Saturday, August 28, 2010

What does government want in Junglemahal?

Photograph: Deadbody of Umakanta Mahato. Anandabazar Patrika, 28 August, 2010.

Yesterday, Umakanta Mahato, leader of People's Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA) was found dead in Lalgarh. According to the police sources he was killed in an encounter although no casualty of police has been reported. Not only in this particular case, but also in last two encounters in Ranja and Metla forests where joint forces gunned downed total fourteen PCPA leaders-supporters including Sido Soren, no casualty of joint forces was reported. It is therefore very possible that police and joint forces have been killing the leaders of PCPA in clod blood and want us believe that they were killed in encounter. 

Fake encounter is not something which we have never heard of. In seventies, so many students and youths were killed in the name of encounter in West Bengal. Although in their words government is keen to restore peace In Jangalmahal,  actually prefers to eliminate the leadership of PCPA, the organization leading the democratic movement against police atrocities. They are not going to stop the brutal state repression, rather aggravates it.

The day before Umakanta's cold-blooded murder, Director General (DG) of West Bengal police said there was not a single camp of CPM goons (or Harmad) in Jangalmahal. And when the body of Umakanta Mahato was laying on the soil of Lalgarh, Susanta Ghosh, the minister of West Bengal state government addressing a CPM rally in Goaltore claimed that with arms CPM was going to capture the whole Jangalmahal soon. Obviously, CPM harmads have been working in unison with joint forces to unleash the terror over the people of Junglemahal.

Umakanta Mahato was the prime accused in Gyaneshwari derailment case. PCPA however several times denied the allegation. Surprisingly, police who brought the allegation did not show the enough courage and confidence to produce Umakanta before a court of law; rather preferred to kill him. It once again strengthens PCPA's allegation that Ganeswary derailment was the handiwork of CPM.

Not only the leadership of PCPA, every organization or individual, who stands for the struggles of people, is the target of the government now. Last week police arrested Naba Dutta, well known activists and general secretary of Nagarik Mancha, a mass organization working for labour issues and environment. Couple of months back police arrested Hemanta Mahato, environment activists of Jhargram. These incidents show the fascist face of the government. They even do not spare the democratic-progressive voices. A space for democratic forces is therefore a daydream now.

Red Barricade condemns killing of leaders of PCPA in fake encounters and all forms of repression unleashed by state machinery and CPM goons (Harmads).

Red Barricade

Friday, August 27, 2010

Chhattisgarh police hunt for CRPF jawan who staged his own killing

Sujeet Kumar
Raipur, 26 Aug: Chhattisgarh police have launched a drive on Thursday to track down a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) constable posted in restive Bastar district whom police claim, staged his own murder to swindle about Rs. four million insurance money meant as ex-gratia for a cop get killed in Maoist violence.
Police officials claim that the constable Kanhaiyalal Yadav of CRPF’s 204 battalion allegedly murdered a person 15 Aug and beheaded the body and then poured acid to burn him to make difficult for police to identify and then the constable put his I-card in his cloth to convince police that the murdered person is CRPF constable.
The murder incident had initially appeared that the constable was killed by Maoists and even family members of the constable who belongs to Ghazipur of Uttar Pradesh reached Raipur to receive body and claimed for the insurance amount that a police personnel is entitled if martyred in Maoist violence. But the murder story got a twist based on a forensic report that gave enough confusion that the body did not belong to the CRPF jawan. Later police said that the dead body is actually belonged a person who goes by name as Umesh Yadav.
“We have launched a drive to arrest Kanhaiyalal Yadav who staged his own killing. The CRPF constable’s maternal cousin Kapil has been arrested in Uttar Pradesh,’’ Bastar district Superintendent of Police Mr. P. Sunder Raj told The Statesman, adding, ``Kanhaiyalal along with Kapil had actually murdered Umesh Yadav and beheaded his body and disfigured his body portions to convince police that body belonged to CRPF constable,’’.
“Evidences, collected from the spot, convinced us that someone had deliberately tried to show it was a case of Maoist attack. The finger print of the body and finger prints of CRPF constable Kanhaiyalal Yadav did not match. While 10 inch shoes were found near the headless body and investigations revealed that CRPF constable shoe size was of eight inch’’, remarked Mr. Sunder Raj.
He informed that police were handling the case very seriously and a police team was sent to Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh ~ home town of CRPF constable Kanhaiyalal Yadav-- which detained the constable’s cousin Kapil, who revealed about the true story behind the murder case and informed police that CRPF constable had faked his own murder for swindling the compensation of nearly four million.’’ He said police investigations also found that Kanhaiyalal Yadav had also got a life insurance policy of Rs. three million from a private insurance company recently.

