India: ‘Brute force used’: Odisha tribal women resist bauxite mining operations in Majingmali

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The civil rights network, Forum Against Corporatization and Militarization (FACAM), commenting on alleged police and corporate attempts in Odisha to begin mining operations in Majingmali and people’s resistance against this, has said that brute force of paramilitary and police is being used “to drive off Adivasis” from their lands for intensifying “rampant loot of natural resources by big corporates.”

Resisting the move, around 150-170 women from Kalagaon and neighbouring villages of Kadejhola, Rugapodar and Majingmali gathered at the mining spot and initiated a sit-in protest in front of the police platoons and their JCBs, FACAM reports.

On 4th November, around 10am, Odisha Mining Corporation Limited (OMC) staff, flanked by two police platoons and two JCB vehicles, arrived at Gadeljhola road juncture near Kalagaon which leads to the Majingmali bauxite hilltop. Around 150-170 women from Kalagaon and neighbouring villages of Kadejhola, Rugapodar and Majingmali gathered at the spot and initiated a sit-in protest in front of the police platoons and their JCBs, with the OMC staff claiming that they were at the site to conduct soil testing and a bauxite survey.

The villagers firmly held the position that they will not allow the company and the police to enter Majingmali and managed to force the OMC staff and the JCBs to leave, even though latest news suggests that 10 police officers are still stationed at the site per the instructions of SP, Rayagada as the villagers continue their protest. The coordinated efforts of companies and the police are clear when it comes to the mining operations.

The people’s resistance towards militarization and rapacious mining projects which displace the local farmers in Odisha in particular and the entirety of Central India in general has witnessed many such prolonged struggles against the state-corporate nexus. At Mali Parbat, close to Koraput district, Odisha, the people’s resistance towards Hindalco, part of the Aditya Birla group witnessed severe attempts by the police to use brute force to drive off the local Adivasi tribes opposed to the bauxite mining project at Mali Parbat.

In January this year when the Odisha High Court the implementation of free and fair Gram Sabhas in the region to seek consent for the Mali Parbat mining project, the result on ground was a massive invasion of armed police and paramilitary as well as false cases against the anti-mining activists of Mali Parbat Suraksha Samiti which was leading the struggle in the region. Similarly in the Niyamgiri hills, the prolonged struggle of the Adivasi tribes in the region against the loot of Niyamgiri by Vedanta Limited led to a Supreme Court verdict which decided against the mining project.

Yet, both attempts at re-starting mining operations in Niyamgiri as well as large scale militarization for the same, abductions, fake encounters and false cases have been levelled against the activists of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti to curtail the people’s resistance. In Jharkhand, similar attempts have been made against activists of the Visthapan Virodhi Janvikas Andolan, an anti-displacement platform which opposes corporate loot.

Resistance towards this militarization and loot of natural resources, as seen in Majingmali, is continuing. In October, in Sijimali, in a so-called public hearing set up by the government in the presence of large number of police and paramilitary, the locals waged relentless protests against the hearing.

Resistance against rapacious mining projects which displace local farmers has witnessed prolonged struggles against state-corporate nexus

To prevent the same, police arrested various activists and leaders who were heading the struggle against Vedanta Limited gaining the lease for mining the Sijimali block mine. As part of Operation Samadhan-Prahar, a large scale paramilitary operation at strategic hamletting which aims to use the brute force of the paramilitary and police to drive off the Adivasis from their lands for the sake of intensifying the rampant loot of natural resources by big corporates, the state is deploying a reign of terror upon all areas where resistance is emerging to corporate loot.

Under Samadhan-Prahar, for this purpose, the state has even deployed aerial bombings along with building fortress-like ‘Forward Operational Bases’ to ensure the militarization at the service of big corporates. The people of Majingmali have re-iterated the strength of people’s resistance against corporate loot and militarization at its service and have stated, “like all the Malis which are our neighbours, we people are also kith and kins of different Malis. We shall die instead, of letting these Malis be destroyed.”

FACAM condemns the attempts of OMC and the police to initiate mining operations in Majingmali. FACAM demands the immediate re-calling of all police and paramilitary forces from Majingmali and the end of militarization at the service of big corporates for the loot of natural resources.

*All India Students’ Association (AISA), All India Revolutionary Students Organization (AIRSO), All India Revolutionary Women’s Organization (AIRWO), Bhagat Singh Ambedkar Students Organization (BASO), Bhagat Singh Chatra Ekta Manch (bsCEM), Collective, Common Teachers Forum (CTF), Democratic Students Union (DSU), Lawyers Against Atrocities, Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan (MAS), Trade Union Centre of India (TUCI)

Courtesy: CounterView