We sincerely convey our thanks to all activists, organizations, people’s movements, progressive intellectuals, like minded Political Parties, media and concerned individuals who have extended support to our struggle. We strongly condemn the Odisha government’s decision; land acquired and transferred to POSCO will be kept in the Land Bank. The statement of Odisha’s Industry Minister, Devi Prasad Mishra in the Assembly of Odisha was “Steps are being taken for fencing the land by Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO)”. This is illegal, undemocratic, anti-peasants, and unwarranted. The Odisha government must follow the Supreme Court decision on the pattern of Singur where land of farmers acquired by Tata’s Nano plant in West Bengal was returned to them.
The government of Odisha must respect the unanimous resolution by Dhinkia Gram Sabha (Panchayat level assembly of adult members) i.e. on 18th of October 2012 , where more than 2000 people participated in the meeting and resolved that the land used for beetle vine cultivation is clearly under the rights provided to the Gram Sabha under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. Claims on the forest lands approved and recommended by the Palli Sabhas of villages (Dhinkia, Govindpur...) are still pending for recognition and no step has been taken to recognize their rights. We are strongly determined to reoccupy our farm lands and reconstruct our vineyards for the cultivation of betel leaves.
Over the last 12 years, our villagers have had to pay a heavy price for their peaceful opposition to the project in order to protect our habitat for future generations. The prove to the indiscriminate brutal repression on the citizens of the country lies in the fact that four persons have so far been killed and many injured in clashes. Several leaders of the movement have been jailed multiple times. Till now more than 2000 warrants have been issued against the people and more than 400 false cases both men and women have been registered at the Kujang police station since 2005. There have been also multiple instances where police and the goons supported by POSCO have unleashed a reign of terror in the area. Till today, many villagers cannot come out of their villages even for their hospitalization, due to the threat of arrests. This approach of false arrest and intimidation by the government only perpetuates injustice and ruins the democratic fabric of our country.
In the year 2012, The district administration of Jagatsinghpur along with the Industrial Development Corporation of Odisha (IDCO) had chopped down the over 1,70,000 trees in our nearby villages for the benefit of a private company like POSCO. The trees like mangroves, cashew nut, betel vines, fruit bearing trees and casuarinas forest. In 1999 Super Cyclone, our villages were not devastated by nature’s fury as the green cover and sand dunes protected us from the surging tidal waves, whereas more than 10,000 persons perished in the nearby Kujang and Earasama blocks of Jagatsinghpur district . After cutting the trees, our villages became perpetually vulnerable to the cyclones. Though, it’s impossible to substitute the natural forest, we strongly demand that the government must pay compensation to our villagers who are depending on these trees for their livelihoods and start massive plantation of eco friendly trees in our nearby villages.
We demand the government of Odisha to
Compensation on humanitarian grounds to the families of the deceased and widow who were killed in the bomb blast and proper medical help for the injured person.
Return the land taken from our villagers immediately to their owners without any pretext.
Recognize our claims on rights over forest land as per FRA 2006.
Withdrawal of all fabricated and false cases against our villagers and activists.
Compensation to the persons whose beetle vines were destroyed by the government.
Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti
ALLEGING police atrocity and protesting the arrest, several villagers put up barricades on roads at Natunhaat, Khamarhati and Padmapukur. A little over a month after residents lifted a blockade in Bhangar, it was reimposed on Sunday after police arrested a man from the region. The police action came after one person was injured in violence between TMC and villagers last week. Although police sources claimed the person was arrested based on his “criminal activity”, and had no link to the clashes in January, residents set up roadblocks with felled tree trunks and demanded the immediate release of the accused. Alleging police atrocity and protesting the arrest, several villagers put up barricades on roads at Natunhaat, Khamarhati and Padmapukur, following which a huge police force was deployed to maintain law and order. Bhangar has remained tense since January 17 this year. Residents had protested against, what they claim was, forcible acquisition of land for a power project. The protest soon turned violent. Two persons died, allegedly killed in police firing. Police, however, had claimed they were killed by “outsiders” who fired on protesters to fan violence.
