After two years, Land Rights activist Comrade Batakrushna Swain is released from Jail!

Batakrushna Swain

Convenor of Upakuliya Jami o Jangal Surakhya Samiti (Coastal Land and Forest Protection Committee) and leading activist of Sipasarubali Land Rights Movement, Comrade Batakrushna Swain, was released after two years from Puri Jail in Odisha on July 22, 2023.  After being detained under 19 serious criminal charges and the National Security Act (NSA), Comrade Batakrushna Swain finally got bail in all cases. Many activists welcomed him as he emerged from Puri Jail, including Human Rights Activist Narendra Mohanty, Feminist activist and Writer Ranjana Padhi and CPI (M-L) leader Comrade Mohan Naidu. After reaching his village, hundreds of activists from Chasi-Mulia Sangha, Odisha, and the Upakuliya Jami o Jangal Surakhya Samiti greeted him with loud cheer.

We express our thanks to those from the legal fraternity who extended full support for the release of Comrade Batakrushna Swain, especially Ashok Das, Prashant Jena, Sudhanshu Bhusan Mohapatra, Balakrushna Barik, Mruganka Mauli Pattnaik, Omkar Devdas and Biswapriya Kanungo. Similarly, for demanding the release of Comrade Batakrushna Swain, the campaigns by left political parties and people’s democratic collectives and people was commendable.

Although the High Court quashed NSA charges against him in February 2022, the Odisha government tried to keep him in jail for a longer period implicating him in another false and fabricated case under charges of Arms Act, SC ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, and other serious offences under different sections of the IPC. This prolonged his confinement in jail.

It should be noted that when Comrade Batakrushna Swain got bail in all cases on April 12th, 2022, last year and was coming out from the jail, the Odisha Police re-arrested him at the jail entrance. Later, in May 2022, he was detained after being charged under NSA. By confining the leader of the Sipasarubali Land Rights movement, which is under the leadership of the Upakuliya Jami o Jangal Surakhya Samiti (Coastal Land and Forest Protection Committee), the government’s action to muzzle people’s voices is reprehensible.

Landless people of  the area have been struggling over a decade to claiming their rights over nearly 3000 acers of land in the Sipasaubali mouza of Puri district in Odisha. At a crucial time when we are faced with increasing environmental hazards and a deepening climate crisis, the government seems totally unaccountable for destroying coastal forests and the environment to build airports and luxury hotels in this cyclone-prone coastal area. Instead of giving land rights to the landless, the government has tried to give away the land to many Indian and global companies in the name of eco-tourism and building an airport. Comrade Batakrushna Swain’s release has strengthened the committee members and local people. We hope people will continue to fight for their rights which they have been doing for years despite the state and district administration’s repression and despite criminalizing those who fight for the protection of the land and the environment.

Srikant Mohanty, Secretary, Chasi-Mulia Sangha, Odisha (AIKMKS)

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