Archive for the ‘Kondh’ Category

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A Constitution’s Dead Army

April 9, 2012

Thirty years ago, a retired armyman’s body was being dragged by a police jeep as his adivasi brethren, armed with bows and arrows, helplessly tried to stop the convoy but were fired upon and chased away.

This article appears in Daily News & Analysis on the 9th of April, 2012.

Gangaram Kalundia was bayonneted in the police van, and then dragged across the village, for speaking for the rights of his people, and there was never any prosecutions against the police for his murder.

Gangaram was an adivasi of the Ho tribe, who joined the army when he was 19 years old, fought in the war of 1965 and the war of 71 as part of the Bihar Regiment, and had risen to the rank of Junior officer.

He voluntarily retired and returned home to find that his village Illigara in Chaibasa of West Singhbhum of Jharkhand (then Bihar), along with some 110 other villages would be submerged due to the Kuju dam project, that was funded by the World Bank.

He would organize his people to fight for their fundamental rights against displacement and the project exactly thirty years ago, to only be brutally murdered by the police early in the morning on the 4th of April, 1982.

‘This is where we placed stones to stop the convoy that had Gangaram,’ Said Tobro, then 14 years old, now pointing to a small woodland by the roadside, ‘and this is where we were, with bows and arrows, but the police fired upon us and chased us away.’

While Gangaram Kalundia was killed in 1982, a long agitation had still sustained itself, that had often driven people like Tobro underground, aware that the police were rounding people up. Surendra Biduili, 52, was a part of the agitation against the dam, and the eventual victory in 1991 when, ‘the World Bank withdrew the money.’

‘Their reports said that the dam would only submerge lands that had paddy,’ he continued, ‘but it was a lie, we were cultivating vegetables as well.’

It was much later when Gangaram had become a symbol for oppurtunistic politics, and his shaheed divas, would be attended by every other political party, or as Surendra would say, ‘First everyone used to be afraid to mention Gangaram’s name, now all the parties of contractors and dalaals come for his shaheed divas.’

In The Thousands

Gangaram Kalundia was not the only adivasi leader killed for representing the rights of people. Just a few kilometres away from Chaibasa, across the Sal tree forest, is the village of Bandgaon, where Lalsingh Munda was killed in broad daylight in the market on the 1st of November 1983. His concerns were that sacred grounds were being used by non-tribals and contractors as a waste dump.

‘You travel by bus to Chaibasa, well, back then, people used to get off the bus to piss into the sacred grounds.’ Said Phillip Kujur, a member of JMACC (Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee).

Phillip Kujur was also associated with Lalit Mehta who was brutally murdered in Palamau in May 2008, Niyamat Ansari who was killed by the Maoists in Latehar District on the 2nd of March, 2011, and on the 29th of December, 2011, Pradip Prasad was killed by PLFI extremists in the village of Mukka, Latehar.

Sister Valsa who fought for the adivasis in Pachuwara in Pakur District of Jharkhand was murdered on the 15th of November, 2011.

The roads in adivasi villages are punctuated with memorials for fallen leaders and activists.

The office for NGO Birsa in Chaibasa has a memorial stone with other names: Vahaspati Mahto killed in 1977 in Purulia, Shaktinath Mahto killed in 1977 at Dhanbad , Ajit Mahto killed in 1982 at Tiraldih, Beedar Nag killed in 1983 at Gua, Ashwini Kumar Savaya killed in 1984 in Chaibasa, Anthony Murmu killed in 1985 at Banjhi, Nirmal Mahto killed in 1986 at Jamshedpur, Devendra Mahji killed in 1994 in Goilkera. The memorial ends with the sentence, ‘anaam shaheed….hazaaron mein.’ (Unknown Martyrs, in the thousands)

‘When I was young,’ Said Phillip, ‘I was travelling with two veteran activists, who kept pointing to village after village saying, ‘here’s where another cadre of ours was killed’, and there I was, another man they trained to fight for people’s rights. Finally, I turned to them and asked, ‘you taught all these people how to fight, but did you teach them how to stay alive?’

In recent times, K Singanna, one of the first organizers of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh in Narayanpatna Block of Koraput District of Odisha was shot thrice in his back in a police firing incident on the 20th of November, 2009. Since then, another leader Nachika Linga has been living underground in fear of arrest, or death, as posters calling for him to be caught ‘dead or alive’ were posted all over Narayanpatna after the firing. Both individuals were responsible for organizing the Kondh adivasis to claim their rights as per the Fifth Schedule, to free themselves as bonded labourers on their own land.

In Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, Muria and Koya adivasis committed to taking the cause of their people via rallies, writ petitions, and organizing them to fight peacefully for their rights, have almost all been arrested as alleged Maoists. Manish Kunjam, an ex-MLA, has faced repeated death threats and his own cadre, responsible for working in the villages, have been in and out of jail.

On International Labour Day, the 1st of May, 2008, in Kalinganagar Industrial Park of Jajpur, Odisha, one of the leaders of the Anti-displacement group, Dabar Kalundia was attacked outside the gates of the Rohit Ferrotech Steel Plant and escaped, but Omin Banara (51) was killed.

In Memory of Gangaram

‘They all talk about Gangaram, but they don’t care about his wife.’

Birangkui Kalundia, widow of Gangaram, lost her only daughter when she was giving birth to her grandchild. She was widowed by the state, and her daughter would be another statistic to those 80,000 women who die every year due to childbirth.

