Saha Commission – Deposition Proper Crèche facilities in mines #CSR #Odisha #Vaw #Womenrights


Deposition before Saha Commission CLAP espouses Creche in Mines.

Ahmadabad: 21.04: The provision of law under Mines Creche Rules 1966 and the Judgement of Odisha High Court in Committee for Legal Aid to Poor and Forum for Creche and Child Care Services (FORCES) vrs. State of Odisha bearing No. WP (C) No. 3132/2003 regarding crèche services for 0-6 age group siblings of working mother deserve priority attention with agenda of CSR by Mining Companies says the petition by Dr. Bikash Das, President, CLAP filed before Saha Commission. It is pertinent to mention that the Saha Commission is presently hearing the CSR of Mining Companies for peripheral development as a part of the overall enquire into irregularities of mining. In course of hearing of the case the lawyer of the petitioner Sidheswar Mohanty brought to the attention of the Commission that crèche facility for young children is a legal obligation, however, it is being overlooked in course of mining operation. Even the Odisha High Court in a public interest petition already directed for appropriate steps to establish crèche in mines. Hearing the contention of the petitioner Justice Saha observed that as per Mines Creche Rules its violation is an offence. Any mining which fail to perform its duty would attract prosecution. Senior Counsel Gopal Subramaniyam also supported the prayer of CLAP for crèche facility and informed the Commission that the submission will be taken care of by mining companies in their CSR Programme. Saha Commission directed the lawyer of CLAP to submit its written deposition before the Commission. BEFORE THE COMMISSION OF ENQUIRY COMPRISING HON’BLE SRI. JUSTICE M.B. SHAH (Retd.), (For illegal mining of Iron Ore and Manganese), Bungalow No. 13, Opp. Anti-Corruption Bureau, Dafnala, Sfahibaug , Ahmedabad – 4 The humble petition filed by Committee for Legal Aid to Poor (CLAP), a Registered Society based in Cuttack, Odisha. Sub: Proper enforcement of Crèche facilities for Children of Working Mothers in the mines within state of Odisha as per the provision laid down under Mines Crèche Rules, 1966 (framed by the Central Govt. of India on 1st April, 1966) in exercise of power conferred under Clause (d) and (w) of Section 58 of the Mines Act 1952 and also implementation of order of the Hon’ble High Court of Odisha in a Public Interest Litigation bearing no. WP (C) No. 3132/2003. The following submissions are made for the sympathetic consideration of this Hon’ble Commission in course of hearing the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of Mining Owners: 1. That provision of crèche facility for children of working mother in mining is a legal obligation of mining owner/miner as per the provision of Mines Crèche Rules, 1966. It is also a statutory obligation of the authorities of mining department to supervise whether the crèche facilities are being provided by the mining owner or not. It is also an entitlement of very young children (up to age of 6 years) who accompany their mother who are working in mines. 2. That, in spite of the provisions of Mines Crèche Rules 1966, the implementation of the provision is grossly manifestly poor as the mining owners are not giving due importance to the issue for various reason including low level of awareness about the provision of law together with lack of assertiveness among working mother about the statutory opportunity for which they are entitled. 3. That deprivation of working women having children below 6-years of age from the entitlement of crèche facility for their children is a common phenomenon all across the mines in Odisha and thereby it is a violation of a statutory obligation by the mining owners. 4. That the public authorities including Labor and Mining Officials appointed for the purpose of ensuring strict compliance of the statutory provisions like crèche facility are not discharging their duty for proper enforcement of the provision of crèche in mines. In fact there is no accountability of officials for strict adherence to the provisions of law. 5. That, to substantiate the rampant violation of the provision relating to crèche facilities, the present petitioner that is CLAP constituted a Fact Finding Mission consisting of Lawyers and Social Activists to investigate into the real state of affair which visited different mines of Sukinda area of Jajpur district of Odisha in the year 2002. After field investigation, the CLAP has published a report with name and style “Undermining Children in Mines” reflecting therein the illegalities and irregularities noticed about the implementation of Crèche facilities in the mines. Such inaction of mine owners is clear violation of rights of children upto age of six years whose mothers are working in respective mines. A Copy of the said report is attached herewith as ANNEXURE -1. 6. That, based on the aforementioned fact finding mission and the fact finding report titled Undermining Children in Mines, CLAP (Committee for Legal Aid to Poor) alongwith FORCES (Forum for Crèche and Child Care Services) approached the Hon’ble High Court of Odisha by way of filing a PIL vide WP (C) No. 3132/2003 seeking direction for enforcement of provisions relating to crèche facility in the mines. 7. That, after careful hearing of allegations leveled and counter affidavit filed by the respective parties, the Hon’ble High Court of Orissa vide order dt. 21.1.2011 passed a verdict with a direction to the OP No. 5 (Ministry of Labour, Union of India, Shrama Shakti Bhawan, New Delhi) to see that the crèches are properly maintained by the mines owners who have established the same as per the Act and Rules. And for those who have not established crèches, Directorate of Mines Safety shall see that the same are established forthwith and safety measures shall be taken for the children of working women in nines area; and further see that the trained teachers are appointed for functioning of Crèches properly. Moreover, periodical inspection shall also be carried out by the Directorate of Mines Safety regarding maintenance and functioning of Crèches in mines areas in consonance of provisions of the Act and Rules in vogue. If the authorities find that any mine owner is contravening the provisions of the Act and Rules they shall have to take steps to prosecute them before the Court of law for contravention of law, which tantamount to statutory offence. A copy of the order of Hon’ble High Court of Orissa dtd. 21.1.2011 is attached herewith as ANNEXURE – 2. 8. That, in spite of all this efforts and the order of the Hon’ble High Court, the deficits, inadequacies, irregularities and latches still persists in respect of enforcement of the provision concerning crèche facilities by the mines owners. The public authorities have not shown due diligence and not taken adequate measures for proper enforcement of crèche rules even though there is a clear direction by the Hon’ble High Court of Orissa made in this regard. 9. That, in the above facts and circumstances the following steps are very much essential for proper enforcement of Crèche Rules in the mines area and to ensure that the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as per the legal provision are effectively implemented for the shake of protection of best interest of the very young children, welfare of the working mother and also for promotion of good governance: ISSUES A. It will be mandatory for every Mines owner to provide Crèche facilities to the children upto age of 6 years of the working women. B. Every Crèche shall have a clean and sanitary latrine and bathroom, adequate safe drinking water, supplementary nutrition, medicines, beds, toys and medical check-up for the children and nursing mothers. C. Periodically visit and monitoring of the crèche facilities should be undertaken by the Directorate of Mines. D. The mines authorities will ensure that the crèche facilities have been strictly implemented by every mines owner. E. In case there is found any latches or negligence to provide crèche facilities, the licence granted to the respective mines is deemed to be cancelled. F. Every mines owner will submit quarterly report to the mines authorities explaining the details and steps taken to implement the crèche facilities for the supervision of the authorities. G. Effective measures should be taken by both the mining department and mines owners for proper implementation of Mines Crèche Rules. 10. That, the petitioner brings the above facts to the notice of the Hon’ble commission for its sympathetic consideration as the Commission rightfully considers a very important aspect of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in course of hearing legal issues pertaining to mining allotment. 11. That, unless a matter like crèche facility for young children below the age group of 6-years of mother working in mines is taken into due consideration at this stage of hearing of the case, the issue of young children would be ignored from the entire process of rendering justice and the best interest of young children will be overlooked. P R A Y E R In the above facts and circumstances along with considering the legal provision of crèches facilities for children in mines, it is humbly prayed to pass appropriate order/recommendation for strict compliance of the legal provision made under Mines Crèches Rules, 1966 as a major aspect of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). And further recommend the issues mentioned in Para – 9 are to be included as part of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for the best interest of the children. Dr. Bikash Das, President Date: 19.4.13 Committee for Legal Aid to Poor (CLAP) And Convenor, Odisha FORCES 367, Markatnagar, Sector – 6, C.D.A, Cuttack – 14, Odisha, India AFFIDAVIT I, Dr. Bikash Das, aged about 43 years, S/o Late Shyam Sundar Das, President of Committee for Legal Aid to Poor (CLAP), AT: Plot NO. 367, Markatnagar, Sector – 6, PO: Abhinaba Bidanasi, PS: Markatnagar, Town/Dist.: Cuttack do hereby solemnly affirm and state as follows: 1. That I being president of CLAP presenting this petition before this Hon’ble commission. 2. That the facts stated above are true to the best of my knowledge and belief. Identified by Advocate Deponent Cuttack Date: 19.4.2013 Contact Number of CLAP Advocate Mr. Sidheswar Mohanty: 09861035421

