathered, and a four member delegation was formed to go and talk to the district officials present at the spot. People say that the four member delegation went to meet the district administration, and many of the tribals assembled there followed them at a distance. As per the warning given to the administration, many of these people were armed with traditional weapons. When the group of tribals reached the ditch dug to erect the boundary wall, and were about to cross it, they heard the police sound a whistle, and saw a policeman pull a rope. The people say that after this there were large explosions in the ditch and two persons fell down dead. There had been no warning and no indications from the police before this happened.
Simultaneously tear gas, rubber bullet firing and actual firing started. Chaos ensued, with people running helter and skelter. Even the unarmed local policemen panicked at the firing and the explosions, and people say that in this panic one or two policemen fell into the boundary wall ditch and were injured by the tribals in the heat of the moment. On hearing the sound of explosions and firing, more tribals from the nearby settlements rushed to the site and started stone pelting and firing arrows inspite of the continuos firing by the police.
The firing was indiscriminate and in all directions, and continued for over an hour. Even people who were 200-300 meters away were injured. Many people who were trying to escape have bullet injuries in the back, whereas others who stood and tried to fight back, have been injured in neck and torso in front. The tribal woman who died was inside her house when see came out to see what the noise was and was struck by a bullet. As per our information six people (including one policeman) died on the spot, and another seven died of the injuries. Most shockingly, the representatives of Visthapan Virodhi Janamanch allege that three adivasies who were lightly injured and couldn't run away were picked up by the police, and their hands were chopped off by the police. All three died from loss of blood in the Jajpur hospital. This needs to be confirmed immediately.
The armed police was armed with sophisticated weapons and the tribals claim that people as far as 400 meters were felled by bullets. It is also claimed that at least 20 persons are still missing.
1. Why did administration and Tata Steel decided to carry out boundary wall construction inspite of being well aware of the tremendous resentment of the local tribals, and inspite of being warned time and again that they should not try to takeover the land without meeting the demands of the tribals? And if they still went ahead, what was the purpose of having 12 platoons of armed police headed by the Collector and the SP at the site? Since when Collectors and SPs attend boundary wall constructions.The clear inference is that this was to deliberately provoke the restive tribals and to use the opportunity to teach them a lesson.
2. Inspite of the provocation, the tribal people sent a delegation of four persons to meet and reason out with district administration on the site. Instead of talking to them, the administration precipitated the situation through the explosions in the ditch and through firing at the tribals? This again illustrates that the massacre was pre-planned.
3. What were the explosions in the ditch for the boundary wall? Local people say that these were landmines which were apparently activated by policemen pulling on a rope? If that is true, this is an unprecedented level of barbarity where landmines have been used to kill own citizens. This must be enquired into at the highest level and the truth brought out?
4. The explosions in the ditch precipitated the situation and firing on tribals followed immediately. No warning was given to the tribals. This is unprecedented and unlawful.
5. Why has government not come out with the figures of the number of rounds fired? This is a normal practice, and we apprehend that the government is trying to hide the number of rounds fired to suppress the scale of firing.
6. Why were policemen armed with sophisticated weapons with high range including automatic weaponry deputed to the site?
7. What has led to the current situation where strong resentment and anger is present amongst the displaced tribals? Why was no ameliorative action taken to meet their just demands earlier?
9. Why was Saswat Mishra, the infamous Collector who was involved in Vednata case and who is known for his pro-industry and anti-tribal stance deputed as Collector in the extremely sensitive Jajpur district?
The whole massacre seems pre-planned and organized, with certain key persons in the Government and bureaucracy collaborating with TATA Steel to crush the tribal resistance to industrialization and displacement. It seems that a clear signal was to be sent to the opponents of the forced "industrialization" through private capital that no obstacles shall be tolerated.
Resistance Continues Despite Tragedy
On the second day of the tragedy that took lives of 12 tribals and one policeman, Kalinga Nagar witnessed visits by leaders of ruling BJP, opposition parties, on going people's movements and solidarity fronts. The medical Superintendent of SCB medical college has said it in his TV interview that conditions of three tribals who have been operated upon and bullets recovered from their belly continue to be critical. The Independent Media special reporter who visited SCB Medical College Hospital this evening confirms that three of the nine people admitted in to the hospital are critical. The agitating and aggrieved tribals in Kaling Nagar have decided to continue their protest till the State government accepts their demands. Their demands include:
i. A complete halt to the eviction drive and immediate withdrawal of all projects in Kalinga Nagar
ii. Ouster of the Collector and SP from service and initiation of criminal proceedings against them for the crimes committed by them on 2 nd January causing death of 12 tribals and critically injuring several others
iii. Criminal proceedings against all officials party to the crime
iv. Rs 20,00,000 as compensation to the next kin of the dead And Rs 10,00,000 to the injured persons
The people have handed over all the dead bodies for postmortem and the mass cremation will take place on 4th January 2006 at Chandigaon. The NDTV team met the family members of the only dead women Jangi Jarika who has left behind a six months old baby and three more children. Jangi was not in the spot but fell victim to indiscriminate firing.
The firing incidence has doubly strengthened the determination of the tribals to fight back and to continue their resistance. They don't trust the opposition parties because of obvious reasons. The leadership of the movement is entirely in the hands of the tribals. Those who visit there from outside are treated as solidarity groups if they agree to accept the demands of the tribals. The mainstream media, middle class and ruling elites are not able to digest this simple fact. Therefore, there is deliberate attempt to brand the tribals as Maoists both by the bureaucrats and media.