Her brother-in-law, would also cut ties with her, often dividing the produce of Gangaram’s 15 acres for himself, leaving her out with nothing, and after his death, she moved out of the village his husband fought for, to move in with her new caretakters, her nephew and his wife, where she lives with a quiet pride to this day.

She still holds onto the medals won by her husband, the citation for his President’s Medal,  speaking in soft tones unforgivingly about the men who killed her husband, coming to terms with injustice in this life, to a hope for justice in the next.

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Narayanpatna: Movement On The Run

February 5, 2011

This article appears in The New Indian Express on the 6th of February, 2011.

‘Nachika Linga’s owner’s house used to be this one,’ Says the Border Security Force commander, regarding the newest BSF camp set up at Podapadar village, one of the flashpoints of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh movement. The house in question belonged to Nila Kancha Parida who literally owned Nachika Linga – a bonded labourer on his own land who used to earn Rs.5 per month, eventually a leader of a tribal movement, and now, one of the most wanted people in Narayanpatna block. It is literally petty symbolism that the once-oppressor’s house is now used by the Border Security Force to track down members of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh, who stood up for their land rights in 2009.

Today, their entire movement has gone underground, over 150 of their members and their supporters are in jail, including Gananath Patra, of the CPI (ML), who was arrested as a Maoist, as well as his associate Tapan Mishra, who has already clashed with officials in the prison after going on numerous hunger strikes. Yet the vast majority of the CMAS live in fear further within the jungles, often on the move, without food, in constant risk of being apprehended.

Nevertheless, six Kondh tribal women and four infants had gotten onto the Hirakhand Express at Koraput railway station on the 25th of January 2011 to travel to Bhubaneshwar. For many of them it was the first time on a train. There was never any need to go to Bhubaneshwar, or anywhere beyond their jungles in Narayanpatna or Laxmipur before. But secretly, and quietly, these six women travelled to Bhubaneshwar, and were told that they would have to testify at a public hearing, to the National Human Rights Commission.

All six women have lost their husbands to state violence.

Balsi Kendruka w/o Andru of the village of Baliaput, Narayanpatna lost her husband on the 20th of November firing/’camp attack’.

Sonai Kendruka w/o Singana of the village of Podapadar, Narayanpatna lost her husband on the 20th of November firing/’camp attack’.

Kamla Tadingi w/o Ganguli of the village of Bagam, Narayanpatna lost her husband when he was picked up by the police in Narayanpatna, and died in custody in Koraput Jail on the 12th of April 2010.

Kamla Sirika w/o Ratna of the village of Siriguda, Narayanpatna lost her husband when he went for treatment for an unspecified illness to Narayanpatna town, and was arrested by the police and died in a hospital in Berhampur on the 8th of June, 2010.

Saibo Honika w/o Jimme of the village of Jogipalur, Narayanpatna lost her husband when the security forces raided her village. He was allegedly drowned in Janjawali river.

Singaru Huika w/o Katru of the village of Talameting,  Laxmipur was shot dead by the security forces the day after the Maoists had raided the nearby NALCO plant where they killed ten CISF jawaans and lost four of their own on the 12th of April 2009. Katru Huika is suprisingly even mentioned as a ‘public witness’ in the FIR filed regarding the NALCO attack.

And the women barely spoke at the hearing.

The irony is that K G Balakrishnan, chairman of the NHRC returned to Delhi a day before the hearing. (The bigger irony was that he would have been sharing the dias with the senior advocate Prashant Bhusan who, along with his father, had indicted him as one of the ‘eight corrupt Chief Justices of India’),’ in a now-famous affidavit.

The hearing itself indicted the government of Orissa regarding ‘state repression on the rise in the state particularly on people’s movements against displacement and land grabbing.’ As for the recent spate of encounters in Bargarh, Keonjhar, Jajpur and Rayagada, it had called for ‘an independent and impartial investigation’.

The Way Of The Gun

Since the firing on the 20th of November, 2009, still widely considered to be a ‘camp attack’ by the police and the administration, all that the Kondh adivasis of Narayanpatna have seen is the slow militarization of their lives. Not only have three BSF camps been set-up in Narayanpatna block, but Maoist activity has also been on the rise. There had been one IED blast that claimed four civilian lives in January 2010, and since then there have been numerous IEDs recovered by the police in regular intervals. Just recently another IED exploded on the 11th of January, 2011 near Jogi Palur, injuring three government officials.

There have also been a series of killings by the Maoists in August of 2010, most infamously, of Anand Kirsani, the leader of the embryonic state-backed anti-CMAS group, the Shanti Committee, who was also a Zilla Parishad member and a Congress party leader. The Maoists also killed a member of the CPI (ML), Arjun Kendruka as an informant. Another villager, Ghasi Kendruka from Gotiguda village was killed on the 15th of August. The General Secretary of the CPI (Maoist) Ganapathy himself has stated in a recent interview about the gains made by his party in Narayanpatna block, and against the ‘revisionist’ tendencies of other members of communist parties working in both Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon block. And there has been no secret that the Bandugaon movement and the Narayanpatna movement have been at odds over the last two years.

And yet the core issue remains land.

While the Shanti committee has been ‘finished’ after the murder of their leader Anand Kirsani, there is still no gaurantee that the paddy that rightfully belongs to the tribals would not be illegally split 50-50 between the tribals and the non-tribal Sahukars and ‘landlords,’ as had happened last year, after the suppression of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh.

Cultivation is taking place in many of the strongholds of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh at Narayanpatna, and yet the BSF presence is ominous. On the 27h of January itself, reports emerged that 6 homes in Musalmanda village of Narayanpatna were allegedly burnt down by the security forces.