BEFORE THE COMMISSION OF ENQUIRY COMPRISING

HON’BLE SRI. JUSTICE M.B. SHAH (Retd.),

(For illegal mining of Iron Ore and Manganese), Bungalow No. 13,

Opp. Anti-Corruption Bureau, Dafnala, Sfahibaug , Ahmedabad – 4

The humble petition filed by Committee for Legal Aid to Poor (CLAP), a Registered Society based in Cuttack, Odisha.

Sub: Proper enforcement of Crèche facilities for Children of Working Mothers in the mines within state of Odisha as per the provision laid down under Mines Crèche Rules, 1966 (framed by the Central Govt. of India on 1st April, 1966) in exercise of power conferred under Clause (d) and (w) of Section 58 of the Mines Act 1952 and also implementation of order of the Hon’ble High Court of Odisha in a Public Interest Litigation bearing no. WP (C) No. 3132/2003.

The following submissions are made for the sympathetic consideration of this Hon’ble Commission in course of hearing the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of Mining Owners:

1. That provision of crèche facility for children of working mother in mining is a legal obligation of mining owner/miner as per the provision of Mines Crèche Rules, 1966. It is also a statutory obligation of the authorities of mining department to supervise whether the crèche facilities are being provided by the mining owner or not. It is also an entitlement of very young children (up to age of 6 years) who accompany their mother who are working in mines.

2. That, in spite of the provisions of Mines Crèche Rules 1966, the implementation of the provision is grossly manifestly poor as the mining owners are not giving due importance to the issue for various reason including low level of awareness about the provision of law together with lack of assertiveness among working mother about the statutory opportunity for which they are entitled.

3. That deprivation of working women having children below 6-years of age from the entitlement of crèche facility for their children is a common phenomenon all across the mines in Odisha and thereby it is a violation of a statutory obligation by the mining owners.

4. That the public authorities including  Labor and Mining Officials appointed for the purpose of ensuring strict compliance of the statutory provisions like crèche facility  are not discharging their duty for proper enforcement of the provision of crèche in mines. In fact there is no accountability of officials for strict adherence to the provisions of law.

5. That, to substantiate the rampant violation of the provision relating to crèche facilities, the present petitioner that is CLAP constituted a Fact Finding Mission consisting of Lawyers and Social Activists to investigate into the real state of affair which visited different mines of Sukinda area of Jajpur district of Odisha in the year 2002. After field investigation, the CLAP has published a report with name and style “Undermining Children in Mines” reflecting therein the illegalities and irregularities noticed about the implementation of Crèche facilities in the mines. Such inaction of mine owners is clear violation of rights of children upto age of six years whose mothers are working in respective mines.

A Copy of the said report is attached herewith as ANNEXURE -1.

6. That, based on the aforementioned fact finding mission and the fact finding report titled Undermining Children in Mines, CLAP (Committee for Legal Aid to Poor) alongwith FORCES (Forum for Crèche and Child Care Services)  approached the Hon’ble High Court of Odisha by way of filing a PIL vide WP (C) No. 3132/2003 seeking direction for enforcement of provisions relating to crèche facility in the mines.

7. That, after careful hearing of allegations leveled and counter affidavit filed by the respective parties, the Hon’ble High Court of Orissa vide order dt. 21.1.2011 passed a verdict with a direction to the OP No. 5 (Ministry of Labour, Union of India, Shrama Shakti Bhawan, New Delhi) to see that the crèches are properly maintained by the mines owners who have established the same as per the Act and Rules. And for those who have not established crèches, Directorate of Mines Safety shall see that the same are established forthwith and safety measures shall be taken for the children of working women in nines area; and further see that the trained teachers are appointed for functioning of Crèches properly. Moreover, periodical inspection shall also be carried out by the Directorate of Mines Safety regarding maintenance and functioning of Crèches in mines areas in consonance of provisions of the Act and Rules in vogue. If the authorities find that any mine owner is contravening the provisions of the Act and Rules they shall have to take steps to prosecute them before the Court of law for contravention of law, which tantamount to statutory offence.

A copy of the order of Hon’ble High Court of Orissa dtd. 21.1.2011 is attached herewith asANNEXURE – 2.

8. That, in spite of all this efforts and the order of the Hon’ble High Court, the deficits, inadequacies, irregularities and latches still persists in respect of enforcement of the provision concerning crèche facilities by the mines owners. The public authorities have not shown due diligence and not taken adequate measures for proper enforcement of crèche rules even though there is a clear direction by the Hon’ble High Court of Orissa made in this regard.

9. That, in the above facts and circumstances the following steps are very much essential for proper enforcement of Crèche Rules in the mines area and to ensure that the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as per the legal provision are effectively implemented for the shake of protection of best interest of the very young children, welfare of the working mother and also for promotion of good governance:

ISSUES

A. It will be mandatory for every Mines owner to provide Crèche facilities to the children upto age of 6 years of the working women.