The CID probe into the deaths has made little progress. Since the deaths, a blockade was imposed against government officials and lasted for at least 10 days, after which residents agreed to talks. Even then, police were not allowed in. On 3rd March, local TMC leader, Kaizar Ahmed had attempted to meet with another party worker at Padmapukur, one of the villages that had protested the land acquisition. However, locals interrupted the meeting and allegedly attacked the two. The next day, the TMC, led by Ahmed, protested in Bhangar. “During this protest, village residents alleged TMC workers threw bombs and bricks at them. The situation turned quite violent, and at least one youth from Khamarhati village was injured,” said a police source. With violence escalating, the police, led by Saikat Ghosh, Additional SP (East Zone) of South-24 Parganas arrived at Bhangar. Sources said Ghosh was roped in from Barrackpore Police Commissionerate in January to “better handle the Bhangar situation”.
On 5th , the police carried out a massive search operation in the village and allegedly harassed a number of residents. According to sources, their targets were likely a number of CPI-ML activists, blamed by the government for instigating protests, who have allegedly found “safe haven” in the villages. “The TMC is instigating the violence in the area. Using this violence as a plank, the police is entering villages and harassing villagers,” said Sheikh Azim, one of the protesters.
(Photo: Sankar Das, CC Member of CPI(ML) Red Star and leading comrade of ‘Bhangar Solidarity Committee Addressing Public Meeting at Bhangar on 19th February. He was also arrested on 14th March along with comrade Kushal Debnath and charged under UAPA.)
The main stream left parties are surprised. Their cadres have started questioning their leaderships. These leaderships have started admitting reluctantly their failure to wage mass struggles against the corporate development paradigm. Bhangar is opening up new avenues before the struggling left forces. Egos are to be kept aside. They should come together on a common minimum program keeping aside their reluctance to develop the movements based on the immediate burning issues of the people. Issues like the judgement on the false cases concocted against Maruthi workers, the efforts to disrupt communal harmony in different places of West Bengal, the autocratic rule of Mamata led Govt., the threat on the very democratic fabric, increasing prices of essential commodities and services, demolition of rationing system, privatization of public services, the conspiracy to take away subsidies on petroleum products, attacks on workers’ demands are to be taken up by the united movements.
While the Bhangar Peasants Movement is further establishing the fact that people are ready for fierce struggles if there is capable political leadership to stand along with them, the TMC government is further intensifying the state terror by arresting comrade Sankar Das, Central Committee member of the party and comrade Kushal Devnath, leading comrade of MKP (Mazdoor Kissan Parishad), on 14th afternoon in a bid to twart the people’s convention on 16th March. Anytime more attacks on the villages of Bhangar and arrest of the leading comrades of the Solidarity Committee also may happen. It is reported that about 30 false cases are charged against large number of people. These are taking place when a fact finding team of OPDR and other democratic rights organizations have already repoted that what is going on is a peaceful mass movement and that it is the state administration which is terrorizing the people.
In spite of the actions of the obstructionist acts of the police, the massive Nagarik Convention of democrats and intellectuals is planned for 16th March was successfully held. Comrade KNR, who was abducted and deported from W. Bengal by the intelligence forces when he came on 22nd January, also addressed the Convention along with many others.