Images from a video capture of the burning of the homes of Narayanpatna.  Courtesy – Source.

A Soldier’s Crisis

‘You know what would solve this whole Maoist problem?’ Asks a BSF commander, ‘There should be mandatory military service in either the CRPF or BSF by all citizens of India. This way some politician’s son can also end up at Podapadar.’

The imaginary border is drawn across the jungles, cutting across mainstream India and that which belongs to the Kondh of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh at Podapadar. The Border Security Force is once again strategically isolated as most security camps within the jungles are. A school functions a few metres from the camp, and hillocks surround the camp.

‘If we’re attacked, we’re on our own,’ Said the commander, ‘And we had asked for another spot, but they gave us this one.’

And the risks don’t stop there.

‘You don’t even have to ask us about mosquitoes,’ Said a BSF soldier, laughing, who mentions there have already been a handful of malaria cases in the camp.

Yet what remains striking is that the BSF soldiers were aware of the existence of bonded labour at Narayanpatna block. ‘Five generations of Nachika Linga were slaves.’ Mentions the BSF commander, yet the manhunt against him continues.

No one in Narayanpatna ever forgot the ‘dead or alive’ posters of Nachika Linga that were posted across the town.

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Season Of Encounters: Part Two

January 25, 2011

Kaliamani Jhodia’s eleven year old daughter was arrested as an alleged Maoist on the 14th of December, 2010 at Dhobasil village of Rayagada District.

Widow Hasmani Jhodia’s twenty-two year old daughter Sabita was also arrested on the same day.

This article appears in the New Indian Express on the 30th of January,2011.

To understand what happened in Khurigan(Basangmali), Rayagada district where nine alleged Maoists were killed in an ‘encounter/ambush’ on the 8th of January, one has to look into an incident on the 14th of December 2010, where in the village of Dhobasil in Kashipur block, five alleged Maoists, including two minors were arrested in what is described in the police FIR as ‘a meeting’ with ‘weapons training.’

According to the police First Information Report, the police had ‘prior information’ that a meeting was taking place near ‘Singamui jungle,’ so they had embarked on an operation, where they would eventually discover a meeting of 25-30 Maoists cadres along with 10 to 15 other supporters engaged in ‘weapons training’. Along with the five arrested, the FIR even goes on to mention the following names in the FIR as the ‘Details of known/suspected/unknown/accused’ – Rabi, Lenju, Mamata, Kamala, who’d all be killed in the encounter, along with Sabyasachi Panda, the most-wanted Maoist leader of Orissa, and then, Lado Sikaka, one of the Dongria Kondh leaders of the Niyamgiri movement, already featured in a farcical photo-op session with Rahul Gandhi, and even Bhagaban Majhi, an activist of the Prakrutik Sampark Surakhya Parishad whose movement has long struggled against bauxite mining and the Utkal Alimuna International Limited – a struggle that led to innumerable false cases and arrests, regular protests of over 5000 people, road blockades and it all culminated in a police firing at Maikanch on the 16th of December, 2000, when the police fired and killed three men and wounded another seven.

In the FIR regarding the 14th of December ‘encounter’, the Inspector-In charge of Kalyansinghpur police station claims that, ‘Most of them had put on olive green dresses. From the dress code and the firearms with them, I became confirm that they are the members of the banned CPI (Maoist) organization.’ The OIC then claims to have repeatedly asked them to surrender, after which the Maoists fired back to ‘kill and demoralize the police party’, and the police would fire two rounds, and the Maoists then ‘took to their heels in the jungle.’

Eventually the police managed to apprehend five people including two young girls. One girl, Koni Jhodia is aged 11, as per the ration card prepared on the 1st of August, 2010, yet in the FIR she is mentioned to be 16 years old.

‘On taking search of the kit bag of Kani Bijaya Jhodia,’ Continues the FIR, ‘it was found that the kit bag was containing 03 numbers of gelatin sticks,’ Yet according to the villagers of Dhobasil, she had run into the house when she saw the police approaching, and was dragged out from there. Sabita Jhodia (22 years old), was also sleeping in her house when she was kicked and dragged out of the village.

According to the villagers of Dhobasil, around 20 members of the police in civilian clothes had come to their village with two other men, and started to ask for Sabita Jhodia, a young woman/alleged Maoist who returned to her village, after leaving her abusive husband.

‘They put a gun to my neck and asked me where was Sabita.’ Claims Koni Jhodia’s older brother, Beladhara. At this point, the other two men were being kept by the police in the middle of the hamlet, along with Sabita’s younger sister Lalita. They only let Lalita go, once they had Sabita, who was dragged out of her house. Finally, they had gone to the Kondh hamlet of Dhobasil, and taken away Jodi Jhodia d/o Shyam (wrongly identified as Anjali), who was also ten years old, claims her older pregnant sister, who adds, ‘it was all Sabita’s fault.’

‘After they took them away, we thought they’d be killed.’ Says Kaliapani Jhodia, mother of Koni.

Dhobasil is a small village of two hamlets, one belonging to the Kondhs, and another to the Jhodias. The Jhodia hamlet has nine homes, and it is a hamlet where the people have ration cards, but they don’t get ration, where they have NREGA cards, but they don’t get work, where they have electric poles and wiring, but they don’t get electricity, and the families live on the edge of hunger, surviving on a little semme (beans) and some imli. Add to that, the Jhodias are not even recognized as tribals by the government, meaning: they can starve and die like the tribals, but they can’t live like them.

