PUCL Bulletin, Feb., 2001

Maikanch, Orissa
Kannabiran writes to the Chief Minister

Use of lethal force against unarmed adivasis

Also see, Maikanch Report

The Chief Minister,
Orissa Fax

Dear Mr. Chief Minister,

This has reference to the police firing on protesting tribals where three tribals were killed. The tribals had gathered there to protest against the setting of a Mining and Aluminia Manufacture joint venture by firms from Norway, Canada, and Hindalco. There has been continuous protest for some years now against the mining operations in Kashipur area. This time on 15 December 2000 a large mobilisation of protestors gathered in Maikanch village to plan their rastaa roko, which was earlier announced. The meeting villagers to plan the Rastaa Roko were confronted by a large contingent of armed private lumpen vigilante groups organised by local politicians who support the project. The obvious effort seems to be intimidate and attack the protesting villagers. Thus they created a situation where the law and order forces were drawn into the affray only to continue the violence, which was commenced by the project vigilante, groups. The police arrived the next day i.e. on the 16 December and it appears it was quite a large armed contingent to teach the villagers a lesson. The violence let loose was all over the electronic media. The police cordoned off the village Mainkanch and left the dead and injured unattended. As the area was cordoned off the media - print and electronic - had to depend on the official version.

On 20th December they all marched in a peaceful procession and sat in a Dharna before
Raj Bhavan and made known the demands:

(a) They condemn the use of lethal force by the police on unarmed villagers resulting in the death of three tribals. They demand a judicial inquiry into the unwarranted opening of fire. The appointment by your government of Sri Hota, IAS is not acceptable to the villagers because they accuse him of pronounced bias towards the Mining project and the present Development Model; (b) The deceased dependents and the injured have to be compensated as we are of the view that it is a constitutional tort. They were exercising their right of assembly and speech when and for which they were mauled by your government's force; (c) To lift the ban, in whichever form and by whatever name called on the NGOs operating in the area and the state.; (d) Stay work on the mining operations against which the villagers are agitating for several years and hold a public hearing to assess the impact on environment, the scale of displacement of villagers in the area of Mining operations and around the area; and (e) assessment of the impact on health who operate the mines and work in the factory and consequently the imperative necessity of providing specialist and efficient medical facilities.

K.G. Kannabiran, National President, Peoples Union for Civil Liberties 23 December 2000

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