NAPM declares the just concluded Investors Meet in Odisha, a plan for corporate loot of resources and rights of people
No water in rivers and reservoirs for farmers; Corporates enjoying uninterrupted supply
Land, Rivers, Forests are not mere resources, it’s our life, culture and dignity; Aadivasis warned corporates to stay out of their lands.
Farming made systemically an affair of loss and deprivation; Govt.-Corporate plan for industrial farming and pushing people to work in factories
State is violent, not the people; Govt must respect the rights of Gram Sabha – Lado Sikaka, Niyamgiri
Odisha: After travelling through Jharkhand, Samvidhan Samman Yatra spent three days in Odisha from 13th to 15th November and visited various movement places to understand, share and express solidarity and strength with them. On 13th November, the yatra visited Sundargarh, Rajgampur, Ranibandh, Jharsuguda and Sambalpur. On 14th November, Yatra reached Balangir and then joined Niyamgiri struggle after that. On the last day in Odisha, i.e. on 15th November, Activists joined public meetings at Bhubneshwar, Cuttack, and Bhadrak. Odisha, a land of Adivasi struggle for their rights and against land grab by corporates, welcomed the yatra and activists, shared the struggle against land acquisition, mining, and water diversions. Adivasis are at the forefront of majority of the struggles along with farmers and workers in the state. Farmers have fought for their control over Mandi and now fighting for loan waiver. The dams in the state are an example of betrayal to farmers as now the dams do not have water for irrigation but in abundance for industries.
Starting from 13th November, The Yatra reached Sundargarh and addressed the press conference. Meera Sanghamitra from NAPM Andhra Pradesh – Telangana, introduced the activists and briefed about Samvidhan Samman Yatra. “Neither Naveen Patnaik in Odisha nor Narendra Modi at the Centre who regularly invite foreign investors have similarly listened to People’s movements and organisations about their grievances and perspectives. This proves who the government is working for? People or Corporates!”, she said.
“Muslims and Dalits are being lynched by mob supported by Government. Already, we are witnessing the destructive development but under this government, the corporates are given free hand to loot our resources. This is completely against our Constitution and to safeguard our Constitution, we need to stand together and fight together.”, said Suniti SR from NAPM Maharashtra.
Prafulla Samantara from Lok Shakti Abhiyan, also a winner of Goldman Environmental Prize in 2017, said that Sundergarh is a fifth schedule area. FRA and PESA is applicable here but the laws are being outrightly violated to facilitate corporate loot. Even after complete rejection to Vedanta in Niyamgiri hills and other areas, State is hell bent to favour corporates and consistently trying to appropriate people’s voices. NAPM will support people’s resistance against these injustices despite the increasing attacks on activists in the name of Urban Naxals.
“Odisha is one of the places abundant in terms of mineral resources and yet one of the most impoverished. We must question where the wealth is going? When adivasis are still deprived of it.”, said Bhupendra Rawat from Jan Sangharsh Vahini.
Gabriel Dietrich from Penn Urimay Iyakkam and NAPM Tamilnadu shared about the brutal state sponsored murder of activists in Tamilnadu and said that Corporates doesn’t think beyond their profits and it is clearly evident that people in Tamilnadu are facing dangerous health issues even Cancer but Vedanta is continue making profits from its Copper smelting plant. We need to be alert and expose corporates and the state at all fronts on how they are anti-people and anti-constitutional.
George Tirkey, a member of legislative assembly said that Tribal population doesn’t ruled by the Chief Minister but the Governer of the state. But then we wake up every morning hearing new project which are appropriating our lives, livelihood, and our culture.
“After hundreds of memorandums, demonstrations and meeting with collector, we have given in writing that any project must not get approval without the consent of Gram Sabhas”, informed Sipriori William Kiro from Aadivasi Moolnivasi Adhikar Suraksha Samiti. “We lodged FIR with criminal accusations against the collector after the legal provisions were violated to favour the projects.”, he said.
It is shameful that the Odisha Government, who is claiming to be pro-people are not acting any different from the BJP Govt. in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and the Centre.
After the press conference, the activists started towards Rajgampur, Ranibandh where they paid revolutionary tribute to Birsa Munda. Adivasi Haq Janasangharsh Samiti, Sundergarh, and Birsa Munda Jayanti Samaroh Samiti joined the yatra and expressed solidarity with the fight for adivasi and land rights.