They are tribals living on tribal lands who are not entitled to the laws to protect them from land alienation.

The Anti-mining Activists

Bulika Miniaka, of Barigaon village in Kashipur block has been fighting against land alienation for over 15 years now. He, himself, was one of the Kondh leaders who was in jail for over four months in 2004-2005, when the police had come to his village on the 9th of December 2004. Today, combing operations often disrupt life in his village of over 180 homes.

‘This land is ours, this jungle is ours, these rivers are ours, these trees are ours, and who are these police people to come here? What do they want? Why are they here?’ Says Bulika Minika.

Three unmarried girls from Barigaon, Sunita Miniaka d/o Massi, Seboh Miniaka d/o Sapora and Phulkoh Miniaka d/o of Uchaba, were killed in the encounter on the 8th of January. The people of Barigaon were not informed of their deaths, and only discovered it once they saw the newspapers.

‘Who are the police to kill these people?’ Continues Bulika, ‘And those you kill, you should at least, tell us, you killed.’

The people of Barigaon held a feast in their honour, as per Kondh tradition. The three people killed in Maikanch led to the stalling of the UTKAL project, albeit unsuccessfully, and a judicial enquiry offered no justice to the adivasis. The three killed as Maoists opens the newest chapter to the adivasis of Kashipur who have been fighting the companies since 1993.

Meanwhile, Bhagaban Majhi was completely unperturbed by his name being mentioned in an FIR involving Maoists. For one, there has always been a reason why Bhagawan Majhi would be targeted. There is a song he often sings before every gathering or meeting for thousands of adivasis who protest against the companies who not only displace but cause irreparable pollution.

Hawa, Hawa, Company Hawa,

Wind, wind, company wind

Blowing all over Odisha.

 

Let us stand together for justice.

We will save our mother earth

And redeem ourselves.

 

We will not hand over our land to these companies,

Let us all stand together,

Don’t just watch us and wait.

Don’t you see the danger?

 

What we are facing today,

You will face tomorrow.

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Rape As A Weapon Of War

June 9, 2010

This article appears in The New Indian Express on the 11th of June, 2010.

On the 21st of September, 2007, the adivasi gangrape victims of Vakapalli, Andhra Pradesh, declared in a memorandum to the Sub-Collector of Paderu. “We, the Adivasi women of Vakapalli village who have been raped, wish to place before you the reasons why we have decided to go on an indefinite fast…

On 20-08-2007, Greyhounds police (21 in number) raided our village Vakapalli and raped 11 women. We have brought this brutal and terrible act of the police to the notice of not just the government and the judiciary but everyone we could reach out to. We asked that justice be done to us. When an incident like this takes place, the government should respond and take steps to ensure that the accused are punished. It must stand by the victims and give them protection. Over a month has passed since we were raped. A criminal case was registered but not a single accused has been arrested so far. On top of it, they are trying to make out that nothing has at all happened.”

Are we not citizens of this country? Will these laws and courts not do us justice? Can they not protect us? Will they only side with the police? In that case, at least take action under international laws if any. In case there are no such laws, then do us justice as per principles of natural justice.

If this system fails to give us justice and security, we, who are helpless, refuse to remain so. We are ready to even sacrifice our lives so that such brutality is not visited upon us and those like us ever again. We therefore, humbly state that we have decided to sit on an indefinite fast.”

On the 22nd of May, 2010, over two and a half years after the incident at Vakapalli in Andhra Pradesh, three adivasi women of village Mukram near Chintalnar, Chhattisgarh, allege to have been raped by members of the security forces. And it has been over just a month after 76 jawaans were killed by the Maoists near Chintalnar. Initial reports alleged that 10 women were raped around Chintalnar over the last few days but owing to a virtual police blockade, all reports couldn’t be entirely verified.

These are not isolated cases. Four women claimed to have been raped under similar circumstances in the village of Samsetti, Dantewada by SPOs in 2006. Five women from the village of Potenar allege to have been raped in the Jangla Camp in 2005. Two women were raped by the Salwa Judum and SPOs in Lingagiri in 2006. One woman alleged to have been gangraped in Konta police station. Three woman claimed to have been gangraped at Tatemargu in November 2009 during a combing operation.

The list is endless. And not even once were the First Information Reports ever registered by the police. Only five girls from Potenaar had testified to the National Human Rights Commission’s Enquiry Team on the 10th of June 2008 but the team (comprising out of fifteen police persons out of sixteen) inferred that the allegations could not be substantiated.

‘During the enquiry it was observed that there were many inconsistencies in the versions of alleged victims, in the petitions given by them, as well as in the statements of the alleged victims. These inconsistencies were with regard to the number of victims raped, number of SPOs who took them away from the camp, number of SPOs who actually committed the act and their identity, and the accompanying circumstances.’ – As mentioned in the NHRC report.

Yet nowhere did the NHRC report mention that rape didn’t take place. And it ‘recommended that a further enquiry may be conducted by an independent agency.’ Nothing happened after that. The Writ Petitions that had challenged the legality of the Salwa Judum had alleged a total of over 99 cases of rape, and the NHRC Enquiry Team that was appointed to investigate into these allegations by the Apex Court, only spoke to five of the victims who were not even mentioned in the petition. Then of course, the NHRC team investigated only another allegation of rape at the village of Polampalli.

At Pollampalli, two women were allegedly raped and murdered but the NHRC report states, ‘The names of Bhusaki Bandi and Selam Bhima could not be identified as from this village. However, the villagers denied any incidence of rape in their village.’