B. Every Crèche shall have a clean and sanitary latrine and bathroom, adequate safe drinking water, supplementary nutrition, medicines, beds, toys and medical check-up for the children and nursing mothers.

C. Periodically visit and monitoring of the crèche facilities should be undertaken by the Directorate of Mines.

D. The mines authorities will ensure that the crèche facilities have been strictly implemented by every mines owner.

E. In case there is found any latches or negligence to provide crèche facilities, the licence granted to the respective mines is deemed to be cancelled.

F. Every mines owner will submit quarterly report to the mines authorities explaining the details and steps taken to implement the crèche facilities for the supervision of the authorities.

G. Effective measures should be taken by both the mining department and mines owners for proper implementation of Mines Crèche Rules.

10. That, the petitioner brings the above facts to the notice of the Hon’ble commission for its sympathetic consideration as the Commission rightfully considers a very important aspect of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in course of hearing legal issues pertaining to mining allotment.

11. That, unless a matter like crèche facility for young children below the age group of 6-years of mother working in mines is taken into due consideration at this stage of hearing of the case, the issue of young children would be ignored from the entire process of rendering justice and the best interest of young children will be overlooked.

P R A Y E R

In the above facts and circumstances along with considering the legal provision of crèches facilities for children in mines, it is humbly prayed to pass appropriate order/recommendation for strict compliance of the legal provision made under Mines Crèches Rules, 1966 as a major aspect of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

And further recommend the issues mentioned in Para – 9 are to be included as part of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for the best interest of the children.

Dr. Bikash Das,

President

Date: 19.4.13   Committee for Legal Aid to Poor (CLAP)

And Convenor, Odisha FORCES

367, Markatnagar, Sector – 6, C.D.A,

Cuttack – 14, Odisha, India

AFFIDAVIT

I, Dr. Bikash Das, aged about 43 years, S/o Late Shyam Sundar Das, President of Committee for Legal Aid to Poor (CLAP), AT: Plot NO. 367, Markatnagar, Sector – 6, PO: Abhinaba Bidanasi, PS: Markatnagar, Town/Dist.: Cuttack do hereby solemnly affirm and state as follows:

1. That I being president of CLAP presenting this petition before this Hon’ble commission.

2. That the facts stated above are true to the best of my knowledge and belief.

Identified  by

Advocate           Deponent

Cuttack

Date: 19.4.2013

 

Vedanta nudges Odisha again for bauxite supply


Sadananda Mohapatra  April 13, 2013, BT

VAL has been persistently urging the state government to arrange bauxite supplies from alternative sources

 
 
 
 
 

Vedanta Aluminium, which has shut its alumina refinery at Lanjigarh due to bauxite unavailability, has written to the Odisha government once again for ensuring supply of the raw material.

“Thousands have become jobless. We shall be grateful if urgent action is taken for ensuring bauxite supply in line with the memorandum of understanding between Odisha government and VAL,” said Mukesh Kumar, president of the company.

The company had entered into a pact with state run miner Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) to source bauxite from the ecologically fragile Niyamgiri hills with deposits of around 70 million tonne.

Since its shutdown, VAL has been persistently urging the state government to arrange bauxite supplies from alternative sources as the pact ensured supply of 150 million tonne of the raw material to feed the company’s one million tonne refinery.

In February, VAL requested the inter ministerial group of the state government, constituted for raw material supply to state-based industries, to expedite processing of pending applications of OMC, especially those bauxite leases falling under non-forest areas.

These applications are either at PL (prospecting license) or ML (mining lease) stages.

The company had also approached the government to allow OMC or any private player to the excavate low grade bauxite deposits buried in exhausted iron ore mines of Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) and Rungta Mines.

The state government has already conducted a hearing on the lease renewal of a bauxite mine of Rungta Sons, but nothing has moved since then.

“Further to the presentation made by us before the ministerial committee on February 15, we would like to bring your kind attention that the plant is still under temporary shut down as no arrangement for bauxite could be made,” Kumar said in the letter.

 

#India- Tribal affairs ministry against MoEF move to dilute forest rights Act #CSR


 

MoEF notification on 5 February says linear projects such as roads, canals wouldn’t require gram sabha consent
Liz Mathew   |  Neha Sethi  ,           First Published: Fri, Mar 29 2013. 10 28 PM IST, livemint.com
 
The clearance of such developmental projects shall be subject to the condition that the same is recommended by the gram sabhas, according to the text of the forest rights Act. 
  
New Delhi: A move by the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) to exempt promoters of so-called linear projects such as roads, pipelines and canals from seeking the consent of village councils in forest areas will likely be a non-starter unless the government moves to amend the forest rights Act (FRA).
MoEF issued a notification on 5 February that such projects, including power transmission lines, wouldn’t require the consent of gram sabhas, or village councils. It acted in the face of criticism over the delay of many infrastructure projects for want of environmental approvals.
But the measure won’t have any constitutional validity until FRA is amended, an official in the tribal affairs ministry said, indicating a possible face-off between MoEF and his ministry.
The person did not want to be identified given the sensitive nature of the ongoing debate within the government.
The tribal affairs ministry has raised its concerns in a letter to MoEF asking it to revise the 5 February notification.
“The concern of this ministry is that it be made amply clear that the rights of FDSTs (forest-dwelling scheduled tribes) and OTFDs (other traditional forest dwellers) on forest land proposed to be diverted must get recognized and vested under the FRA (without any exception) before forest clearance is granted to any such proposal,” said the letter, a copy of which was reviewed by Mint.
The 5 February notification, posted on the MoEF website, states that the decision was taken after consultations with an inter-ministerial committee. However, the tribal affairs ministry contends that it hadn’t been consulted.
The matter was raised at the last meeting of the cabinet committee on investment, but no decision has been taken. “The matter is still unresolved,” said the official cited above. The cabinet committee on investment has been set up to speed up the clearance of big infrastructure projects and is headed by the Prime Minister.
A top environment ministry official said he wasn’t aware of the reservations of the tribal affairs ministry. “The notification that we issued was done after consultation with the tribal affairs ministry, then why will they have a problem?” said the official, who requested anonymity.
The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, stipulates that projects such as schools, hospitals, anganwadis (child and mother care centres), fair price shops, electric and telecommunication lines, tanks and water bodies, water pipelines, rainwater harvesting structures, minor irrigation canals, vocational training centres, roads and community centres require the permission of village councils.
“The clearance of such developmental projects shall be subject to the condition that the same is recommended by the gram sabhas,” according to the text of the Act.
While clearance for projects is given by MoEF, and the tribal affairs ministry doesn’t play a role in that, it comes into the picture if there is a dispute over gram sabha approval or if “someone contests the clearance given”, said the tribal affairs ministry official cited in the first instance.
In such cases, the tribal affairs ministry will have to go by FRA, the official said.
Clause (11) of FRA states that the tribal affairs ministry is the nodal agency for the implementation of its provisions, the same person said. That’s why the Act will have to be amended for the notification to come into effect, he said.
“How can a memorandum or a notification from a ministry repeal an Act passed by Parliament?” the official said.
The MoEF official cited above said nothing was done by the environment ministry on its own. “It was only after a meeting that the Prime Minister had with both the environment minister, Jayanthi Natarajan, and the tribal affairs minister, V. Kishore Chandra Deo, that it was decided to issue the notification,” the official added.
To be sure, it was unlikely gram sabhas would oppose development projects such as roads, electric transmission lines or drinking water pipelines. FRA, one of the United Progressive Alliance government’s landmark items of legislation in its first term, was passed by Parliament in 2006, said the second official.
Only the nodal ministry, in this case the tribal affairs ministry, can issue fresh guidelines or notifications amending the rules.
“However the tribal affairs ministry has not yet issued any such notification that calls for changing the provisions in the Act,” the same official said.
Tushar Dash, a researcher with Vasundhara, an Orissa-based not-for-profit organization that’s working on forest rights and conservation, said a group of states and non-governmental organizations had raised the issue of the dilution of tribal rights with the tribal affairs ministry earlier this month.
“We had told them to intervene in this matter and make sure that the forest rights Act does not get diluted,” Dash said, adding that if the tribal affairs ministry had written to the environment ministry, then it was definitely “a good move on their part”.