Source: The Statesman, 27 August 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Battle to save a mountain

Andrew Buncombe and Alistair Dawber

They said they considered the mountain their god, a living deity that provided them with everything they required to sustain their lives. They said they would fight to the death before seeing the pristine mountain destroyed. Remarkably, they won their battle.
The tribal people of the Niyamgiri Hills in eastern India are celebrating after the authorities in Delhi have ruled that a British-based company will not be permitted to mine there for bauxite. Drawing a line under a “David-versus-Goliath” saga, India's environment minister acknowledged the potential human and social costs of the aluminium project that could have earned billions of pounds for Vedanta Resources. “There has been a very serious violation of laws,” Jairam Ramesh said. “Therefore, the project cannot go ahead.”
In Orissa, where the Niyamgiri Hills are located, Sitaram Kulesika, a senior member of the Dongria Kondh tribe, told activists: “This is a great day for Kondhs. Mining would be the end of their existence and their god. We thank the Indian government.”
Yet the impact of the ruling reverberated far beyond the quiet hills of eastern India, where the 10,000 members of the Dongria Kondh survive as subsistence hunters and farmers. While Vedanta saw five per cent tumble from its share price, activists celebrated what they said was a rare triumph for environmental and social justice against the interests of big business.
“This is a victory nobody would have believed possible,” said Survival International's Jo Woodman. “The Dongria's campaign became a litmus test of whether a small, marginalised tribe could stand up to a massive multinational with an army of lobbyists and PR firms and the ear of government.”
The mining industry in India is powerful and campaigners have long argued that it needs tighter regulation. While the government of Orissa, which supported the project, claimed activists were holding back much-needed development in the state, campaigners said they had faced widespread intimidation. “We strongly welcome this announcement as a vindication of the struggle that has been led by the indigenous people. The laws to protect their rights have been vindicated,” said Bratindi Jena, who leads Action Aid India's work for indigenous people.
The controversy over the proposed mine dates back to 2004 and has involved India's highest court as well as a series of special committees. Many believed that fierce lobbying by Vedanta, owned by London-based industrialist Anil Agarwal, and the state government, would ensure permission would be granted to the company to proceed with its plans to mine bauxite for a refinery which it already operates close to the Niyamgiri hills using ore trucked in from a neighbouring state.
But last week a government-appointed panel recommended that permission be denied on the grounds that mining in the area would breach environmental laws. The panel also expressed concern that granting permission could boost the cause of Maoist rebels, active across India's heartland, who have seized on the resentment of tribal people against large industrial projects. “The committee is of the firm view that allowing mining... by depriving two primitive tribal groups of their rights... in order to benefit a private company would shake the faith of the tribals in the law of the land,” the panel said.
Another factor may have been the involvement of Rahul Gandhi. He visited Niyamgiri in March 2008 and said: “I feel mining the hill will destroy the environment, destroy the water supply source and destroy the culture as well as the livelihood of tribals.”
As the issue became a cause célèbre, campaigners attacked Vedanta from every angle. While activists attended shareholder meetings in London and flew in members of the Dongria Kondh to ensure maximum publicity, they also persuaded shareholders from the Church of England to the Norwegian government to get rid of their stakes.
The decision not to allow mining in Niyamgiri is not the only bad news for Vedanta. Mr Ramesh said their refinery, already operational using bauxite from other states, may be breaching environmental laws. It has also emerged that the Indian government may oppose Vedanta's purchase of a majority stake in Cairn India, a major oil producer.
Vedanta, which says the claims by the pressure groups are “lies and hoax”, rejected any accusation that it has broken the law. It also gave an assurance that it would not mine in the area “until all approvals are in place”.
Pressure groups suggested that the statement hinted that the battle on the Niyamgiri mine might not be over. Meredith Alexander of Action Aid, said that while the ruling was a “massive victory”, the row may not yet be over. “Vedanta could appeal this decision,” she warned. “But the Kondh are asking the company to respect the government's decision and their clearly expressed opposition to the mine.”
Mr Agarwal has said the economic benefits of the project far outweigh any displacement of the Dongria Kondh, or damage to the environment. He also says that less than three per cent of the tribe would be forced to move because of the mine.
The Independent
The Statesman 26 August 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Activists Ask Vedanta To Shut Refinery


NEW DELHI—Local activists campaigning against Vedanta Resources PLC's mining project in eastern India said they want the company to shut its existing alumina refinery in the area to ensure that a range of hills considered sacred by tribal people is never mined.

Their demand comes after India's federal government Tuesday rejected Vedanta's proposal to mine the Niyamgiri Hills of Orissa state for bauxite, saying the project had violated forest laws and its proponents displayed "blatant disregard" to the rights of tribal people in the area.