Of course, the NHRC Team visited the wrong Pollampalli. There are two Pollampallis in Bastar, one in Usur Block and another in Konta Block.

The fact remains, rape is a part of everyday life for the adivasi women of Bastar, and according to many independent observers it is used as a Weapon of War.

Rape as a weapon of war, was recognized by the United Nations Security Council in 2008, ‘as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instil fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group.” In the Red Corridor, the predominately non-tribal police force looks at the predominately tribal Maoists as an distinctive group. There is a definite sense of racism and collective punishment. The three girls who were raped at Mukram on the 22nd of May, were accused of being ‘Maoist supporters’ and were alleged to have helped in the ‘Chintalnar attack on the CRPF’.

The police have often claimed all of these allegations of rape as baseless and the Maoists motivate women to make such claims to undermine the morale and legitimacy of the police. As it is, in many cases, owing to the stigma related to rape, as well as further threat to their lives, the victims never come forward. It took the women of Samsetti three years to even come forward and even then the police didn’t lodge their FIRs. They would eventually harass the women, detain them, and beat them after they lodged a case against them in the  JMFC in Konta.

The Maoists are not beyond rape either even though they don’t use it as a weapon of war.

I get a chuckle from the adivasis from Konta every time I ask about a particular Area Commander called Comrade Naveen. His real name is Sodhi Gangaya and he hailed from the village of Curreygudem in Konta block, deep within their ‘liberated zones’. When I ask villagers about Sodhi Gangaya, I get a blank stare, but when I say Comrade Naveen, they chuckle indignantly.

Comrade Naveen had raped a girl in the village of Curreygudem in 2008. When I asked the villagers of Curreygudem if they had ever complained to anyone about it they responded, ‘hum itne bade aadmi ke bare mein aesa kaise bol sakte hai…’ (how can we say such a thing about such a big man?)

Eventually, a relative of the girl complained to a senior Maoist and Comrade Naveen disappeared from the forest. Of course, it didn’t end there. Comrade Naveen left the party and eventually became SPO Sodhi Gangaya.

He was recognized by the villagers of Tatemargu on the 9th of November, 2009, as one of the guides for the police contingent that raided their village where over 60 buildings would be burnt down, seven villagers would be killed, and three women would be allegedly raped.

How many Comrade Naveens exist amidst the Maoists, can count as just as many SPO Sodhi Gangayas there are amongst the police. But how many more Vakapallis will there be?

“If this system fails to give us justice and security, we, who are helpless, refuse to remain so. We are ready to even sacrifice our lives so that such brutality is not visited upon us and those like us ever again.”

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Narayanpatna: Murder In The Afternoon

March 23, 2010

‘NREGA scams, allegations of widespread corruption, tribal uprisings, police firings, murdered activists, and an acknowledged Maoist presence. Narayanpatna Block in Koraput district is a land where fact is fiction and rumour is truth, yet the unsolved mystery involving the alleged murder of an activist reveals more than one can imagine.’

At Malda village in Koraput district of Orissa, a community theatre group from the IAEET performs a play on labour, exploitation and it logically leads up to the NREGA. In the first act, landless labourers are working for a cruel landlord, the ‘Sahukar’ as they call him. They’re all underpaid, abused and treated violently. In the second act, there is a small revolt, all the villagers decide to cease working until conditions improve. There is a showdown, violent arguments ensue and the hapless villagers cower. The landlord manages to reinstate the status quo – if you don’t work, you all will just die of starvation.

In the third act, the villagers are tricked by a scrupulous contractor to go to another state for higher wages and better working conditions. Most of them decide to go and they are never heard of again.

Towards the end of the play, the audience is involved, and questions are asked about labour. And then the NREGA is introduced. A villager complains that they don’t get paid promptly. The actor responds to him. That he must complain, that he shouldn’t keep quiet. Another villager complains that the villagers don’t understand the procedure or how the act works considering most of them are illiterate. The actor says that they should take someone educated to see the muster rolls, the cards, and ensure everything is accurate. A few ‘Sahukars’ are in the crowd, quietly watching the play. Later on, the co-ordinator would say how at times, he’s accosted by them and taunted about how everything he says doesn’t matter.

‘Then they just go say the opposite of everything we try to say,’ says Amaresh, co-ordinator for the community-based theatre group IAEET, ‘There are many problems with the NREGA and we like to talk about them as much as we can.’

A few years ago, Narayan Hareka, a local tribal and social worker with a NGO was raising his voice about corruption and the discrepancies in the implementations of the NREGA. On the 8th of May 2008, he was found dead, his body brutally disfigured a few kilometers from his in-law’s village of Dandabadi. Some say it was an accident, others say it was a clear murder case. The police registered it as an accident. Case closed. Everything else is conjecture.

Today, in Narayanpatna, discrepancies in the NREGA are still prevalent and are probably the only facts. Apart from allegations of massive siphoning of funds, card holders are barely guaranteed 100 days work, and many card holders don’t receive any work at all. Mandangi Limbe of Palaput village at Narayanpatna, card number OR-11-007-006-013/8972, claims to have done no work in the last four years. Her job card has no entries, yet online at the NREGS website, she has been noted to have worked 48 days in 2007 and 2008, and received Rs.3000.

Kondagiri Lachama of Sanapalmunda village in Bhandugaon, card number OR-11-006-005-010/2661, says he worked three days when his online entries claim he has worked around 24 days and received over Rs.1680.

