Stop conducting fake Gram Sabhas at Gunpoint in Rayagada, Odisha

Bauxite Mining

On 8th December 2023, news surfaced that in Aliguna village, about 10 buses full of police and company officials arrived in the village to forcefully conduct Gram Sabha in favour of the mining project in Sijimali bauxite block, Odisha. Recently, another attempt was made to conduct Gram Sabha in favour of the mining project which would displace the local Adivasi peasants from their lands and intensify the corporate loot of natural resources in the region, but the effort was thwarted by the resistance of the people. At the same time, in Majingmali, Odisha, a battalion of police, along with a squad of women police personnel, are attempting to provide passage to company JCBs to reach the hilltop of Majhingmali, once again utilizing brute state power to conduct corporate loot of natural resources at the cost of the Adivasi peasants in the region. They tried to build roads on the 8th December 2023 from Kalagaon to the hilltop but were thwarted by the women of the village who held a blockade. Just a month ago on 4th November 2023, an almost identical attempt was made to do the same at Kalagaon and once again, the attempt was thwarted by the alert response from the Adivasi peasants.

While the demand in the region has been the implementation of the PESA Act to conduct fair village councils with the participation of the locals in the affairs of their own affairs, the state has not only failed to implement this act but rampantly using the paramilitary and the police personnel to conduct fake Gram Sabhas at gunpoint. On 8th December, a shadow notice was floated by the state and company officials in Sagabari village for conducting Gram Sabha in favour of the Sijimali mining project, which was quickly removed by them after the villagers forced them out of the village. The corporate-state nexus was extended its teeth into land in the name of countering the Maoists in the region and rapidly built camps, increased paramilitary presence and the armament of police in the region under Operation SAMADHAN-Prahar and are rampantly attempting to intensify the loot of India’s natural resources and the land grab of Adivasis through brute force of the state’s guns. It is important to note that the renewed and simultaneous onslaught on 8th December comes right after the electoral victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party in neighbouring Chhatisgarh which has inadvertently emboldened the state to engage in fascistic onslaught on the people.The practice of abductions, fake encounters and fake cases under draconian laws like UAPA are commonplace in these struggles, with the nearby Niyamgiri hills being a recent example of the same where in August, the leaders of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti were forcefully abducted by the police and fake cases were filed against them for resisting the mining operations in an area where even the Supreme Court in 2013 had given a verdict against the companies.

The pattern during these attempts is that the organized resistance of the people has kept the corporate-state nexus in check and their opposition to this model of development peddled by the ruling class apparatus in the name of “New India” highlights the importance of a people’s model of development. Villagers from Kantamal, Banteji, Serambai and Bundel are already resisting similar attempts at forced Gram Sabhas like in Aliguna. It is of utmost importance to defend the democratic rights of the people and to immediately implement the PESA Act in this region.

Forum Against Corporatization and Militarization (FACAM) condemns the forceful Gram Sabhas in the region as well as the continuous attempts at illegal and undemocratic mining operations through  police brute force in Majhingmali. FACAM demands the immediate stopping of all mining activities in Majhingmali and the immediate implementation of the PESA Act.

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