 

 

More bloodshed expected around POSCO Odisha Project


Residents are worried of further bloodshed if the POSCO Odisha [formerly known as Orissa] project continues

Human rights activist Direhdra Panda (left) and human rights lawyer Chandranath Dani, both from India, protest in front of POSCO center��셲 main entrance in Seoul��셲 Daechi neighborhood during the general stockholders��� meeting, Mar. 22. (by Lee Wan, staff reporter)

“Residents are worried of further bloodshed if the POSCO Odisha [formerly known as Orissa] project continues”

By Lee Wan, staff reporter

On March 22, two men from India stood holding a protest in front of the firmly closed doors of the POSCO center. “Shareholders of POSCO, please hear us out on what happened in Odisha”, they said. On this day, a general shareholders’ meeting was taking place inside the closed office.

Human rights activist Direhdra Panda and human rights lawyer Chandranath Dani described the situation in Odisha by saying, “The police are currently blockading three villages that are against the Indian government’s forced land expropriation for the POSCO Odisha steel factory”. Dani said, “The residents of these villages aren’t able to leave their houses because the police are issuing arrest warrants to everyone who opposes the construction”.

The Odisha Project started in 2005 when POSCO and the Odisha government signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to construct a 120 million ton steelworks factory at a cost of 12 trillion won (about US$1 billion). Since then, relocating the residents who live on the land that is slated to be used for the factory has been a problem.

The securing of land for construction has also been difficult. On Mar. 2, a bomb exploded in the house of a resident who had opposed the factory, killing three and injuring two. In order to gain control of the local iron ore mines and an increased presence in the growing Indian market, POSCO has no plans to abandon the project.

Panda said, “The police are pulling up Betel plants, which the residents rely on for their living. The police have violated the villagers’ human rights with violence.”

Panda and Dani, who first visited Korea on March 20 during a spell of cold weather, will meet with South Korean civic groups and Jeon Soon-ok, a Democratic United Party lawmaker, to provide information about the reality of Odisha. They return to India on the 25th. Dani said, “The Norwegian liaison office for ‘OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises’ proposed that an international investigation group be created to investigate the violence taking place in Odisha. I hope POSCO, a multinational corporation, accepts this proposal”.

The OECD guidelines were created to reinforce the social responsibilities of multinational enterprises, and are enforced by liaison offices in each country. Because the Norwegian public officials’ pension fund currently owns POSCO stocks, Norwegian civic groups are aware of the situation and have submitted a petition.

Heavily dressed against Korea’s cold, Panda added, “The Indian media is viewing the issue from the perspective of the government and the corporation. The residents of Odisha have been cultivating crops on this land for many generations. Even if they receive better compensation, they do not wish to leave”.

Translated by Kim Kyung-min, Hankyoreh English intern

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

Orissa HC Rejects MLA Raghunath Mohanty’s Writ Petition in Dowry Harassment Case #Vaw


March 20, www.ibtimes.co.in/.

Orissa High Court rejected former law and urban development minister Raghunath Mohanty’s plea to overturn the FIR lodged by his daughter-in-law against him and his family.

Mohanty had filed a writ petition under section 482 of CrPC. The HC also did not grant immunity to Mohanty and his family and asserted that any police action in this case will be deemed proper.

“Since the ingredients of offence under section 498-A and 506 of IPC are made out prima facie against the petitioners, the prayer to quash the proceedings against the petitioners is not maintainable. Hence the writ petition is dismissed,” said Justice Raghuvir Dash in his verdict.

“Since the writ petition from which the miscellaneous case arises having been dismissed, this court is not inclined to give any direction (to the police) not to take any coercive action against the petitioner.”

After this verdict police may arrest Mohanty.

Over a week ago, Mohanty’s daughter-in-law Barsha Sony Mohanty alleged that she was tortured physically and mentally for dowry a few days into her marriage in June 2012. She claimed that ₹10 lakh worth of cash and jewellery were given as dowry, but her in-laws further demanded ₹25 lakh and a Scorpio car.

Following this, the BJD MLA submitted his resignation to Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Barsha filed the case against Mohanty, his wife Pritilata, son Rajasree and other members of the family, at Balasore police station.

Mohanty is an MLA from Batsa constituency in Balasore district and is in his fifth consecutive term. He also held important ministerial posts for Parliamentart Affairs, Steel and Mines, and Industries departments.