“People’s struggles are on against Basundhara and Jindal coal mines. There are 12000 MW each NTPC and Reliance thermal power plants in Sundergarh. There are plans to set up power plants of more than 70000 MW capacity. The whole belt between Brahmani River and Mahanadi is rich in coal and then in iron ore in northern Odisha. The corporate and state nexus has eyes on all of this.”, said Kalyan, senior activist from Odisha. He also pointed out that how the 3 installed hydropower plants have become an example of ecological destruction. They don’t have adequate water due to which only a fraction of power generation is possible and the dam is also not able to irrigate lands which they promised to do. When the reservoir doesn’t have water for irrigation, then how Jindal and Bhushan are able to get uninterrupted water supply?
In the afternoon, Lokmukti Sangathan welcomed the yatra at Behramal Kisan Chowk, Jharsuguda where everyone paid tributes to Lal Bahadur Shastri and Mahatma Gandhi and assembled outside the PWD office for the public meeting.
“There were many iron ore plants nearby. 10-15 have been closed due to people’s resistance but still 2-3 plants are remaining. More than 26000 acres of land have been acquired just for coal mining. There is power plant with generation capacity of more than 8000 MW in the area. People have faced displaced by Hirakund Dam. Pollution is becoming the major issue in the region. Under the projects, youth were promised for employment which is still a distant dream for young population. Majority of the population is adivasis and facing poverty when government is shamelessly claiming it to be one of the richest districts of Odisha.”, shared by local activists from the area.
Mehboob Mahtat, a senior journalist, said that we have the challenge and opportunity to save our constitution from the ones who are in power. We need to vote them out from the power. The government is clearly working for corporates depriving dalits and adivasis of their rights.
Vasudev, from Loktantra Suraksha Manch, said that We will not be spared if the constitution is in danger. Thus, today we need movements to come together and fight unitedly against the state and corporates.
In the evening, Yatra headed to Sambalpur where Paschim Odisha Krushak Sangathan Samanvya Samiti (POKSSS) welcomed the yatra and briefed about the issues that farmers are facing there. The main issue is of sharing of water from the Hirakund Dam in the region and demand of loan waiver.
Lingraj Behra, convener, POKSSS, said that farmers issues don’t exist in isolation. There is larger political economic issue attached with this that we should recognize. We need to build a larger solidarity when farming is being destroyed systematically to favour industrial farming and pushing farmers into industrial workforce.
Meera Sanghamitra from NAPM shared the objectives and experiences of Yatra in other states. She said that we are travelling from one state to other but the issues that we are encountering remains same. People are being forced to die of starvation, imposition of Aadhaar where farmers are not given the rightful prices for their produce. The reservoir built for irrigation are getting converted as a source for providing water to big industries. From producers to consumers, everyone is being subjected to state violence. We need to stand united and assert our constitutional rights before the state and corporates take over all our resources. We need our farms, forests, rivers, oceans, livelihood, and dignity back.
Murarji, a local activist, said that it is the strength of people’s movements that some of our farmers are now able to get good prices for their produce. Through a united struggle by local farmers, we managed to gain control over the local mandi which is now being able to provide respectful prices to farmers.
“The state has become so shameless that the activists who are working with the people on ground and ensuring their rights to be protected are being targeted as Urban Naxals. We need to root out this government otherwise they are not going to work for the people and will also not let others work.”, said Prafulla Samantara.
On 14th November, local organisations welcomed yatra at Sambadik Bhavan, Balangir for a brief time. The people here are struggling against Sahara India’s 1320 MW Titalgarh thermal power plant since 2010, which is stayed as per Supreme Court directions. Lower Suktel Dam is another such issue where people are strongly against the land acquisition since 2000. 30 villages are getting affected under this project. Zindabad Sangathan has been struggling to get land entitlement for adivasis in Patnagarh and Titlagarh areas of Balangir district.
Prafulla Samantara addressed the people and said that we haven’t got our Constitution from these corrupt governments but achieved through people’s struggles. People gave befitting reply to everyone who wanted to suppress people’s voices. We need to give the same verdict to the present ruling what we gave to Indira Gandhi’s ruling.
Suniti SR from NAPM Maharashtra extended solidarity with the struggles of Balangir and said that we are all aware about how the destruction is happening in the name of development. We will continue our fight for securing people’s rule over resources.
After Balangir, the activists travelled to Niyamgiri. Adivasis welcomed the yatra in their traditional revolutionary way with the slogans of Birsa and Ambedkar. Freshly plucked oranges were given to everyone as a welcome gesture.
Lado Sikaka, a leading activist and a resident, shared the experiences from the struggle to save Niyamgiri from corporates. He said that if we protect our land, water, and forest, we protect our lives and families. The land, water, and forests are not merely a resource for us but our soul and we cannot let anybody else to take control of our lives. The entire struggle of Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti has been a peaceful struggle but the government tried to label us as a violent struggle. We have fought from the village to the Supreme Court and asserted our rights through our Gram Sabhas.
