The following is a report of the INSAF Fact-Finding Team which visited Kathikund in Jharkhand:
The state-repression culminating in police firing on people protesting peacefully on 6th December 2008 at Kathikund, Dumka District, Jharkhand was "un-called for, un-justified and, from all accounts, pre-meditated. The well-planned and systematic repressive measures adopted by the State Government appear to be part of a strategy to peddle development via state terror without any regard to Constitutional provisions and/or people's democratic rights to life, livelihood and determination". A Fact-Finding Team of the Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) has thus drawn the conclusion after visiting the affected region on 20th & 21st December 2008, meeting various segments of society, and analyzing the data and documents.
The pre-announced people's programme to protest by courting arrest after paying homage to Shaheed Sidhu Kanu on 6 th December 2008 did not warrant such a heavy police presence and excessive use of force resulting in killing of one Lukhiram Tudu, and injuries to about 15 others. The district administration did not follow the procedures laid down in the police manual and opened fired indiscriminately on the protesting people without any warning. The use of tear-gas and lathi charge was resorted only to fulfil the regulatory demands. Even those village folks helping the seriously wounded in police firing were fired upon. Due to this Lukhiram Tudu was not provided timely medical aid and, thus, died of excessive bleeding. Police brutally beat up, abused and took into custody those who were taking the wounded to the hospital. The wounded were treated with contempt and inhumanly, even their bodies were dragged like dead dogs.
The stray incidents of people giving vent to their anger and frustration by responding to the police firing by resorting to use of bow and arrow prima facie appears to be a result of extreme provocation by the police on an otherwise peaceful protest.
Varying figures are being given for those seriously injured or wounded. Not less than 15 persons may have sustained bullet injuries. The INSAF Team found and met one person with bullet piercing his right shoulder and coming out from the back. He told the team that he was helping Shiv Lal, another wounded in police firing, and was bent upon him, when he got hit by the bullet. Terrorized he is getting local treatment in the village itself, but his spirits are high.
The people's peaceful protest against their land acquisition for building dam for power plant is two-and-a-half years old, but took definite shape after notices were published in early May this year for acquiring about 264 acres of land in two villages of Aamgachi and Pokhariya. The INSAF Team visited five such villages and found all inhabitants united in their resolve to protect their land -- only means of life and livelihood – in the absence of any development. Neither any political ideology nor any political organisation was responsible for people's determination, except the issue of their survival and sustenance.
The INSAF Team came across a unique example of co-operative farming in Jangla Village by people's own initiative without any government assistance, where 60 to 70 families had pooled some 50 acres of land. The field was green and yellow with blooming Sarson plants and vegetables. The village Manjhiram named Lal Kisku was responsible for motivating them, who have developed such a sustainable agricultural farming that it could provide deep insights to the Agricultural Scientists.
Unfortunately, such creative intervention and indigenous initiative of the people have gone un-noticed by the local MLA, Sri Nalin Soren, who happens to be the Agriculture Minister in the State Government.
While people are firm in their resolve not to leave their land for the so-called development, the politicians and bureaucrats have utterly failed to protect the right to Life, Liberty & Livelihood of the people. On the contrary, the people of the region believe that there is a clash between the Constitutional Obligations and private vested interests of the politicians and bureaucrats. Not only the people's consent has not been obtained for the so-called development by the State which is mandatory under the law of the land, but the statutory institutions like Gram Sabha and procedures for Scheduled areas under PESA are being flouted in letter and spirit. The formation of the Tribals Advisory Council under the Vth Schedule in 9 states has been criminally and deliberately delayed as no rules and regulations have been formed, as yet.
The deliberate falsehood about "Maoist's linkage" is mischievously and systematically spread by the official machinery which appears to be serving the commercial interests over against the people's welfare. This seams to be the tirade and new found mantra of the State subservient to the national and international capital for defaming and repressing the people's initiative and movements in protecting their fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India, especially the right to life, liberty and livelihood. The people's upsurge in the region is also linked to the historical and cultural roots in collectively protecting and using the land, water and forest (jal, jangal aur jameen).
The arrest and harassment of Woman Social Activist, Munni Hansda and her co-activists and continued incarceration is part and parcel of their larger strategy of the State machinery to silence the voices of dissent and protest against usurping of people's resources for survival and sustenance under the globalization agenda. INSAF Team found out that five criminal cases have been already filed against Munni Hansda and others prior to her illegal detention on 26th November, 2008, but no arrest was made, although she was freely available in the region. The present case related to a motor/cycle warrants only action under The Motor Vehicles Act, but the authorities seem to have even invoked action u/s 392 i.e. dacoity. Therefore, the detention of Munni Hansda appears to be a deliberate act of provocation and prejudice by the police administration.
INSAF demands that normalcy be restored in the region, proper independent and high level enquiry be instituted in the incident of 6th Decmber, 2008, and appropriate action be taken against officials found guilty of indiscriminate police firing. Immediate medical aid should be provided to the injured/wounded. Adequate compensation should be given to all affected people. Land acquisition process should be withheld and statutory provisions under laws of the land like PESA should be strictly applied and followed. Criminal cases instituted against the social activists, people's leaders and people should be reviewed by officials and agencies with credibility. Till such time, all detained be released on bail. Further harassment and repression be immediately brought to an end.
Rajendra K. Sail
On Behalf Of INSAF FACT-FINDING TEAM (INDIAN SOCIAL ACTION FORUM)
(124-A/FF, Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi-110 016:
INSAF is a forum of about 750 social action groups, social movements, NGOs and intellectuals drawn from all over the country committed to resisting globalization, combating communalism and defending democracy.