To contact the editor, e-mail: editor@ibtimes.com

 

Preliminary Report on the Fact Finding , on terrors of the Armed Forces , #Chhattisgarh #Operationgreenhunt


(Released in a Press Conference at Women’s Press Corps on 15 March 2013)

 

In the three weeks from mid-January till the first week of February, several villages in the Bijapur District of Chhattisgarh experienced the terror of the armed forces of the Indian state. The CRPF, Chhattisgarh state police, erstwhile SPO’s of the Salwa Judum along with various coercive arms of the state orchestrated a systematic targeting of villages, burnt down hundreds of homes, ostensibly in random, further, burnt down the schools built by the people, picked up villagers, young and old, and physically tortured them while their homes burned to the ground. The affected villages are Pidia, Tomnaka, Singham, Lingham, Komati, Tomudum, and Kondapadu, and in each of these between eight and thirty homes were burnt down by the armed forces. In the village of Dodi-Tumnar, a school with hostel facility for about a hundred children, both girls and boys, run by the Janatana Sarkar was looted and then burnt down by the invading forces in the last week of January. Two battalions of about 1000 CRPF personnel each, besides Koya commandos and SPO’s arrived at the village school at 9 am on that day. They systematically proceeded to destroy the school after firing into the air twice. Even as the students and the schoolmaster fled into the forest, the armed forces caught an old man on his way to the field and chopped off his hand with his own sickle. Following this, the forces looted the storeroom and the kitchen of the school, poisoned the water well, and destroyed the roof, walls, and furniture of the school before finally burning it to the ground. They then marched to the nearby village of Pidia. This village, that houses approximately 265 homes, witnessed first hand the ruthlessness with which the armed force burn down the homes and livelihood of those who stand up for their right to life and liberty. Close to thirty homes were burnt down in one part of this village alone. The charred remains of the homes, cattle sheds, storerooms, utensils can be seen littered with empty bottles of beer and other brands of alcohol.

 

By burning schools and homes, looting sources of livelihood, and physically torturing hundreds of adivasis, the state attempted to legitimize this violence in the name of ‘development’. This methodical burning of homes and schools reveals the carnival of violence practiced by the forces to intimidate, brutalize and squash the spirit of those living in these parts without any concern for consequences. The villagers were forced to remain in the forest for three days as the force camped in the hills surrounding the village. A few young men were picked up by the armed force and brutally beaten. Most of the men were released while one still remains in jail. They looted the means of livelihood and sustenance and camped in the village for three days. Before leaving, they burnt the leftover rations and supplies of the villagers that they had looted. Here, it is the Janatana Sarkar to whom the villagers turn to in times like these. The Janatana Sarkar provided medicines and food to the affected villagers. It is now also helping them rebuild the burnt homes. Even as the bare frames of the homes are being rebuilt pillar by pillar and brick by brick, the spirit of resistance is visible for all to see.

 

The Indian state orchestrates these operations in states like Chhattisgarh in the name of ‘developing’ the area. These are also done as measures to counter the rise of revolutionary forces that have organized the people to stand united against such forms of oppression and practice policies that give primacy to the development of the people living here. Here, development does not mean filling the coffers of the state. In these policies for development, the people are the primary concern. When these forces attack the people, their homes, their schools, and their livelihood, they are attacking their right to life. This right to life that should be most fundamental and universal for all within this apparently democratic country is being denied to those who have remained historically deprived and marginalized in the fringe of the concern of the state. Today, these people are paying the price for resisting the injustice inflicted on them by being forced to live without any assurance of the most basic rights this country accords to its citizens, losing all means of livelihood, and most crucially, in blood.

 

In the name of developing the country the Indian state officially launched a massive operation of plunder of natural resources in 2009 by displacing thousands of communities living in the states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and parts of Bihar, West Bengal and Karnataka. This ‘operation’, ironically called Operation Green Hunt by the corporate run media, undertaken by the current Central Government, expropriates the wealth of the country that rightfully belongs to the people for the benefit of imperialist forces. This wealth, in the form of resources of land, water and forests, is sold to exploitative multinational companies and comprador bourgeoisie. In turn, the resistance of the people has been termed an ‘internal security threat’ by the current Prime Minister who expresses his loyalty to the model of ‘development’ that feeds these corporate sharks. The revolutionary forces along with the people in these parts strive to fight this war waged by the Indian state against its own people. In keeping with the spirit of resistance against injustice, the people have consistently stood up against the machinations of the Indian state even as it signs hundreds of MOU’s that sell-out land, mineral and forest resources of the country. The price paid for these corporate deals is the blood of those who stand up for their right to life, livelihood and liberty against the oppressive Indian state. This resistance by the people represents an alternative model for people’s development, which aims at collectivization of resources in opposition to the Indian state’s model of corporate development. It is this revolutionary change that the Indian state aims to crush by calling it ‘terrorism’ and ‘internal security threat’.

 

The state sponsored ‘cleansing’ programme like the armed vigilante gangs of the Salwa Judum began their operations in 2005. The state officially declared its programme a ‘hunt’ in 2009. This hunt, since its inception, resulted in large-scale violence on people. There is a need to recognize the overlap between the official ‘hunt’ and the ‘cleansing’ done by these state funded vigilante groups that are nurtured and endorsed by the state to split the people from within as they stand up against the anti-people policies of the state by asserting their right to land, livelihood and resources. Even as the media projects this ‘operation’ as part of the effort to wipe out the ‘Naxal infestation’, the very form that this resistance takes militates against this projection. The resistance has roots among the people who have faced the worst atrocities at the hands of this state. These are not mere victims of displacement, deprivation and destruction. These forms of resistance have historically taken root among people who recognize the violence inflicted on them by forces that expropriate land and resources to feed the bottomless pit of corporate greed.

 

The armed forces use the government school buildings in the area as camps in the name of fighting Maoists. These schools become the centres from which the armed forces operate in the area. It creates conditions where access to education is rendered near impossible for those living in these parts. This has affected the basic right of education for the entire adivasi community and specifically the children in the region. Further, in regions where these governmental institutions do not exist and are built by the people themselves, the armed forces attack such schools, shelters, irrigation tanks, wells, and basic amenities of those living in these densely forested areas. These are wanton actions of destruction. This is not merely a question of ‘law and order’ or state control. By attacking homes, means of livelihood, and schools, the armed forces of the state inflict not merely physical violence that has become the norm in the region, but this is part of systemic violence of deprivation, displacement and destruction. This exposes the ‘development’ rhetoric of the state as an open farce.

 

The armed forces continue to commit such atrocities with impunity to displace the people living in the area to fulfill the State’s agenda of ‘development’ as seen in the hundreds of MOU’s signed with corporate houses, agencies, and MNCs. This clears the path to exploit the resource-rich land, water, minerals and forests of Chhattisgarh. This onslaught of violence and exploitation of the people and their resources by the state machinery in the name of development and fighting revolutionary forces exposes the nexus between the state, coercive forces and the corporations that aim to exploit the land and its resources. The casualty of this ‘development model’ has been the adivasi community as they are denied the most basic rights of education, livelihood and liberty. This form of state repression on the people has been visible over the course of ‘Operation Green Hunt’ and visible in the anti-people policies adopted by the state. We must recognize the atrocities committed by the state, expose this nexus of imperialist exploitation and stand by the people who have organized themselves against the state as it attempts to displace them.

