London, June 2 (ANI): London-based tribal rights organization Survival International has called for an urgent investigation into the increased violence against tribal peoples in the state of Odisha, India.
Police have fired into crowds demonstrating against UK-linked company TATA, which owns Jaguar, Land Rover. Corus and Tetley. Survival is concerned that protests against FTSE-100 company Vedanta Resources in the same state will also be met with violence.
In shocking scenes last month police opened fire on tribal people demonstrating against a TATA steel plant planned on their land. One man was killed, others were injured. The shooting was in Kalinganagar area of Odisha (formerly Orissa) state, India.
Laxman Jamuda, a member of the Munda tribe, died and at least nine others were injured when police and private militiamen fired into a crowd demonstrating against the steel plant and its roads.
Laxman Jamuda's nephew, Chandramohan, said, 'The police attacked us and chased us out of the village - elderly women, children, little girls - all were beaten up. My uncle was carrying my child in his arms. He was shot in the back and even my little daughter was hit by shrapnel on her cheek.'
The Odisha administration has been actively supporting companies such as TATA, Vedanta and POSCO with projects that have failed to get the consent of affected communities on whose land they operate.
Jema Hanaka, a woman beaten by police in May, said 'A hefty policeman started shouting, "break all the houses"... we told him we have everything here: home, hearth, farms, gardens, families, everything. The policeman taunted us saying we are poor beggars and said he'd break our houses at any cost... Then the police attacked us on all sides and beat us up mercilessly.'
The tribes of Kalinganagar region are bitterly opposed to TATA's project, and have been resisting it for years. In 2006, at least twelve tribal people were killed when police fired on demonstrators. In March this year, police and others opened fire on the tribal village of Baligotha, injuring about twenty people. Witnesses say houses were destroyed and kerosene poured into drinking wells.
The industrialisation of the state has led to further unrest and police crackdowns. In Jagatsingpur district, farmers have been resisting a POSCO steel project for five years. This month police broke up their long-term peaceful demonstration using teargas and batons.
The Dongria Kondh tribe of the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha are also resisting a mine planned on their land by FTSE 100 company Vedanta Resources. The Odisha government is supporting Vedanta, even though the tribe has made it clear they do not want the mine.
Police have repeatedly arrested local people demonstrating against Vedanta's mine and associated refinery, and Survival staff have received reports of thugs intimidating people who speak out against the company. Survival staff were followed and harassed by thugs on a visit to the area six months ago.
Survival is concerned that the situation will tip into full scale violence if Vedanta's project is not stopped soon.
Survival's director Stephen Corry said, 'The violence must stop. Forcing large industrial projects on to tribal peoples who don't want them is unjust, illegal, and can only end in disaster.' (ANI)