Nagarnar Steel Plant:
Police terror on villagers protesting acquisition
of their land. By -- Dr Binayak Sen, State Convener
Report of Chhattisgarh PUCL Team To Jagdalpur and Nagarnar on 15th
and 16th March 2002
The PUCL got news on 10th March that a meeting of village people in Nagarnar
had been Lathi charged and numerous men and women had been taken into
custody. Subsequently, we received further information that wide spread
arrest of men and women, destruction of property, breaking into houses
had taken place in Maganpur, Ammaguda, and Kasturi villages around Nagarnar.
These incidents continued till well past midnight and also on the subsequent
day according to our information. On 11th afternoon Dr. Binayak Sen of
PUCL met the Governor Mr. Dinesh Nana Sahay and handed him a letter of
which a copy is attached. In this we mentioned that the people of the
4 villages had already entered into productive negotiations with senior
Government officials including the Commissioner of Bastar in the matter
of land acquisition for the proposed Nagarnar Steel Plant, when the aforementioned
events took place.
The Police and Administration in Nagarnar let loose a veritable reign
of terror after the 11th March. A large deployment of Police was mobilized
and village people have consistently reported that in numerous incidents
they have been forced to accept compensation cheques against land acquisition
after being severely beaten at gunpoint. At the same time there were reports
that about 250 men and women had been jailed. Considering the total adult
population of the 4 villages this constituted a significant portion of
total population. All of these people have been arrested under preventive
detention laws. The question remains as to what these arrests were designed
As reports of continued terror by NMDC officials, state machinery, and
plant supporter vigilantes, continued to come in through the press and
those opposing the land acquisition in Nagarnar, a PUCL team was constituted
to visit the area; accordingly a team was set up and it spent the 15th
and 16th of March in the area.
On 15th March 2002, the team members met with four of those detained in
Jagdalpur jail. This group of four included three women. All of them had
signs of having been beaten with a blunt object, and had swellings on
their hands and feet. We were not able to examine them in detail under
the circumstances of a jail meeting. Subsequently, since it was reported
that 85 out of the 250 detainees were to be produced in court that day,
the team went to the district court. The group of 85 persons was brought
to court in a bus and in handcuffs at about 1pm, and kept sitting in that
condition in the bus until 7.30 pm. The warrants for their arrest could
only be prepared by 7.30 p.m., and the warrants were served just outside
the bus. The signatures/thumb impressions of the accused were taken under
the streetlight, and no effort was made to explain the charges to them.
The PUCL team was witness to this entire process.
On 16th March 2002 the PUCL team comprising of Dr. Binayak Sen, Ms. Sandhya
Khare and Mr. Akshay Sail visited Nagarnar and the adjoining villages
where wide spread arrest of men and women, destruction of property and
breaking into houses had taken place by the Police and the administration.
The PUCL team first
visited Nagarnar, Kasturi, Maganpur and Ammaguda. In all the villages
people who were involved with movement and were opposing the Nagarnar
Steel Plant were no where to be found. It was very difficult to talk to
anybody as most of the people had either fled the village or were arrested.
Those who remained in the village were so frightened that they were afraid
to talk and the matters were not helped by the constant roaming of the
police officials and the supporters of the plant trying to further terrorize
the villagers, in addition, a police jeep that was attached by the government
to our team. Very soon some young people on motorcycles and a jeep also
started following us everywhere we went.
About 250 people have been placed under arrest and have been jailed. Those
who haven't been jailed have fled their houses leaving behind their children,
houses and animals. Most of the people have been arrested under section
151 and in some cases under 107/16. The villagers confirmed the reports
that the police severely beat up everyone including women, minors and
in once case even a blind man. Mr. Neelaram who is blind since birth was
so badly beaten up by the police that he fainted. He still has injury
marks on his body. In another incident Mr. Bhagwan Din who is 81 years
old was also severely beaten up by the police
Most the affected villagers have been forced to accept the compensation
cheque as they were left with no choice. They are being given post-dated
cheques of October 2002.
Mr. Balram Sethia of Maganpur village is really saddened by the fact that
the villagers have been treated as local criminals and dacoits while they
were fighting for their land which feeds them and their families. No amount
of compensation can give them peace.
In the basti of Ammaguda village, where we were waiting to meet the villagers
Mr. Banmaali Naag along with another person came to meet us and told us
that we should leave the village and go back as our investigation was
not welcome. Seeing Mr. Banmaali Naag the villagers also didn't come out
of their houses hence we had to leave without meeting anyone. While on
our way back we were stopped by the young men who had been following us
for a very long time. Their numbers had increased. The Police including
the TI Mr. Khan was also present. The young men started slogans in favour
of the Steel Plant and only allowed us to pass through when the police
intervened. The two young boys who had accompanied us from Maganpur were
terrified not only of the local young men but also of the Police. When
we were about to reach the National Highway we were once again stopped
by the young men. The young men then proceeded to manhandle Dr. Binayak
Sen and the young boys from Maganpur in the presence of the police. It
was after sometime that the police reacted and restrained the hoodlums.
After the incident when the PUCL team was returning a Commander Jeep full
of Hoodlums chased them.
The PUCL team found in conclusion that there was clear evidence that the
land acquisition process had been conducted under conditions of force
and fear, that village people had been sent to prison indiscriminately,
and that compensation cheques in many cases were handed over by force.
The due process of law had not been followed with regard to land acquisition.
An atmosphere of terror had been let loose on the project (to be) affected
villages by plant supporters, and that forces of law and order, including
the police, is collaborating in this. Such a situation held extremely
dangerous portents for a democratic dialogue on development issues.