 

These people have resolved to fight back by developing schools, shelters, tanks, wells, and such amenities. These are everyday forms of resistance that the state aims to break, by burning down homes and schools and torturing some physically while inflicting collective violence on the lives of people. The collective development of people adopted by those fighting back the ‘model of development’ of the state provides the revolutionary alternative to the imperialist and feudal designs of corporations and the landed bourgeoisie. As the state commits such atrocities against the people everyday and normalizes its forms of violence, the people have militantly resisted such as it speaks the imperialist language of ‘freedom’ and ‘development’ on one hand and participates in wanton destruction of life, livelihood and liberty on another depends on our silence and implied consent. We need to break this silence and stand up against the injustice inflicted on the hundreds. We need to stand together with the struggling masses; the thousands of displaced and deprived people who have resolved to fight back. Today and everyday hence, we must condemn the atrocities committed by the armed forces of the state on the adivasis of Chhattisgarh and elsewhere; expose the nexus between the state, feudal landed interests and corporate houses in these resource rich areas; recognize that this war on people is being fought by those who recognize their right to jaljangaljameen and against the Indian state in its effort to displace people to expropriate their land, livelihood and resources for its imperialist designs.

 

DSU members  if the Fact Finding Team: Ayantika Das, J. K. Vidhya, Sourabh Kumar, Sushil Kumar.

 

Democratic Students’ Union (DSU)

Contact:dsuatdu@gmail.com

#India – Widows bear brunt of Posco violence #Vaw #tribalrights #indigenous


pc courtesy- odishaviews.com

By, TNN | Mar 14, 2013

GOBINDAPUR (JAGATSINGHPUR): Their lives have been shattered and they do not know what the future holds for them. The battle between pro and anti-Posco activists has robbed them of their husbands.

While three men died recently in a bomb blast at the proposed steel plant site at Patana village within Dhinkia gram panchayat in Jagatsinghpur district, another was killed in 2008 after some persons hurled bombs at him. The three were Tarun Mandal, Manas Jena, Narahari Sahoo while Tarun’s elder brother Tapan alias Dula Mandal died earlier.

Tarun’s widow Pravati Mandal (26) of Gobindapur is left alone to take care of their two-year-old daughter. Pravati is now relying on the food items supplied by some villagers and supporters of Posco Pratirodha Sangram Samiti (PPSS).

“My daughter is suffering from fever for last five days but I am not getting medicines for her. She needs medicine and proper food,” Pravati said as her voice choked. “My daughter wakes up and cries at night on not seeing her father. My husband used to play with her in the evening after toiling in betel vine farms,” added Pravati.

Jharana Jena (28) married Manas, a betel vine farmer of Gobindapur, five years back. Like other women widowed by the ongoing violence, Jharana faces not only grave financial difficulties but also a battle to save their betel vines and lands from being acquired for the steel mill.

“After I lost my husband I have decided to take on the responsibility of our three-year-old son Sujala,” Jharana told TOI as tears welled up in her eyes. “Large number of anti-Posco villagers consider my husband as a hero. But, the hero tag holds little significance for me as I am facing an uphill task after the death of my husband,” added Jharana.

Similarly Pramila’s health has deteriorated after death of her husband Narahari, who happened to be Jharana’s father. “I have decided to fight against Posco to take revenge of my father’s death,”said Jharana.

Poverty and absence of a male member have also made life hell for Sabita Mandal (35), widow of Tapan alias Dula of Gobindapur village. Her life became a struggle after her husband, an anti-land acquisition leader, was killed June 20, 2008, in a bomb attack.

 

Crude Questions about Crude Bombs


:Biju Mathew, kafila.org

MARCH 13, 2013

This is a guest post by BIJU MATHEW

Tarun Mandal, Narahari Sahu and Manas Jena are dead, blown up by what the media has described as a “crude” bomb. All bombs are crude. They kill. They are meant to destroy flesh and bone. They are aimed at sucking out life. Lakshman Mandal battles for his life in a Cuttack hospital. He knows how crude a bomb is. Hopefully he will live to tell the tale of its crudeness.

This is a partisan piece. But it aims to produce balance. Almost all media reports so far have had a strong spin that the three – Narahari, Tarun and Manas – were killed while making a crude bomb. So says Mr. Satyabrata Bhoi, Jagatsinghpur SP. Nobody has bothered to ask him any further questions. It’s quite understandable. Asking any more questions might make the entire spin untenable. For instance, they could have asked: why is it that something illegal, such as crude bomb making, was being done out in the open and not within the confines of a house? Especially given that for the last month, the police have been constantly in and out of the village? Especially because there are at least a few dozen pro-POSCO folks in the village? Why would three leaders of an oppositional movement sit outside on the porch of a house that is fully identified with POSCO Pratirodh Sangran Samiti (PPSS) and make bombs – openly, for all to see – at 6.30 PM when there is enough light for anybody to see them? Isn’t crude bomb making normally confined to the indoors? How many incidents do we know of where crude bomb making was happening outside in broad daylight? Isn’t the RSS, the most famous outfit that makes crude bombs and occasionally manages to blow up its own, always known to make its bombs indoors?

Do these seem like too basic a set of question? If so,  its simplicity is only paralleled by the holes it can open up in Mr. Bhoi’s story.

Maybe we should ask a few more complicated questions. Who are the dead? Why not ask this question and see if its answer fits the profile of somebody you think could sit in the open and make a bomb? Three of the four – Narahari, Tarun and Lakshman – were/are senior leaders of the PPSS. With their main leader, Abhay Sahu, in-and-out of jail and facing risk of further arrest under trumped up charges, these were the men who were holding everything together for PPSS. The fourth, Manas, was an upcoming leader and is the brother of yet another PPSS senior leader, Prakash Jena. If the media had bothered to talk to the residents of Gobindpur they would have known that Narahari was getting ready to walk through the village to announce a meeting. ‘Narahari sir’ as he was popularly known (because he also taught at the local school on occasion) was a man of impeccable reputation – courageous and incorruptible. Who stands to gain by wiping out the second rung of the PPSS leadership in Gobindpur? Why has no one bothered to ask who these men were, or what their position was in the ongoing struggle? What were their roles in the village? Who stood to gain the most from their death?  Lakshman is a landless laborer. He does not own a single decimal of the land he is defending. How come this has yet to be reported on? Why would a landless msn be in such a struggle, let alone make bombs?

Not good enough? Surely, just this much should be enough for any critical minded journalist who takes his/her trade seriously. But then why not ask a few more questions? There are indeed more that could be asked.

This is not the first bomb to explode in Gobindpur. These were not the first lives lost to bombs. In the recent history of this village-in-struggle, this is the second bomb. The first went off on June 20, 2008 during an anti-POSCO demonstration, when a similar ‘crude’ bomb was hurled at the demonstrators. One person was killed. The only person to have died in what has largely been a non-violent struggle, but for the numerous times that the villages have been attacked by either the police or pro-POSCO goons. And the only person who had died so far was Tapan Mandal, Tarun’s brother. What do we have to say to a family that has given two children to the struggle?

