India: tribal peoples massacred in Orissa

From the BBC, Jan. 3:

Hundreds of Indian tribespeople have blocked a main road in Orissa state, a day after police opened fire during protests over a planned steel mill. At least 12 tribals and a policeman died in clashes at Kalinganagar, 120km (80 miles) north of Bhubaneswar. Police say they fired in self-defence after they were attacked with arrows.

The tribesmen have now handed over for post mortems the bodies of four of their dead which they had used to block the road, but are refusing to move. The road block has brought traffic in the area to a complete halt and seriously affected the movement of iron ore from the mineral-rich Keonjhar district.

Talks demand

In a statement, the tribespeople said they would not “give up a square inch of land” they regard as theirs for the planned Tata Steel plant in Jajpur district. They are demanding talks with Orissa Chief Minister Navin Patnaik and the immediate suspension of the district magistrate and the district police chief.

They are also demanding one million rupees (nearly $20,000) in compensation for each of those who were killed when police opened fire. Large numbers of police are keeping their distance to try to avoid a fresh outbreak of violence, officials say.

Five tribesmen and a policeman were killed on Monday after police opened fire on crowds demonstrating against the erection of a boundary wall at the Kalinganagar site. Another seven protesters, one a tribal woman, died later of bullet injuries. At least 20 people, five of them policemen, are being treated in hospital.


Private steel companies are setting up huge steel mills in mineral-rich states such as Orissa and Jharkhand as India’s demand for steel rises. The tribespeople say they have not been given compensation due to them or offered alternative livelihoods.

“We were paid only 37,000 rupees ($823) per acre of land whereas the government has sold the same land to the companies for over 300,000 rupees (nearly $6,670) per acre,” one protestor, Nanika Jamuda, told the BBC.

She accused police of firing indiscriminately on protesters. “The company and government want to displace us without bothering about our future. We will not live as beggars.”

Officials told the BBC that fewer than a quarter of the displaced families had been given alternative employment, and admit that companies are reluctant to take on unskilled workers.

The additional district magistrate in charge of the Kalinganagar project told the BBC that compensation payouts had been held back by law suits in many cases. “But we have worked out a good compensation packages. Only two villagers are opposed to it,” he said.

More details are provided by this account from India’s Economic Times:

Land deals may fuel violence in Orissa

Violence relating to land acquisition might get more frequent in Orissa after the Kalinga Nagar incident which led to the death of 13 people, including a policeman, on Monday.

About 1,000 people, mostly tribals, belonging to Chandia, Champakoila and Gobarghati villages, located near the industrial hub in Jajpur district, were protesting against the proposed setting up of Tata Steel’s plant when they clashed with the police.

The tribals, allegedly attacked the police and company workers as earth moving work was being taken up for the Rs 15,400-crore Tata steel project.

Armed police, stationed at the site, first resorted to a ‘lathicharge’ and burst teargas shells to control the situation but failed. The crowd was armed with bows and arrows and allegedly resorted to heavy brickbatting provoking the police to open fire. Eleven persons, including a woman, were killed and several others injured.

Officials from the intelligence wing of Orissa police, however, feel that the worst is yet to come as opposition political parties and Naxalite groups will whip up the agitation and further dampen the investment climate in the state.

Home department officials feel that Naxalite violence will spread as these groups inhabit most of the mineral rich states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh…

The official said that the tribals in the area are disgruntled due to the inadequate rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) package that they have been given by the government.

Officials at the district administration have also felt that the R&R packages are not adequate. Companies which are planning to set up production here, however, feel that they have little or no role to play. “It is up to the government to provide us with unencumbered land,” said a company official.

The government had acquired 12,000 acres for creating the industrial hub at Kalinga Nagar located in an area with large deposits of iron and chrome ore in the early 1990s.

“The people ousted from the 2,000 acres allotted to Tata Steel in December ’04 had been paid their compensation amount in full,” sources claimed.

According to a state government official, the government’s enhanced compensation package announced in ’05 includes Rs 25,000 to be paid to each family and one person from the affected family is promised a job in the industry.

A facility for technical training for the local youths is also to be created under the package. District administration official feel that this package is grossly inadequate for families which have lost their land and livelihood.