Justice H. L. Dattu Chairperson,
5th May 2017
This is to bring to your notice the aftermath of the recent unlawful detention of Kuni Sikkaka, who was arrested on 1st May 2017 at midnight by CRPF with the assistance of local police from her in-laws house in Gorota village in Muniguda, Rayagada District, Odisha for which we have submitted a petition dated 3rd May 2017. She is the daughter in law of Dodi Pusika and niece of Lado Sikkaka, both being leaders of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti.
We would also like to bring attention to the fact that she was released on 3rd May 2017, but only after she, along with her husband Jagili Pusika, her father-in-law Dodhi Pusika and three other persons from the village (Dama Pusika, Laxman Pusika and Rani Sikoka) were coerced into ‘surrendering and admitting’ that they were the supporters of CPI (Maoists) organisation.
The incident with Kuni and her family and others in her village, is one of the series of incidents occurring in the region where there are several violent atrocities were committed against the Dongria Kondh by the security forces.
On 28th November 2015, Drika Kadraka, an Adivasi leader of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti committed suicide after being picked up repeatedly and reportedly tortured by the police.
On 27th February 2016, while the annual festival for Niyamraja Parab was being held, Mando Kadraka, a 20 year old student and a youth leader of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti was shot dead in an ‘encounter’ by the paramilitary forces who claimed that he took part in Maoist-related activities.
On 7th April 2016, another Dongria Kondh youth, Dasru Kadraka1 , was arrested from Muniguda town in Rayagada District of Odisha, on charges of arson, murder, attacking forces during combing operation etc. He was taken into custody on the behest of taking part in ‘maoist-related’ activities. In all these cases, no concrete proof has been provided indicating any involvement of these tribals in unlawful activities.
What is even more shocking is that the recent 2016- 17 annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs, rather irresponsibly states that the activities of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti2 (the collective of the local Dongria Kondh people and other communities of Niyamgiri who are fighting against a bauxite mining proposal in the Niyamgiri hills) are guided by maoist organisations. This kind of report is only providing the State, the legitimacy to continue supressing any form of democratic processes of dissent against the mining proposal coming from the community.
The Dongria Kondh have been inhabiting the region for centuries and their population is restricted to around ten thousand which puts them in the particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) category.
A struggle against the mining proposal that began in 2002 finally bore fruit in 2013 when 12 Gram Sabhas unanimously rejected the proposal which threatens their very existence and identity, speaking out in great numbers against a ban order on the gram sabhas issued by maoist organisations!
However, in 2016, the Odisha Mining Corporation have filed a petition in the Supreme Court to reopen the mining proposal in the region which was rejected by the apex court.
We could only express the fear of the injustices that Kuni and many other Dongria Kondhs are facing everyday in the hands of the security forces. There is constant intimidation, violence and fear being instilled by the State on its own people.
It seems that the State only wants to contribute towards the interests of the mining corporations and in the name of ‘anti-maoist’ operations, is resorting to violent ways to break everything the community represents.
We demand immediate action against all the atrocities against the communities and also ensure that the security forces are removed from the region and no coercive methods by the State can be employed to start mining in that region.
Ashish Kothari, Meenal Tatpati and Shruti Ajit Kalpavriksh
To: 1. Smt. Lalitha Kumaramangalam, Chairperson, National Commission for Women
- Shri Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister of Odisha
Justice B. K. Mishra, Chairperson, Odisha State Human Rights Commission
Shri Jual Oram, Minister of Tribal Affairs, Government of India
Shri Nand Kumar Sai, Chairperson, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
1 See petition http://www.kalpavriksh.org/images/FeaturedArticles/PetitionDasruKadrakaDongriaKondhcommunity.pdf 2 See petition http://ashishkothari51.blogspot.in/2017/04/petition-to-president-of-india-re.html