Kashipur: Industrialisation through the barrel of Gun
"No one, I repeat no one will be allowed to stand in the way of Orissa's industrialisation and the people's progress".
- Naveen Patnaik(Chief Minister of Orisa)
The Police in the East Indian state of Orissa have laid siege to a group of dalit and adivasi (tribal) villages around Kashipur that have successfully kept the Utkal Alumina Industries Ltd (UAIL) from mining Baphlimali – a mountain held sacred by local adivasis -- for 12 years now. Since December 1, 2004, a witchhunt has been on for indigenous and dalit leaders and their key supporters, and a massive police operation has been launched to terrorise people into allowing the bauxite mining and alumina refining project to come up. The Aditya Birla group and Canadian mining multinational Alcan are the major shareholders in the project. Norsk Hydro (a Norwegian company that had a stake in UAIL in 2000 withdrew from the project following criticism in Norway for its complicity in human rights abuses in Kashipur, Orissa.
On November 25, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was quoted as saying that anti-mining struggles will be firmly dealt with. Between December 1 and 16, at least 20 adivasi and dalit leaders from the area, and political leaders and elected state representatives from Left parties, have been placed under arrest. Journalists have been beaten up, and Ajit Majhi, a 11-year old tribal boy who went missing in early December, remains untraceable. On December 1, 2004, a peaceful gathering of about 300 adivasis and dalit residents, predominantly women, was lathicharged [beaten with sticks]. Since then, all entry into and exit from the Kashipur villages have been barred, and the police has reportedly resorted to indiscriminate and unprovoked physical violence against the adivasi and dalit residents. On December 16 – the fourth anniversary of the killings by police of three adivasi youth in Maikanch – a delegation of political leaders and elected members of the Orissa legislature led by CPI MLA Narayan Reddy were arrested. The police and about 200 hired civilian goons damaged six vehicles badly, and manhandled the delegates. Journalists accompanying the delegation were beaten up, and the video camera belonging to Samarandra Nayak, a writer and journalist, was forcibly taken. Local sources say that the upswing in police violence is in preparation for a January inauguration of Utkal's complex in D. Karal village. The recent spate of violence began as police build-up intensified in and around the anti-mining villages, and the Orissa Government began building a police station and barracks for armed police to provide protection to the mining companies from the local villagers. Mining of the bauxite rich Baphlimali mountain will disturb the local hydrology and deplete the springs. Mining and refinery wastes will pollute the remaining rivers and poison the lands, destroying the livelihood and sustenance bases of the adivasi and dalit villagers.