“We need to understand and declare the state violent, extremely violent. They don’t even know how to respect our culture and traditions. We are the ones, who have kept the forests alive, rivers alive, the environment breathable. But what we are receiving is the beatings in the jail, bribes to cheat our people and sell our lands to corporates. We have rejected all the corporates and fighting for our lives, our culture, our dignity. We appeal people of the country to expose the government and tell them to stop the violence meted out on the aadivasis.”, he added.
“Niyamgiri struggle is an inspiration for all of us and for all the struggles happening in fifth schedule areas. The supreme court has upheld the constitutional rights of the Gram Sabha. All development projects happening or proposed in the fifth schedule areas must put to the test of Gram Sabha’s approval.”, said Meera Sanghamitra.
“In Mumbai, we were able to push back SEZs and it is important to note that both the victories reaffirmed the status of Gram Sabha and its power above our Parliament as well. We need to continue when we are facing bigger threats in the name of Industrial Corridors, Sagarmala, Bharatmala, and National Waterways projects. We make the government in our villages, State and Centre must respect people’s rule.”, said Suniti SR, advisor of NAPM.
Lingraj Azad, a key activist of Niyamagiri Surakhya Samiti, condemned the continued repression on the Dongaria Kondh community and warned the government, which is acting on behest of corporates, to keep their hands off adivasis lands and forests.
Prafulla Samantara said that the struggle of Dongaria Kondh adivasis have made sure that Vedanta cannot mine our hills. But they are still in Langigarh refinery violating environmental norms. They are exploring bauxite mining in Koraput district. We need to stand united and throw them out from Odisha once and for all.
“Whether it is Tamilnadu or Odisha, Vedanta has hired the state governments to kill people and destroy our ecology. We cannot let them do this to our people. We are standing united and will not let them destroy our country.”, said Gabriele Dietrich.
Late in the evening, the activists travelling with the yatra along with activists of Jivika Surakhya Samiti did a candle light march in memory of the victims of the 2008 massacre in Kandhamal and spread the message of communal harmony.
On 15th November and last day in Odisha, Yatra reached Bhubneshwar. A public meeting was organised at Lohia Academy. Shrideva Prasad welcomed the Yatra on behalf of Lohia Academy and said that the Constitution is facing grave threat under this government. The CBI and Supreme Court are being interfered with. The difference between the emergency time and now is only that the things are happening undeclared whereas the situation has become more worse.
“The Govt. who won the past general elections on the pretext of Development was a complete lie. We have not been able to see that anywhere in our state. What we have witnessed, is worsening state of farmers, adivasis, workers, and everybody else except the corporates and industrialists.”, said Zainab, an activist from Uttar Pradesh.
Rajendra Ravi from NAPM Delhi said that Sardar Sarovar Dam is an example of Gujarat Model where farmers were betrayed by showing them dreams of irrigating their farms whereas water got diverted and supplied more than proposed to the industries. People in Gujarat are feeling betrayed. The same development model was hyped during last general elections and now being implemented everywhere in the country.
“It is a great day for all of us, we are here on the birthday of Birsa Munda amidst our adivasis people. The adivasi culture is still alive and thriving here. We rarely witness such culture in Tamilnadu where destructive development has taken over the state. The River Kaveri has dried up and we can see how the environmental destruction takes away people’s right to life. The Thothukudi shooting was a complete betrayal of democracy. The basic value of the Constitution derives from the teachings of Buddhism and not from western modernism.”, said Gabriele Dietrich.
“The government is not only altering our Constitution and institutions, but also our history.”, said Sangram.
Prof. Swadhin Patnaik said that the Constitution gives us the right to criticize and dissent. But there are also laws that takes away those rights, like the UAPA and other draconian laws.
People and activists joined the meeting in large number and vowed to fight to save the constitution and reject the anti-people, communal parties from the power. Later in the day, activists reached Madhusudhan Law College in Cuttack. Sukanta Nanda, Principal, welcomed the yatra and remembered the significance of Mahatma Gandhi and Ambedkar in today’s politics.
Prafulla Samantara briefed the participants about the yatra and asked the law students to be alert as the Constitution is under grave danger. We need to read about freedom fighters and their way of thinking. It was the dream of them that India should remain secular, socialist, and democratic. People of the country fought for the fundamental rights, Right to equality, Right to freedom of expressions, Right to Life and what not. Then it was emergency declared during Indira’s rule but now, the emergency is undeclared and Govt. is dictating what people can eat, wear, or who they will love. If these things going to remain, the democracy will not remain. The directive principals tell the government to remove inequality economically and socially. Then why we still need to fight for ensuring minimum wages, minimum support price for farmers.
