Other States

Fear grips Orissa tribal villages

This upcoming steel hub in Orissa's Jajpur district appeared to be a war zone on Friday, with policemen surrounding hundreds of tribals, who were opposing the construction of a common corridor road to give access to Tata Steel's six million tonne proposed steel mill.

Three days after police opened fire at the villagers, injuring about 50 men and women, fear has gripped all those living in the tribal hamlets. Even the injured were not able to muster courage to go to a doctor fearing arrest.

The local police have arrested at least 29 men from the villages where people have been spearheading an anti-displacement agitation since January 2, 2006, when 14 persons were killed in police firing while opposing work on the project.

On March 28, the Jajpur Collector held a discussion with the villagers and the office-bearers of the Bisthapan Birodhi Janamanch, the organisation leading the agitation. But the authorities started work on the common corridor road the next day.

Police open fire

On the second day of construction work the villagers staged a protest. Police opened fire, lathi-charged the protesters and damaged their houses. The villagers ran for their life and hid in the nearby forests.

“We have lost all faith in the administration since the police attacked us, just two days after the authorities held discussions and assured us that further dialogue would be held before they started work on the road project,” said Rabindra Jarika, secretary of the Janamanch.

“The administration is now out to prove that we are Maoists, in order to evict us from our land and houses by using armed police to facilitate the establishment of the Tata Steel project,” said Mr. Jarika.

Breaks down

Sikander Kalundia was in tears, while narrating the police attack on the residents of Balithutha village on March 30. He had at least 10 pellet injuries on his body.

The local police have been denying entry to politicians and representatives of different organisations into the villages since the police action. Journalists are also having a tough time reaching those places.

This reporter, along with a group of journalists, was stopped by the armed policemen deployed in the locality when trying to gain entry into Balitutha and the adjoining villages on Friday. They had to take a secret route.

Operation planned

While refusing to ask his men to allow journalists to enter the tribal villages, Superintendent of Police D.S. Kuttey said they were planning to conduct an operation in five of the 15 tribal villages in the locality within two days.

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2020 6:22:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/Fear-grips-Orissa-tribal-villages/article16357290.ece

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