The project had garnered global criticism, especially in the U.K. where Vedanta is headquartered. Activist groups such as the Survival International and Amnesty International had said mining in the area could endanger the survival of the 8,000-odd Dongria Kondh tribal people who worship the Niyamgiri Hills and live in and around the area.

People belonging to the Dongria Kondh tribe have also said mining could affect their hunting and farming lifestyle as it would pollute and dry up streams and rivers and destroy fruit trees and medicinal plants on which they depend for their sustenance and health.

"The tribals are feeling good about the decision to not allow mining in Niyamgiri," said Kumti Majhi, a member of Dongria Kondh tribe. "But our hills and people on it can't survive if the refinery remains functional on the foothills of the sacred mountains."

Dust and other pollution from the refinery are affecting the lives of local people, Mr. Majhi said. "Our cows are dying. Trees bearing mango and berries are drying up. That's our livelihood."

Besides rejecting its mining proposal, the ministry also said it has issued a show cause notice to Vedanta, asking why environmental clearances for the 1.0 million-ton-a-year refinery shouldn't be withdrawn. The ministry has also suspended the appraisal process for the London-listed company's plans to increase the capacity of this refinery by six times.

The refinery, Vedanta's only one in India, is key to the company's plans for rapidly expanding its aluminum output to meet rising domestic demand.

"Tuesday's verdict is a partial victory for us, not total victory," said Lingaraj Nayak, an activist of the Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti (Niyamgiri Protection Committee).

"As long as Vedanta's factory is present, there's always a chance that some other minister may come along and allow mining in Niyamgiri Hills," Nayak said. "The refinery needs to go to ensure the hills remain untouched."

Bhakta Charan Das, a lawmaker representing Kalahandi where the planned mining site and the refinery are located, said Vedanta could choose to extract bauxite from other places which don't have tribal people and where the ecosystem is not as diverse as that in the Niyamgiri Hills.

There are at least three mining sites in Kalahandi district which the company can use without causing much damage to tribes or ecology, Mr. Das added.

The Dongria Kondh tribals could never survive outside the hills, he said. "They will die in the cities."

Bratindi Jena, who works in the area as an activist of Action Aid, said Vedanta now has no justification for operating its refinery on the foothills of Niyamgiri since it can't mine the hills.

"Ash floating out from the refinery is covering the trees and plants in Niyamgiri Hills and discharge from the factory is forming toxic red mud ponds in the area," she said. "How can people survive in this environment."



Now-a-days, the Punjab Police is too much pre-occupied with Naxalite-phobia. Some months ago the DGP himself came out with an extremely irresponsible statement, branding the 17 mass organizations of farmers and agri-labour as front organizations of the Naxalites/Maoists, because they have been consistently fighting against the anti-people and anti-national policies of the rulers. The police arrested Surjit Singh Phul, President of Bharti Kisan Union Krantikari, subjected him to severe torture at the Joint Interrogation Center Amritsar and slapped on him a case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. During the agitation against PSEB unbundling, Dr. Darshan Pal of the Revolutionary Democratic Front, was illegally detained and interrogated by the police. In May 2010, a poster jointly brought out by various communist revolutionary parties appeared in the state. Thereafter many activists of Krantikari Pendu Mazdoor Union were arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. One of them, Dilbag Singh from Zira has been even charged under S.121-A IPC (attempting to wage war against the State), which attracts a punishment of life imprisonment, despite there being absolutely no such evidence against him. It goes to the credit of democratic revolutionary movement in Punjab that it has massively resisted all these attempts by mobilizing various sections of the people. A large number of prominent intellectuals of Punjab under the leadership of noted peoples’ dramatist Gursharan Singh formed a ‘Democratic Front Against Operation Green Hunt’ and held state-wide conventions in 15 main cities and 20 villages/towns, which were addressed by Sh. Himanshu Kumar, Gandhian Social Worker from Dantewara. The state police kept close surveillance on these conventions, and attempted to video record the proceedings by smuggling their agents under the garb of fictitious press/TV reporters. They even attempted to video photograph all the audiences. When the organizers objected to it a case under Section 384 (dacoity), 506 (intimidation), 148, 149 IPC (rioting armed with deadly weapons) was got registered at Giddarbaha Distt Mukatsar against members of the Democratic Front and Sh. Himanshu Kumar.

