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BackYou are here: NewsIndia Orissa : Police Attack Villagers Protesting against Tata Project

India

Orissa : Police Attack Villagers Protesting against Tata Project

BHUBANESWAR: Armed police on Tuesday allegedly raided a tribal village in the vicinity of Kalinganagar, fired bullets and set houses afire. Panic-stricken villagers of Baligoth fled to the nearby forest to take shelter after nearly seven of them, including a woman, Gurubari Ghagarai, sustained injuries. 

The administration defended the police action saying such steps became imperative because the villagers continued to oppose construction of a road to the Kalinganagar industrial area. "The villagers did not refrain from opposing the road construction work. I tried to convince them, but in vain. Hence, the police action," Jajpur district collector Pramod Mohanty said. He said the police fired rubber bullets after tear gas failed to calm down the situation.

 



Inquiries revealed Tuesday's police action, however, has not been taken kindly even by senior administrative and police officials, who fear tension in the area could escalate in the coming days. "It is hard to believe that police set houses ablaze and fired at villagers just because they were opposing land acquisition," said a police official requesting anonymity and cited TV footages showing the smouldering houses and charred household goods to prove his point.

 

Kalinganagar was the scene of a major violence on the land acquisition issue in January 2006 when 14 tribals died in police firing. Even while the old issue was far from being solved, the locals began another agitation opposing construction of a 7.5-km road, what is called "common corridor", aimed at opening an additional passage to the industrial hub. Though the work was discontinued, trouble started brewing in the area as the state government tried to revive the work from Monday and deployed 27 platoons of armed police, including two platoons of specially trained for anti-Maoist operations Special Operation Group (SOG) police. 

Even while the police guarded construction works, the district administration engaged the villagers in "veiled parleys" discussing their demands. The last such discussion took place on Sunday with the Bisthapan Birodhi Jan Manch (BBJM) during which the protesters reiterated their demands to give them lands in lieu of their lands acquired for industrial projects. "Land for land demand by the villagers has no logic. They have already taken compensation in 1993. However, I promised to apprise the government of their demands, but they refused to give up opposition to the road construction," the collector said. 

Early on Tuesday, Baligoth village was taken by surprise when police raided it from all sides and started searching the houses. The women, children and others came out onto the street and protested against the police action. But nothing happened. The situation soon worsened as a house was set afire by the police followed by firing.

The police also restricted the entry of mediapersons into the area. "The police took action after the villagers started throwing stones and shooting arrows at them," SP D S Kuttey said. BHUBANESWAR: Armed police on Tuesday allegedly raided a tribal village in the vicinity of Kalinganagar, fired bullets and set houses afire. Panic-stricken villagers of Baligoth fled to the nearby forest to take shelter after nearly seven of them, including a woman, Gurubari Ghagarai, sustained injuries. 

(Times of India, 30th March)