In 2008, the National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad had conducted a social audit on the NREGA in Orissa regarding these very kind of discrepancies. Their report was never made public yet a presentation by the NIRD was made available to the Express.

Sharanya Nayak of ActionAid who worked with the NIRD team on the social audit, quotes from the NIRD presentation that she acquired from the director, that, ‘The total wages paid to sample beneficiaries as per record is Rs.8104896/-, while the actual wages received by beneficiaries Rs.3388795/-; that out of total man days of 228038, in a sample of recorded man days of 115345, there were only 54860 actual man days. In other words, 53% of the man days are ghost days. They didn’t exist.’

Some wonder why the report wasn’t made public.

The Death of An Activist

I had decided to make some inquiries into details of Narayan Hareka’s case when I was at Narayanpatna, considering a villager told me something interesting when I started to ask him about the details of people killed by the Maoists over the last three years. The latest incident involved the killing of two non-tribals in the village of Kattulapet, Bandugaon in January, 2010. They allegedly refused to return adivasi land to the adivasis and were known moneylenders.

I would then ask him about Bhogi Ramesh of Kattulapet who was killed a long time ago. My source claimed he was a moneylender and liquor brewer who had gotten some indebted tribals beaten up by the police, and was thus killed for his ‘links’, by the Maoists.

‘He threatened them, he said he’d send the police to beat them all up.’ Said L, as he walked down the trail leading to one of the ‘interior’ villages of Narayanpatna, ‘Then the police did come one day, and they only beat up the villagers who were debtors. Then later the Maoists came and killed Ramesh.’

‘What about Patra Khosla of Bagaam village? They say the Maoists killed him too.’

‘He was involved in the killing of Narayan Hareka.’

‘And the Maoists killed him?’

‘Yes.’

‘How did they know he was involved?’

‘They did their own investigations.’

I decided to do my own. If I had to give any credibility to his story, I’d need some fact, some evidence or some acknowledgement from the Maoists themselves. I did not want to be left at an uncomfortable conjecture. The first thing I decided to do, was to locate the family, friends and colleagues of Narayan Hareka and see what I could find out from them. It seemed like an easy thing to do– to enter a block with a Maoist presence, where over the last few months, an adivasi uprising took place, hundreds of homes were broken down, the police fired into a crowd of tribals, mass arrests and combing operations became everyday events; and an all-India, all-women’s fact-finding team would be attacked by the locals with the alleged instigation of the police. Of course, everything gets all film noir, Red Corridor style.

Narayan Hareka, a Kondh tribal had two wives – the first wife Kantamani has allegedly gone underground as there is a warrant for her arrest. She used to work with him at the NGO Ankuran and would be closely associated to the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh in the coming future. His other younger wife Bando lives at a village called Kilmisi yet she’s being protected by her neighbours, who pretend to know nothing even though Hareka often worked in their village. The neighbours themselves only believe Narayan Hareka was killed in an accident. After some cross-questioning, they admit otherwise.

‘The Sondis say accident, the family people say he was murdered, we don’t know what to believe.’ Said one of the villagers, reticently, and it was obvious he didn’t want to say anything more – he didn’t know anything. They weren’t very happy to be talking to the press and they told us that we might fight Kantamani at Dandabadi. So we decided to go to Dandabadi.

Dandabadi is Narayan’s in-law’s native village and no one knows any Narayan Hareka. After some small-talk and some hesitation, we’re finally taken to their home. The door is latched. A few villagers smile to themselves. One of them knows his wife and says she has no idea where she is. I ask about Narayan Hareka’s oldest son. They don’t know his name.

A while later, I find his number from my contact. I call. The phone is switched off. I call everyday for a week. The phone is always switched off.

Then I decide to visit his old NGO Ankuran and hope to meet his colleagues. The building complex is known to be just a kilometre from the town of Narayanpatna. Here, I hope to find someone in Narayanpatna who knows Narayan Hareka, anyone. Yet we find an empty complex. There are around 10 buildings, decrepit, without a sign of habitation. Nothing remains. Even the electric sockets have been ripped out. A few old pamphlets, charts and posters lie on the floor.

A few tribals living nearby claim that the NGO left more than eight months ago, when the CMAS started to reclaim land from the non-tribals. A watchman claims that he wasn’t paid for the last two months he was there. We ask if there are any NGO workers nearby – we ask for Kantamani, and we ask about Narayan Hareka. We get nothing again. And it’s late. We don’t want to be caught at Narayanpatna overnight, we decide to return to Koraput after trying one more lead.

A day later, my contact-guide begins to receive phone calls.

‘Why are you asking about Narayan Hareka?’

‘What do you want to know about Ankuram?’

‘Why do you want to meet Kantamani?’

‘Who is asking about Kantamani?’

And we finally get a phone call from someone who calls herself Kantamani. She instantly screams at my contact. We tell her that we just want to know details about the life and death of her husband Narayan Hareka. She softens up, but says she’s another Kantamani.

The one we’re looking for has gone underground.

The Maoist Murders?

A day later, I called the Narayanpatna police station and speak to the Inspector-in-Charge about the details of the case of Patra Khosla. The inspector has only been there for a year and this is an old murder case. He calls someone else to inquire. He confirms that Patra Khosla was killed with a 9mm at 10 in the morning. There was no Maoist poster left next to the body. There may have been a letter but they don’t have it. His body was brought to the police station by family members but there’s no explicit proof that he was killed by the Maoists.

