On May 28, 2015, Bhagaban Majhi, a tribal activist of the anti-bauxite mining Kashipur struggle of Rayagada district in Odisha and Convener of Prakrutik Sampada Surakhya Parishad, was arrested from his village Kucheipadar by Doraguda police. He has been accused of false crimes and still perishes in prison till date.The police have booked him under false criminal cases of dacoit, loot, carrying lethal weapons etc. These sections include 395, 397, 450 Arms Act 27 of IPC.
However, Bhagaban’s story is not one isolated incident of atrocity in a police state.
On December 16, 2000, in Maikanch, police firing killed three tribals and injured several more. The police unleashed a reign of terror every time the tribals and dalits organized against the bauxite mining company, owned by Aditya Birla Group. This has continued till date.In the last few weeks alone, 7 out of 8 activists of the struggle have been arrested. The police have slapped a false allegation of “attempting to murder three police officers” against Bhagaban Majhi because of his resistance to the anti-mining struggles.This is how the police state is silencing activists through unlawful imprisonment.
In Kashipur, 20,000 Jhodia adivasis are still struggling to regain their tribal status. In the 90s, when the government invited Aditya Birla Group owned Utkal Alumina International Limited (UAIL) to utilise the tribal dominated Kashipur area as part of the economic reform plan, UAIL derecognized Jhodia tribals and listed them as OBC (Other Backward Caste) to ensure easy transference of tribal owned land to non-tribals and UAIL.
500 tribals and Dalits lost their land to UAIL, as it was illegally seized. They are now fighting to get the jobs they were promised by the then District Collector and the CEO of UAIL during unlawful land acquisition. They have no means of livelihood left, except to struggle.
Similarly, the villagers of Paikakupakhal village, near the Baphlimali bauxite mine, have started obstructing the transportation of bauxite, which damages their agricultural land. They submitted a written complaint to the district administration, which went ignored. They then decided to block the transportation of bauxite themselves.
Instead of addressing the issues raised by the local tribals and adivasis, the government of Odisha has reopened police stations, both at plant as well as at mining site; imposition of section 144, lathicharge on local villagers and indiscriminate arrest of villagers and activists like Bhagaban Majhi are rampant. Please write to the Chief Minister of Odisha, the District Collector (Rayagada) and the Superintendent of Police (Rayagada) and demand his early release.
Update: Bhagaban Majhi was released on bail on June 19th, 2015
Report by Deba Ranjan
Edited by Manisha Ganguly and Debarati Sarkar