and the story of the battle of the people of Noamundi
against the TISCO
…TISCO (Tata Iron & Steel Co.) presently know as TATA STEEL’s captive iron ore mine lies in Noamundi Jharkhand
). It is one of their first mines operational since 1907 and supplying ore to its furnace in Jamshedpur. This is the homeland of the Adivasi
people of India from whom resources were expropriated to convert the House of Tata’s from a opium trader to a full-fledged monopoly capitalist. One of the first in British India.
Noamundi prior to the arrival of mining was a 100% ‘Ho’ Adivasi territory. Today Tatas have a large township with massive mechanised mining including processing plants.
In 1991 on the festival of Holi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holi) a rowdy group of TISCO employees molested a team of Adivasi women labourers on the construction site of the Companies Sports Stadium. The women had joined their hands and told these drunken workers that as their Baa Parob (festival of spring) was not yet performed in their village they cannot join them in the Holi celebrations. According to Ho tradition unless the village head priest Duri performs the Baa puja villagers under his jurisdiction cannot participate in similar festivals elsewhere. It’s a sacrilege. The TISCO workers forced themselves on the women and by applying colour on their breast and genitals molested them.
They all came from Noamundi Basti the original village from where Noamundi gets its name. When the late Gagan Suren, the Munda (Adivasi village chief), of the village came to know of it, he approached the TISCO management and demanded that a case be registered against the workers. TISCO refused and as the Police too come under their control, the Police station refused to accept the FIR (First Information Report) of the Munda.
One of the sub colonies of Noamundi Township, JoJo Hatting comes under the jurisdiction of the Mundi of Noamundi Basti in this case Gagan Suren. Under the power the Munda had then he ask all the workers and their families to quit Jojo Hatting. TISCO found itself saddled with about a hundred refugee families at their door step. TISCO soon relented and asked the Police to file a case. Immediately the TISCO sponsored union affiliated to the central trade union of the Congress Party (INTUC) threatened that if a case is filed, they would go on strike. It should be noted here that this was the first time in the history of this union that they gave such an ultimatum to the management.
In the meanwhile, anger spread among the Ho people. At that time the All Jharkhand Student Union (AJSU) was strong in that area. AJSU supported the demands of the Munda.
On the other side of Noamundi in a different area lies the TISCO Palletising Plant or P Plant as known locally. It was constructed on grabbed lands of the surrounding villages, the main one being Moodhi village. The sacred graves and sacred groves till today rest within the walls of the P Plant and ever since the villagers have been demanding compensation. Seeing their relatives of Noamundi basti under attack and agitating, the villagers of Moodhi village decided to support them by opening another agitation front against TISCO. They locked the P Plant with the workers in and refused entry to the next shift of workers. Hundreds surrounded the P Plant and kept its gates locked for days.
TISCO was hereby being challenged by Adivasis who they consider as sheep to be slaughtered. They could not take it. Their security men (private security force) opened fire on the Adivasis at the P Plant. This act itself let to a big problem for TISCO as they cannot open fire on a crowd. So they got the Police to issue a statement that it was the Police who fired the shots.
As usual in those times the Police issued different criminal cases against the villagers and AJSU activist. As the P Plant gate is adjacent to the railway line TISCO got the Railways to file their case against the same accused.
This group of accused, about fifteen in number, is today reduced to seven persons. The rest all have died much before their time. They are today the unsung heroes of Jharkhand. Their wives and children are till date suffering due to the sacrifice of their breadwinners.
Since 1991, all the accused activists have been on bail (after surrendering and going to jail then!) and they have been attending all court dates for the last two decades.
In 2010 the lawyer handling the case gives up practice to join the Abhijeet Steel Company. He abandoned the case without handing it over to another lawyer. As a result the court has issued an arrest warrant against all the surviving activists. As we were not informed of this warrant, the court converted it into a ‘Kudkhi’ warrant or seizure of properties of the accused.
I am writing this note a day before we all surrender before the Magistrate. In accordance with fair judicial procedure, he should revive our bail. But we are apprehending that he will send us all into judicial custody or jail in order to harass us and threaten the ongoing agitation against the TATA STEEL expansion of their mines in Noamundi. This is the best way the Jharkhand state can appease Tatas at this stage. In the past we have experienced that such repression only goes to strengthen our resolve and movement. Thanks to TATA STEEL
Written by Xavier Dias on 22nd November 2012
(along with the surviving accused including: John Barjo, Basudev Devgum, Moso Munda, Rajaram Tanti and Indu Laguri)