The National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO), an apex body of right-based advocacy groups, has taken strong exception to unprecedented “intimidation” of Odisha’s tribals and activists pitted against multinational corporation (MNC) Vedanta Resources’ Rs 5000 crore aluminum refinery venture.
An NCHRO team, investigating into “false cases, arrested, torture and killing” in the name of anti-Maoist operations, said the whole effort to seek reversal of the 112 gram sabhas’ decision declaring the entire Niyamgiri hills area – where Dongria Kondhs, a primitive tribal community, lives – as a mining free zone.
The intimidation is taking place with the help of “various paramilitary forces as Central Reserve Police force (CRPF), Special Operation Group (SOG)… stationed there in the name of curtailing the Maoist activities”, an NCHRO team, consisting of its senior office bearers Prof Amarx Marx, Reny Ayline, Narendra Mohanty, Advocate MA Momen Halder, and Jharkhand student leader Abdul Hannan Jharkhand, said.
Based on visits to the most-affected Kalahandi and Rayagada districts, which are the most affected, a report prepared by the team said, “The holy lands of Dongria Kondhs are declared as Maoist infected areas.”
Giving details, the report said, on May 10, in the wee hours, at about 3 am, about 40 uniformed people reached the village Nachiniguda, forcibly entering each house, and picked up tribal leader Baka Majhi. One of the villagers told the team, “When he tried to release himself they violently broke one of his hands. When we protested, they threatened to kill us with their fire arms. They went away with our Baka Majhi. Nothing known about him till this day…”
When the team brought the “kidnapping” incident to the light of the Kalahandi district superintendent of police Brijesh Kumar Rai, “he replied that he is not aware of it and if details are sent he would take action.”
In yet another village, Dangamati, the team met the tribals who gave details of Manda Katraka (20), who was “killed in a fake encounter by the SOG on February 27”, and later declared him a Maoist.
In a third incident, Dasru Kadraka, the 25-year-old Adivasi youth leader and activist of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS) was arrested on April 7 from Muniguda market. “The local police are falsely presenting him as a Maoist militia leader but they have not recovered any arms-ammunition or incriminating evidence to prove it”, the report said.
Pointing out that this has been continuing for quite some time, the NCHRO said, on November 15, three Adivasis of Nisanguda village were killed by anti-Maoist combat force SOG. Then, in the third week of November 2015, Drika Kadraka, an Adivasi activist, was picked up by the anti-Maoist squad stationed in that area. “Though he escaped from the clutches of police and returned he committed suicide as a result of mental torture within the next few days”, the report states.
The report insisted, local people were “against the Vedanta Resources but they have nothing to do with Maoists. They are concerned only about their future. In order to save and protect the Vedanta Resources the state has declared a war against the tribal population.”
Demanding a case of kidnapping Baka Majhi should be registered against the cops who picked him up, the report sought investigation into “the case related to the fake encounter killing of Manda Kadraka as a death due to a real encounter between the forces and an armed terrorist.”
At the same time, the report sought withdrawal of all paramilitary forces in the Niyamgiri hill areas to ensure safety of the local Adivasi population, adding, “We demand that in the background of the historic May 6 verdict of the Supreme Court the government should ensure the implementation of the Gram Sabhas’ decision of 2013 and declare Niyamgiri as a mining prohibited zone.”