— by Deba Ranjan — December 16, 2020

Twenty years back, on this day of 16 December 2000, three tribals had died and seven people were injured in a police firing at Maikanch village in Kashipur of Rayagada district, Odisha for opposing establishment of bauxite mines and alumina plant of Utkal Alumina- Aditya Birla Company. The tribals of the region had a dream to live with self-respect on their own land like their forefathers and had promised to give food from their own land to their God “Duma Devta”. That is why they were resisting to entry of Aditya Birla owned Utkal Alumina Company. But in the era of globalisaiton this is not only impossible but also mere attempt of same could cause immense loss including life and that had happened in Kashipur.

I was standing on side of the funeral pyre on next day of firing when the community members were burning three dead bodies. The flames of pyre of those killed martyrs were telling us that the coming days would not be easy. I was surprised, how an elected government could kill its own voters for the sake of a Corporate! But I was naïve in those days.

In last seventy years all most all ‘development’ projects have been built up on blood stained land of local inhabitants, shattering their present, their future. Everywhere the police firing, arrest, repression and betrayal of own elected represantives had been the reason behind ‘success’ of those development projects. The irony is, the victorious party always writes the history. Now-a-days, the Aditya Birla owned Utkal-Alumina is writing new history of Kashipur in local newspapers – doing all round development of the region.

Justice PK Mishra commission was enquiring the Maikanch firing set up by the government. But when he did not blame anybody for the killing of three unarmed tribals I became more confirmed about the nature of this government and its system. The Commission opined the extraction of bauxite and setting up of alumina plant would not affect the nature and would not cause any damage to the life of people.

This became an opportunity (or had been managed) for the government to build ‘public opinion’ regarding the alumina plant. That became a good earning for most of the political party workers.

All Party committee and repression

The All Party Committee was formed comprising members of all political parties like BJP, Biju Janata Dal and Congress to make the Aditya Birla – Utkal Alumina Company successful. They had worked under leadership of the then tribal MLA of Kashipur from opposition Congress party Mr. Anantaram Majhi at a time when Biju Janata Dal (BJD) was ruling in the state. This was happening for the first time in history of anti-displacement struggle of Odisha. In post economic reforms of India, all mainstream political parties have their views that without privatisation development of a nation is impossible. As per decision of the Party the party workers get engaged with division of the village unity. They divide the villagers telling, ‘he is Congressi’, ‘that one is BJD’ and ‘I am from BJP’. This also broke the unity of the villagers in Kashipur struggle.

Now in Kashipur, the river water going adjacent to the plant has become pollutant. The cattle are dying due to drinking such river water. Baphlamali, the bauxite hill has lost its beauty. The sky is not looking clean. In 2015, a girl from Kucheipadar while coming from a festival in the evening hour was raped and murdered. This was the first such incident in the region. In the meantime the rapist has been found guilty and have been sentenced to life imprisonment.

The establishment of the Utkal Alumina Company would not have been possible had there been no police firing. Besides, the police did lathicharge and tear gas shelling or six times during struggle period. The police have arrested 270 people mostly triabls in 112 criminal cases. All such arrestees have spent three to 14 months in jail. The irony is, only in one case out of those 112 cases two local youths, Manu Jhodia and Sibaram Nayak, got a punishment of seven years of imprisonment. The offence was, “they were pelting stones to the police on the day of firing”.  And on that police firing where three people died nobody among the armed personnel was punished.

Had there been no such violence and repression the Aditya Birla owned Utkal Alumina Company would not have been operational. All these big companies have a similar black history, which is hardly remembered.

Deba Ranjan is a social activist Contact: [email protected]

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