‘So tell me one thing,’ I asked the Inspector, ‘Would you by any chance have any phone numbers of the Maoists? Maybe I can just call them and ask them if they killed Patra Khosla.’

The inspector laughed. Thank God, he saw the joke.

But by this point, I was left at a dead-end. It was becoming more and more evident that the only way I can find out who killed Narayan Hareka and Patra Khosla would be to contact people who don’t want to be contacted, and trace down people who don’t want to be traced down. By this time, even L. who first told me about Patra Khosla had disappeared. All I had was one last piece of circumstantial evidence which I received from the Ankuran director Badalta, and a local reporter Subodhi.

‘Patra Khosla had some 17-20 lakhs in his bank account.’ They told me, ‘And he had no land, no job and no way to get so much money but from siphoning off from the SHGs he was handling.’ Said Badalta, ‘Narayan had warned him many times about it. He didn’t listen.’ Continued Badalta.

This was similar to what L. was telling me. But it didn’t matter. Murder doesn’t need to be a fact in Narayanpatna. It happens all the time.

As I was investigating this case, Mandangi Sahu Loknath was gunned down at the village of Nellawadi on the 10th of March, 2010. His family claims that the CMAS, in particular, the Bandugaon CMAS (distinct from Narayanpatna CMAS) was responsible for the attack. Adding to their suspicions, the CMAS Bandugaon had stuck posters condemning Loknath to death, implicating him in a gangrape over a year ago. Yet a few days later, the police claim a local journalist received a letter from the Maoists taking responsibility for the killing.

Did they really write the letter? I wonder. Yet I decided to leave Narayanpatna and on my way out, another sign of murder was being erased from the collective memory of the people of Narayanpatna.

An IED blast had taken place on the road to Narayanpatna a few weeks ago and a mangled corpse of a commander jeep lay on the side. Four civilians were killed, while all nine SOG personnel (Special Operations Group) who were sitting in the back had survived. The blast had torn through the front. One young child survived the blast but lost both his parents.

The remnants of the commander jeep lay on the side of the road for weeks later, a testament to just another simple act of murder, yet this time committed arbitrarily, without any fathomable just cause. Yet as I was leaving Narayanpatna, the jeep was gone. Taken away to the scrap yard I suppose. In the future, it probably never even happened.

The mangled remnants of a commander jeep that was hit by a Maoist IED, on the Narayanpatna road.

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Forgotten Country: The Cut-Off Area Of Malkangiri

March 14, 2010

Villagers attempting to board the only functioning motor-launch into the cut-off area of Malkangiri. This was the same motor-launch that was attacked by the Maoists on the 29th of June, 2008 when 38 Greyhounds and a driver were killed.

They have no access to a road – they live water-locked across hilly terrain – Over 20,000 people of six gram panchayats were cut-off by the reservoir waters created first by the Machkund hydroelectric dam in the 1940s, and then by the Balimela hydro-electric dam in the 1960s. The cruelest irony is that they are yet to receive electricity themselves.

This article appeared in The New Indian Express on the 14th of March,2010.

Samsundar Anjal (65), with his younger brother Podu Anjal (50).

65 year-old, Samsundar Anjal clearly remembers working on the Balimela dam as a labourer when he was young. He even remembers that his village of Jolaput was submerged in the waters of the Kolab dam, rendering him landless. The government paid him Rs.6,000 as compensation and he was one of the lucky ones.

‘They paid us one rupee for labour when I worked on the dam, and it was enough.’ He says, now in the village of Badapada in the Cut-Off area of Malkangiri, as one of the 20,000 erased human beings in the people’s history of India’s development.

The Balimela reservoir waters now cover over 41, 782 acres, it has a catchment area of 4,910 sq kilometers and it drowned 69 villages and cut-off 151 villages. Travelling to the cut-off area is an act indicative of many of its problems. There are irregular, infrequent ‘launches’ or boats that take the whole day to travel the 67 kilometre stretch from the Balimela Spillway to the villages on the banks of the reservoir. These boats with a capacity of 60 often carry a hundred or more people. They break down frequently, and people spend days on the mainland, waiting to get home.

Between 1974 and 2007, six motor-launches were introduced by the Water Resources department. Only two work now, and for the last few months, there was only one. The rusted 1978 boat lies at the spillway, engineers working to get it running again. The others are mostly scrap metal in various stages of decay. A contractor claims it would take him months to repair some of them. Others require imported parts and will never be repaired.

In the far-off distance, the Cut-off is a vast stranded landscape of misty hills.

There is another route though. Villagers sometimes take an over-packed Commander jeep from Chitrakonda town towards Janbai where one finds smaller boats capable of crossing into the area, and then they’d walk for a day or two, depending on how far inside their villages are.

A forty-foot high Maoist memorial stands at the hill across Janbai, looking down the reservoir and the cut-off area. From the memorial, one of the largest in Malkangiri, one can see the OSAP (Orissa State Armed Police) security camp at Janbai, that has solar power and generators. The memorial is dedicated to Maoist Central Committee member Patel Sudhakar Reddy and State Committee member Venkatiah who were killed in an alleged fake encounter on the 24th of May, 2009 in Warangal District.

A view of the cut-off area from a Maoist memorial commemorating Central Committee leader Patel Sudharkar Reddy and Comrade Venkatiah.

Into the Cut-off, in the village of Podapadar, the police roam unarmed and freely, and the Collector of Malkangiri R Vineel Krishna claimed to have made three trips without any security into the area. He says he had not encountered a single Maoist but could conjecture that they come and go.