Meera Sanghamitra said that the diversity in our country is unmatched but can we be proud of this when they are consistently pushed to margins. Educational institutions are being dismantled and RSS people appointed their heads.
Lingaraj, Convener of Western Odisha Farmers Coordination Committee, appealed to the students to work with the movements and people’s issues. Only elections cannot change the realities. Our freedom fighters have showed us the path and we need to ensure that we keep everyone together for a just and equitable society. Now a days, people have started burning the Constitution and giving proposals to completely change it.
After the meeting with the law students, Yatra was welcomed in Bhadrak by local activists at Gandhi Peace Foundation. Yuvraj, a young activist, briefed everyone about the yatra.
Meera Sanghamitra said that there was oppression under previous governments as well but many things are happening for the first time under the present ruling. For the first time, murderers of Judge are given clean chit. Supreme Court Judges had to do press conference exposing the impending threat on democracy. There is a clear pattern which tells us how the democratic and constitutional institutions are under attack.
Adv. Giridhar Natho said the current ruling is clearly serving the corporate interests and facilitating American economic imperialism. We are up against it and will continue resisting along with others.
Yatra is going to travel through various places in West Bengal till 18th November and interact with movements. In West Bengal, the activists are going to interact with informal workers, fisherpeople, meet the people struggling against Farakka Barrage, people living in the forests, adivasis, people living in slums, domestic workers, meet people living on the banks of Ganga, workers in tea estates and many others.
Activists and leaders of member organisations of NAPM including Gabriele Dietrich, Penn Urimay Iyakkam, Madurai, NAPM Tamil Nadu; Rajendra Ravi, National Cyclists Union, NAPM Delhi; Amitava Mitra, Transport Workers Union, NAPM West Bengal; Suniti SR, Tata, Lavasa, Wang Marathwadi Struggles, NAPM Maharashtra; Bhupendra Singh Rawat, Jan Sangharsh Vahini, NAPM, Delhi; Sunita Rani, National Domestic Workers Union, New Delhi; Meera Sanghamitra, NAPM Andhra Pradesh – Telangana; Rohit, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Madhya Pradesh; Zainab, Humsafar, Feminist group, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh; Afroz Jehaan, Yuva Tarang, Lucknow; Yuvaraj Gatkal, Activist, NAPM Maharashtra;Abhishek, Student Activist, Vidrohi Group, Kolhapur; Akshit, Guhaar, New Delhi; Aman, Guhaar, New Delhi; Anup, Dynamic Action, Kerala; Madhusudan, Social Activist, Ganjam Dist, Odisha; Aryaman, New Delhi; Aryan, Chandigarh, Punjab are travelling in the yatra.
For further details, contact 9971058735 / 9867348307 / [email protected]
Discussion on Samvidhan Samman Yatra
1. On VNM News –
2. संविधान सन्मान यात्रा, Satara 24 taas –
3. On Starvation deaths in Malhar Tola, Ramgarh, Jharkhand
For details about Samvidhan Samman Yatra, check our website www.samvidhanyatra.wordpress.
Call for Solidarity –
Samvidhan Samman Yatra
We are standing at crossroads and passing through a critical juncture in India’s history and have a historical responsibility to save and salvage the ethos of this country, to fulfill the dreams of social, economic and political justice that Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar envisioned. There is an overwhelming urgency to come together, beyond diversity of perspectives, to safeguard the constitutional values and principles of humanity, based on social justice, liberty, equality, fraternity, scientific and rational thinking in the social psyche to deal with all these political, economic, social, cultural challenges. The need of the hour is to create understanding and tolerance in society, by peaceful, democratic and constitutional means. It is equally vital to aim for economic equity, social parity, environmental protection, sustainable development, establishment of people’s rights over access of resources and annihilation of caste and patriarchy.
It is with this urgency and spirit that National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has, after numerous discussions, planned to embark on a Samvidhan Samman Yatra – a nationwide tour to restore and protect the core values of our Constitution and democracy, at a time when there is an all-out attack on the Constitution, people’s rights, livelihoods, environment and the spirit of diversity in the country, even as massive scams, resource loot and dilution of laws are taking place and farmers, workers, students, employees, women, dalits, adivasis, muslims all are on the streets asserting their rights, spaces and freedoms.
Yatra shall travel more than 25000 Kms through 26 states in 65 days holding meetings, discussions, public events, supporting struggles, sharing grief of victims of the violence and hate and spreading message of plurality, love, peace and social justice. The Yatra shall culminate in a Manvadhikar Rally and Jan Sansad in Delhi on 10th December, 2018, the International Human Rights Day.