In continuation with this, on 28.7.2010, at about 07.00 PM Daljit Singh, aged about 60 years resident of Hazura Kapura Basti Bathinda was abducted from his house by 15/20 armed policemen in plain clothes, posing as members of a power theft checking team. His wife Sunder Pal Kaur, who is employed as Senior Telephone Supervisor in BSNL at Bathinda raised hue and cry and a large number of neighbourers assembled. On being asked the plain-clothes men refused to divulge their identity but some people in the crowd recognized them to be from CIA Police Station Bathinda. They refused to tell under which FIR or offence Daljit Singh was being arrested or where he is to be kept and when he shall be produced in court. When contacted, the SSP Bathinda expressed total ignorance about the incident. The people apprehended that the armed abductors, who were in fact policemen in mufti, might cause physical harm to Daljit Singh or implicate him in some false criminal case. Advocate N.K.Jeet, President Lok Morcha Punjab, Advocate Balwant Singh Dhillon, President Lawyers For Justice & Democratic Rights, and Gurdeep Singh, Editor AJ DI AWAZ, a Punjabi Daily, immediately brought this incident in the notice of press, Human Rights Commission, Punjab & Haryana High Court, DGP Punjab, Chief Secretary Govt of Punjab & other authorities. They contacted the SHO Police Station CIA Staff Bathinda, who admitted, having taken Daljit Singh in custody and demanded his identity proof. A large number of people along with the Corporator of the area went to the police station. The police, in order to scare away the people alleged that the said Daljit Singh is in fact Jagdish Kumar, a Naxalite leader, who has been underground since 1992, and is inciting the people in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh etc to join the Naxalite movement. They further alleged that he has assumed a false name to conceal his real identity. The people asked the police officials, to disclose the offence and FIR under which he has been arrested. The police did not have any reply. When the people expressed their apprehension that Daljit Singh might be implicated in some false criminal case or physically liquidated, the police agreed to record his formal arrest, but said that the offences under which he was to charged were yet to be determined and shall be added afterwards in consultation with the I.G.of Police.

The police afterwards registered a case FIR No. 35 dated 28.7.2010 at Police Station Thermal Bathinda against him under section 420 (Cheating), 467, 468, 471 of the IPC, on the allegation that he changed his name from Jagdish Kumar to Daljit Singh and got prepared Ration Card & other documents in the said name. However the police failed to provide any information as to whom he has cheated and in which manner. On 29.7.2010, the police presented him in the court of Sh. K.K.Singla JMIC Bathinda and sought his police remand for 10 days for affecting recoveries of the documents such as Ration Card etc. The Ration Card was immediately placed on record of the court. Thereafter no ground was left for seeking police remand. Then the police came out with another story. They claimed that Daljit Singh is a Naxalite leader and a special team of the Intelligence Bureau has arrived from Chandigarh to interrogate him and as such he should be sent to police custody. The court after hearing the arguments granted police remand for one day, with the rider that the while interrogating, the police should bear in mind that the accused is an arthritis & heart patient and he should be provided with medical care and necessary medicines. In police remand, Daljit Singh was subjected to lengthy and strenuous interrogation by the officials of the I.B., Intelligence Wing of the Punjab Police and various other agencies.
In order to cause a scare amongst the people, the police resorted to spreading lies and disinformation. In a press note issued by the District police, Daljit Singh was described as a top Naxalite leader of CPRCPI (ML) who has taken command of the organization after the death of Com. Harbhajan Singh Sohi. He was further accused of having remained underground for the last 40 years under an assumed name and inciting various organizations of farmers, agri-labour, and employees etc to resort to agitations against the Govt policies and indulge in violence. Despite this, hundreds of people including a large number of women came to the court to express moral support and solidarity with Daljit Singh when on 30.7.2010; he was again produced in the court. Earlier residents of Hazura Kapura Basti held rallies to condemn his illegal arrest and false implication and had decided to stand with and support his family. The ‘Maoist’ and the ‘Naxalite’ tag put on him by the police, did not scare them. Daljit Singh was also in high spirits. He raised slogans such as ‘Inquilab-Zindabad’, ‘Long live the Communist Revolutionary movement’ etc.

On 30.7.2010, the Police sought his police remand for 10 days on the plea that he was to be interrogated by the Intelligence sleuths at Joint Interrogation Center at Amritsar, as he was a Maoist. The police even claimed to have recovered some Maoist literature from him. This plea was vigorously opposed by the defense lawyers stating that the police cannot indulge in a fishing inquiry and shall have to limit its investigation to the accusations made in the FIR. They further pleaded that changing name is not an offence. Moreover he has been using the changed name for the last three decades and it has been duly recorded in the service record of his wife as well as birth and school record of his children. The court refused to remand him in police custody and instead sent him to judicial custody for 14 days.

Although under mass pressure, the police attack has been temporarily repulsed, but there is every possibility that Daljit Singh may be falsely implicated in a fresh criminal case or named as an accused in any pending criminal case at Bathinda or at any other place in Punjab or in any other state, to subject him to physical torture. The police is also looking for Jaspal Jassi, Editor of a revolutionary democratic monthly magazine ‘SURAKH REKHA’, currently being published from Bathinda. Their intention is to silence all the pro-people voices of dissent. Therefore democratic minded people shall have to remain vigilant.