Samyukta Kisan Morcha extends support to Struggling Farmers in West Bengal and Odisha

Birbhum coal mine


Samyukt Kisan Morcha expresses deep concern at police repression against farmers in Birbhum in West Bengal and Dhinkia in Odisha. These farmers have been protesting against land acquisition for coal mining and industry, respectively, without due process.

Samyukt Kisan Morcha has already issued a statement condemning the police repression in Deocha-Panchami-Harinsingha-Dewanganj area of Birbhum District. Following that, the West Bengal Chief Minister in her press conference on 23rd February has announced that farmers and cattle-small ruminant keepers shall not be ousted from their farm and pasture lands and they will receive land-for-land. So far, details of the land-for-land announcement are not available in the public domain. If local farmers accept this proposal of the Govt. through a process clearly laid down in the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, it can pave the way for resolution.

SKM is, however, deeply concerned that activists and local farmers arrested by the police on 20-21 February 2022 for holding democratic and peaceful protests continue to languish in jail due to non-production of documents in court by the district police. SKM condemns this highhandedness of the police and urges the Chief Minister of West Bengal to personally direct the administration to set free the arrested persons and withdraw all cases against them so that an atmosphere conducive to peaceful discussion and possible resolution is created. SKM shall soon send a Fact Finding Team to West Bengal under the Chairmanship of Medha Patkar and other senior leaders who shall coordinate with the State Govt., interact and hold public hearings in the project area and recommend steps to resolve the issues.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha also condemns the continuous presence of the Odisha police in Dhinkia and its surrounding villages in the Jagatsinghpur district since 4 December 2021. The Odisha government had given a free hand to the district administration and the police are responsible for mindless police violence as witnessed in many incidents, the worst being the brutal lathi charge of January 14. Over 200 people were injured, mostly women and girls. Many people have been arrested and many others remain in hiding as the police set up its camp inside the village. This continuing state of siege of the villages for the coercive acquisition of land for the state sponsored project of JSW Utkal Steel, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sajjan Jindal-led JSW Steel, is in violation of laws and due processes related to forest rights and land acquisition. These concerns have been put forward in written appeals by the Odisha SKM to both the Governor and the CM; yet, the state government is putting all its resources in support of JSW. An MoU between JSW and the Odisha government, if it has been signed, is not available to the general public.

On 16th February 2022 the Odisha High Court formed a five-member committee to visit the village of Dhinkia and assess the current situation, especially after the police crackdown of January 16. On 19th February the five-member team assisted by a local social activist visited the village. Villagers had gathered to give their deposition but they were attacked by miscreants and four people sustained serious injuries. This happened in front of the High Court Committee members. There was no protection provided by the police that only watched. According to the villagers, the attackers were goons hired by JSW.

The struggling people of Dhinkia had successfully stopped POSCO, the South Korean company, from entering their area after a 12 year long peaceful protest. It is shocking that instead of returning the 2700 acres of land that had been acquired, back to the people, the Odisha government has put it into a Land Bank and is using it for JSW now. SKM insists that the land acquired for POSCO and JSW be returned back to the people. Also, the destruction of the betel vine plots done in the last two months by the district administration be compensated.

SKM stands by the struggles of the farmers of West Bengal and Odisha and upholds their Right to Dissent. While we condemn the lack of transparency with people and the use of force and coercion to bring in steel and mining companies, we wish to reiterate that industrialization cannot happen at the cost of the peasantry – landed and landless – in India’s predominantly rural agrarian economy. Fertile agricultural land is not for profit-making corporations.

*Issued by-*
Dr. Darshan Pal, Hannan Mollah, Jagjit Singh Dallewal, Joginder Singh Ugrahan, Shivkumar Sharma (Kakkaji), Yudhveer Singh, Yogendra Yadav

Samyukta Kisan Morcha
Email: [email protected]

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