These state terror tactics are resorted to when the people’s movement in Bhangar led by Jamin AaJeevika Basthuthanthro o Parivesh Raksha Committee is intensifying day by day attracting more and more people in the hundreds of villages affected by the construction of the Power Grid Line. Right from the beginning the TMC government and the local TMC leadership refused to discuss with the Committee; instead they were trying to suppress the movement using state terror and attacks by the TMC goons supported by the police and local administration. In spite of the 22nd December Raj Bhavan March and the 11th January road block, the administration refused to talk with the committee, and the attacks on the villagers led to the 17th January police attack and firing in which two villagers were killed. On 25th Jan comrades Pradip Singh Thakur, state secretary and PB member of the party, Sharmistha, CC member of the Party and general secretary of AIRWO, along with a number of Committee members were arrested and UAPA imposed on them. In spite of the villagers continuing the agitation peacefully, the TMC government and its police-intelligence forces are indulging in false propaganda through a section of the media that outsiders are going, arms are flowing and training is done in Bhangar in order to create an alarmist atmosphere. They are alleging the involvement of the Maoists in the movement even after repeatedly pointing out that the political line of CPI(ML) Red Star is basically different from that of the Maoists, and that none of them have any link with the movement. All these heinous acts are indulged in for terrorizing the people and for suppressing the movement.
The CPI(ML) Red Star appeals to all democratic forces to condemn these heinous moves. It once again appeals to the government to discuss with the People’s Committee of Bhangar and resolve the people’s grievances, to withdraw all cases filed against the leaders of the Party and the People’s Committee, and to release all arrested comrades. The Party demands the repeal of UAPA. The party demand that adequate compensation to be given to the families of martyrs, to the injured people, for the shops, houses and mosque damaged. We appeal to all left and democratic forces to come out in support of the people’s demands and to put pressure on the government for an immediate solution of the people’s problems
Fighting against the ruling class parties and the right reformist LF, and laying the foundation for a statewide platform, the CPI(ML) Red Star initiated Loktantru Mukthi Morcha, a platform of growing number of democratic forces with a program of people’s power and sustainable development, has fielded five candidates in Sitapur district, out of which comrades Sunila from Biswan, Ramsani Verma from Laharpur, Asiskumar from Majhauli, Ramkhelavan from Hargaon and Udaybhan Singh from Sevitha (all from Sithapur district) were engaged in a vigorous campaign till the polling on 19th Feb. They campaigned using their photos, exposing how the ruling class parties are using their symbols for selling tickets and corrupting the elections. They called for a polarization of the poor against the rich, and to transform the elections in to a major struggle (andolan) for basic social transformation. Comrade Premsagar from Karnalgunj of Gonda, two candidates from Devaria, one fron Kushinagar and one from Varanasi districts also fought the election based on their photos and explaining the politics of people’s alternative. As our candidates have no vehicles to campaign and the maximum amount spent in a constituency is around Rs. 40,000 to 50,000 as against millions or crores of rupees spent by the major ruling class parties, our candidates used house to house campaigns, street corner meetings and village/ town level mobilizations for explaining the people’s alternative and to seek votes. The state committee is expecting good support from the toiling masses in most of these seats where party committees are actively taking up people’s issues for a number of years.
The latest reports from W. Bengal show that comrades Pradeep Singh Thakur, state secretary and PB member and Sharmistha, CC member of CPI(ML) Red Star, and GS of AIRWO, along with a number of People’s Committee members at Bhangar are arrested and in jail after two weeks in police custody. Challenging the increasing police-goons’ terror in the villagers, people have blockaded the entry of police in to the villages and the movement against the grid project has spread to more villages in the area. The abduction of com. KN Ramachandran, general secretary of CPI(ML) Red Star on 22nd January evening from Kolkata railway station and his illegal detention for 26 hours by forces claiming themselves as Central Intelligence Services show the panic with which the W. Bengal government, aided by the central authorities are trying to subvert the people’s movement of Bhangar. The government of Mamta Banerjee and the Modi government should understand that in spite of using brute state power many of the people’s movements in the country had succeeded. By the fascist act of abducting and illegal detention of leaders of the people’s movement will only steel the people and the cadres to carry forward the movement with more determination. The way thousands of people in a number of states came out on the streets or expresses their anger through social media and in the streets shows that this fascist act of the state has only made the popular forces more determined to carry forward the struggles waged in different parts of the country. Central committee of AIRSO appeals to all democratic forces to extend all out support to the resistance struggle of the people of Bhangar.