Here is where the ruthlessness of this enterprise becomes most evident. The main accused in the complaint filed regarding the murder of Tapan Mandal is Prafulla Mohanty, a local BJD, pro-POSCO activist. And the main eye-witness cited in the complaint? Narahari Sahu.

Prafulla Mohanty has the honor of being accused in at least half a dozen more complaints about attacks on the anti-POSCO villages. The investigation of Tapan’s murder has been languishing for four years now. Mr. Bhoi and his posse have not moved an inch on the only killing that had happened so far. And Prafulla Mohanty? If anybody bothered to ask some of the locals, they would have been told that ever since the police attack of four weeks ago, Prafulla Mohanty has been walking around Gobindpur threatening anybody he can find. Its been reported that Mr. Sangram Mahapatra, the local Industrial Development Corporation of Orissa (IDCO) chief caught on video brutally beating a villager, has been calling PPSS leaders up on their mobile phones and doing the same. Who is a better candidate for arranging and detonating crude bombs: a landless agricultural worker or a BJD goon whose every effort has been opposed by the very same people who are now dead?

I first met all four – Narahari, Tarun, Manas and Lakshman – during my second visit to Orissa to research betelvines in June 2010. Narahari was amongst the first people in the village to lead me through a paan-kethi shed. He was meticulous in outlining the economics of betel leaf. He walked me up and down a shed and made me count the number of rows of the vine. I was introduced to Tarun and Manas. But today, I can’t remember anything they said, their contribution to the focus group, their gestures… I would feel better if I could. As if my feeling better matters. Lakshman came across as a quiet and withdrawn person initially. I asked him why he, who had no land, was part of the movement? For a brief moment, he looked away – fixed his eyes on the ground below him – and then looked up at me. “Why not?” he asked me.  CPI State Secretary Diwakar Nayak issued a statement on Thursday that Lakshman’s life was in danger – that he may still be killed. He urged the State to give Lakshman police protection. How ironic.

[Biju Mathew Is Associate Professor of Business at Rider University, NJ and a coordinator of the Mining Zone Peoples Solidarity Group (www.miningzone.org), a research and advocacy collective that has published the most comprehensive report on the POSCO project to date – Iron and Steal: The POSCO India Story. He is also a co-author of a recent EPW article that analyzes the faulty assumptions underlying the Social Cost Benefit Analysis used to justify the POSCO India project.]

 

PRESS RELEASE- Fact Finding to assess the situation of escalated violence in Odisha


Press Release March 10th, 2013

A national-level fact-finding team consisting of civil liberties and democratic organisations and individuals visited Govindapur and Dhinkia villages of Jagatsinghpur District on the 9th of March, 2013. The objective of the visit was to assess the situation in the wake of escalated violence since the land acquisition process resumed in the area on the 4th of February 2013. The stationing of armed police platoons in the proposed POSCO project affected areas and finally the recent incident of the bomb explosion that left three killed and had one person severely injured prompted us to visit the area and share our findings with a larger audience and appeal to the Odisha government and local administration. During the visit, the team had a detailed discussion with the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) leader Abhay Sahu and other members, the personnel of Orissa State Armed Police and the State Police stationed at Gobindapur, leader of Gobindpur pro POSCO group Ranjan Bardhan, dalit landless labourers, a group of people in Nuagaon led by Tamil Pradhan (husband of the Sarpanch) and the local youth. The following day, on the 10th of March 2013, the team also visited Laxman Pramanik in the SCB Medical College Hospital, Cuttack.  We informed the District Collector and Superintendent of Police about our visit and sought an appointment but they told us that they were out of the district and thus not available to meet us.

The incident of March 2nd, 2013: Discussions with members of the PPSS and families of the deceased clearly indicate that the four people namely Nabin Mandal (30), Narahari Sahu (52), Manas Jena (32) and Lakhman Parmanik (46) were sitting at their usual meeting place after leaving a nearby betel vine in Patana village.  A powerful blast occurred that killed three people and left Lakhman Parmanik severely injured. Another person named Ramesh Raut had left the spot just a minute before to buy a paan.

Within hours of the incident SP Jagatsinghpur Sri Satyabrata Bhoi announced through the local and national media that the blast occurred while the deceased were making a bomb, even before any police personnel had visited the site or done any investigation.  According to Lakhman Parmanik in the hospital, bomb/s was/were thrown at them. He strongly refuted the accusation by the police that they were making bombs, adding “What gain will I make by lying when I am on the verge of death.” It was reported to be a powerful blast as its impact was felt and heard by most of the villagers as they recalled in discussions with the team. None of the police personnel reached the spot until nearly 15 hours after the incident. This is clear dereliction of duty given the fact that two platoons are stationed within a distance of a few minutes from the area. Even before the police came and took charge of the dead bodies, land acquisition started on the morning of 3rd of March 2013.

The Role of the Police: One, the police neither reached the area nor sent any help for taking Laxman Parmanik immediately to the hospital, despite PPSS informing the police immediately after the incident. Secondly, the police arrived only on the morning of 3rd of March at the scene of the incident and took charge of the dead bodies. Thirdly, families of the two deceased shared that the police arrived on the midnight of the 3rd of March, and asked them to sign a written statement stating that the victims died in the process of making the bomb which they refused to do. Fourth, when Kusumbati Sahu, sister-in-law of the deceased Narahari Sahu went to register an FIR at the thana of Abhoychandranpur on the evening of 3rd of March, the police refused to accept the FIR, scolded her that she has been sent by Abhay Sahu although they themselves were making the bomb and had come to lodge an FIR. She had to leave without registering the FIR. However it should be noted that the only FIR that was accepted by the Abhaychandranpur thana on 4th of March was lodged by Ranjan Bardhan against the 3 deceased, the injured Lakhman Pramanik, Abhay Sahu, Surendra Das and five others of the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti.

Our observations of the Current Situation:

Following the March 2nd bomb blast the already existing tension in the villages have been greatly escalated.  The villagers are unable to move freely and are in constant fear of harassment and arrest by the police.  Since 4th February when the land acquisition process was resumed accompanied by a severe police lathicharge on the villagers, outbreaks of violence have become more frequent.  In Govindpur village, 2  platoons of police have been deployed, which has greatly contributed to the escalated tension in the villages.  At least 105 betel vines have been destroyed in Govindpur village in the process of land acquisition.  There was a lathicharge on 7th March on villagers demanding the removal of the police camp, in which 41 villagers including 35 women and children were injured.

This situation has also gravely affected the lives and livelihoods of the villagers. The situation of dalit landless labourers is very grave. Over 150 families depend on betel vines located on approximately 1 acre of  land. They are keen and clear that the plant is most undesirable since it is the only source of livelihood.  Two persons shared how they have got no compensation after sale of land. Most others said how there are no provisions for compensations for the landless in the acquisition process.  In fact, Laxman Pramanik, who has been gravely injured in the bomb blast is also a landless labourer, the sole breadwinner of a family of eight persons,  depending on the same. In short, the livelihood activities and mobility of the entire community is under threat. Any access to health care or medical treatment, however critical, is difficult to obtain as most of the community is under threat of arrest.

Demands:

In view of our discussions with all the affected persons, and the clear attempt of the police to blame the deceased persons in a premeditated manner, we demand

1.       A  high level judicial enquiry into the bomb blast incident resulting in the death of three persons and injury to one person, to ascertain the truth of the matter.

2.       The immediate withdrawal of the police camp from Gobindpur village as it is contributing to escalating tensions in the area.

3.       The cessation of the land acquisition process forthwith  in the Dhinkia panchayat area including Gobindpur village.

4.       Compensation on humanitarian grounds to the families of the deceased who were killed in the bomb blast and proper medical help for the injured person.

Team Consisted of:

Meher Engineer, Former Director, Bose Institute, Kolkata

Sumit Chakravartty, Editor, Mainstream Weekly, Delhi

Dr Manoranjan Mohanty, Retd Professor, Delhi University

Pramodini Pradhan, PUCL Odisha

Saroj Mohanty, PUCL, Odisha

Ranjana Padhi, PUDR, Delhi

Dr Kamal Chaubey, PUDR, Delhi

Sanjeev Kumar, Delhi Forum, Delhi

Mathew Jacob, HRLN, Delhi

Samantha, Sanhati

Partho Roy, Sanhati

Gyan Ranjan Swain, Ravenshaw University

Contact Email Id: sanjeev@delhiforum.net   : 09958797409

 

Democracies Don’t Strip Their Women, India Does #Indiashame #womensday


| by Avinash Pandey*

 
( March 8, 2013, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka Guardian) The decision of going naked in protest to the oppression committed on them by POSCO and its supporters must not had come easily to the women of Govindpur village of Jagatsingpur district in Odisha. It cannot come easily to women of anywhere in country, however, much distressed they are. It is a country, after all, that still abides by essentially feudal codes of honour hinged, primarily, on their bodies and punishing those who stray with extreme, and extrajudicial, measures like honour killing with the law enforces looking away.
But then, this is exactly what the women of this POSCO-infested village (to borrow from the mainstream media that refers to all such areas as ‘infested’ by this or that dissenting group) have been forced into. The desperation betraying the decision is unmistakable. It can startle even those who deal with such stories of despair day in and day out. Last time one had seen such a protest taking place was in Manipur in July 2004. The situation, however, was a little different in that case. Manipur has always been a ‘disturbed’ area for the Indian state and condemned, therefore, to be reined in by brute force. Brute force in military parlance, in turn, has always included sexual assault as a weapon of shaming and controlling the enemy.
Elderly women of Manipur were aghast at that and decided for going that protest in sheer desperation. They were a people who had completely lost their faith in the nation that claimed to be their own but acted as an occupying force. It did never treat them, or their menfolk, as its own. Its security forces assaulted the men and raped the women at will and the state legitimised such dreadful practices by allowing the Assam Rifles deployed in Manipur to provide condoms as an integral part of the travel kit, to be used while on patrol duty. Having had enough of this, Manipuri women went to the headquarters of the Assam Rifles, disrobed and flung a banner reading “INDIAN ARMY RAPE US”.
Odisha is thousands of kilometers away from Manipur. It is not a ‘disturbed’ area with the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, a colonial relic very dear to Indian state, in force. Its women are not that alien to Indian state as Manipuri women are to it, despite all its claims on the contrary. Yet, the desperation and the progressive loss of any faith of the citizenry in the state are same. This is what explains the disarmingly simple and yet dangerous message that seeps out of the statement issued by the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS). “Left with no other option, women from the village have decided to get naked before the Policemen tomorrow” is all that it says. The pain and agony it would take to first decide for holding such a protest and then announcing it to the public is something lost on the state and the moral guardians it deploys to keep the pretension of being a democracy on.
     The message that the state is not ready to listen to peaceful voices of dissent is loud and clear. It has abandoned the citizenry for the reasons best known to it and had decided to side with the private interests even at the expense of rule of law. It has shifted the boundaries and pushed the citizens to the extremes. It is no more a struggle for justice that had become a distant dream, but a struggle for survival that starts with being heard and noticed.
The women have reached the decision because the state has abandoned them for POSCO, the multinational company that has been violating all their rights with impunity. They have reached the decision after getting many of their near and dear ones killed by the hired goons of the company. They have reached the decision for the state government sending in an armed-to-teeth police force for cracking down on the peaceful protesters and forcibly acquire the lands even when the environmental clearance that is mandatory for such projects stand cancelled by the statutory authorities.
The immediate provocation comes from the stubborn refusal of the police to lodge a formal First Information Report (FIR), a constitutional right of the people, against the perpetrators of a bomb attack on the nonviolent protesters that killed several of them. Despite unambiguous indications that the attack was carried out by the hired goons of POSCO, the police have obstinately maintained that the deceased were involved in bomb-making and perished when it exploded prematurely, all this without even a pretense of investigation.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the anti-POSCO movement has faced such violence or police apathy. On one hand, it has been a victim of ruthlessly violent attacks on its activists purportedly carried out at the behest of POSCO and on the other a systematic victimisation by the state by filing fabricated cases against them as exposed by a fact finding report titled “Captive Democracy”.
The message that the state is not ready to listen to peaceful voices of dissent is loud and clear. It has abandoned the citizenry for the reasons best known to it and had decided to side with the private interests even at the expense of rule of law. It has shifted the boundaries and pushed the citizens to the extremes. It is no more a struggle for justice that had become a distant dream, but a struggle for survival that starts with being heard and noticed. It is a struggle for asserting one’s existence against those who want to erase the poor and the downtrodden from nation’s conscience. It is, therefore, a struggle for reclaiming the citizenship in a democracy that is going truant.
The signs are not good for such struggles. The wretchedness hitherto reserved for those living on the peripheries of the nation has been slowly, but consistently, moving inwards. The country has already stripped thousands of its women naked underlining what Ms. Arundhati Roy calls a ‘rape culture’. It has looked away when the non-state actors, so to say, have done the same with other set of victims hounded along the fault lines of caste, kinship and religion. It had yet not reached a stage where its women have to get naked in front of the police, supposed to be law enforcers, unlike its atrocious armed forces for their legitimate rights. It would better not let that happen.

 

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