The Alampakka incident of June 29th, 2008 when 38 Greyhounds were killed also took place in the Cut-off area. After a three-day combing operation from Andhra to the Cut-off, the Greyhounds were attacked as they made their way back on one of the infamous Balimela launches to the mainland. The attack also killed the driver Iswar Rao.

Then on January 20th, 2009, in the village of Kotipalli, it was alleged that Greyhounds killed Golluri Sambu (40), Golluri Budra (45) and Paangi Sadayi, a 20 year old woman who was three months pregnant. The bodies were taken to their jurisdiction in Andhra Pradesh where then claimed that they had killed three Maoists in the forested area of Pedabayalu in Visakhapatnam district.

The same was confirmed by Tehsildar of Chitrakonda D. Gopalakrishna, who was on revenue work in the neighbouring village of Paparmetla on the 25th of January, and was asked to visit Kotipalli. He had walked approximately 8 kms to Kotipalli where he was told that three villagers were beaten, tortured and taken away by the Greyhounds. He also confirmed that Paangi Sadayi was three months pregnant.

‘None of them were Maoists,’ he added, ‘I collected testimonies from 18 families of the village and they all said that they had no links with the Maoists. They were innocent tribals.’

The Strikes

One of the four damaged motor-launches at Balimela Spillway. One of the first demands of the Cut-Off Area Tribal Union was the resumption of all six launches from Balimela to the Cut-off area.

On the 15th of February, 2010, the Cut-Off Area Tribal Union along with approximately 5,000 people held a dharana at the Balimela Spillway. They demanded 1) that six motor launches resume service, 2) that BPL cards must be issued, 3) that all the residents of the Cut-off receive houses as per the Indira Awaas Yojana, 4) that Public Health Centres be opened in every Gram Panchayat, 5) that high schools be opened in the Gram Panchayats, 6) that a block Office be set up in Chitrakonda and lastly, 7) that the abduction of tribals by the Greyhounds in the name of fighting Maoists must cease, and nobody will be arrested without the knowledge of the local police.

On the 19th of February, to intensify their agitation, Sarpanches of the six gram panchayats resigned. The collector R Vineel Krishna convinced the agitators via phone that their demands would be met, and that they should call off their bandh. At the same time, FIRs were lodged against the leaders of the agitation by the Chitrakonda police.

The FIR lodged by the police states, in exact words, “they congregated with their traditional weapons like arrow, bow, axe.” Thus they were ‘traditionally’ booked for Section 25 of the Arms Act, amongst other acts pertaining to Unlawful Assembly. Considering Section 25 of the Arms Act is a non-bailable offence, the FIR functions like an arrest warrant.

Komalu Luchan Anakum, whose grandfather worked as a labourer on the Balimela Dam, is the president of the Cut-Off Area Tribal Union. He and two other leaders of the agitation have now gone into hiding. ‘The state thinks we’re doing this in support of the Maoists,’ He adds, ‘But after 62 years of independence we don’t have any basic facilities in these villages.’

Chakru Khilol is/was the Sarpanch of Bodapadar. He resigned en masse with a majority of Sarpanches of the Cut-off to protest the neglect of the administration. He recalls that during the last monsoon season, from the 15th to the 25th of July, a similar agitation led to similar promises being made by the then-collector who had even given it in writing.

‘Now the new collector said that by the end of march, we’d have electricity and thus it wasn’t a part of our demands.’ Says Chakru Khilol,  ‘But how will they put electricity in 151 villages by the end of march, when they haven’t even entered the cut-off area?’

In Chakru Khilol’s village of Bodapadar, Sohita Golel (50) says that in her lifetime there must’ve been six or seven agitations. She goes on to say how that they are entirely dependant on the rain for the harvest. Since there is no electricity in the cut-off, there is no way to pump the reservoir waters into the fields.

‘No contractors are ever willing to go into the area to work,’ Says Collector R Vineel Krishna, ‘There are big logistic problems.’ At the same time, Maoist tax or extortion rumours are also widespread. There are allegations that the plans for building a bridge to the Cut-off were cancelled as no agreements could be made between contractors and the Maoists.

Outside, in the mainland, an overcrowded jeep passes a small team working to put-up electrical poles a few kilometres away from the Cut-off area. The new poles stand upright in contrast to the limp remnants of older electrical poles that never fulfilled their promises. A boy cracks a joke at the team, the whole jeep shares a cackle, it’s about time.

It’s the story of their lives. They wait. They wait for the boats that sometimes take a week to come. They wait hours for jeeps where over fifty people try to squeeze into, get onto, clamber for a foothold. They wait for the buses that don’t even run. They wait to meet the collector, they wait for his promises to come to something. They wait for the electrical poles to come to their villages. They wait for the Public Health Centres to open closer to their villages so their children don’t have to die of preventable diseases. They wait.

‘Two infants died due to diarrhea in February. One the 12th, another one the 13th.’ Said, aanganbaadi instructor Surmila Mohanty of Panasput village. At Mutaam village, Domoru Jaala (25) died of tuberculosis on the 7th of March, 2010, as a repeated defaulter in an area where there are no Dot-providers. Guruwari Sahi died of ‘fever’ on the 18th of February, as did young Lalitha Jaala of malaria a few months earlier.

Dr.Suresh Chandra Mishra is the only doctor for 80 villages at the PHC at Janbai. ‘For serious cases, it is very difficult.’ He also admits, ‘There are no facilities here.’

They, the tribals of the Cut-off area of Malkangiri, have been waiting sixty-two years for development. Within the Cut-off areas, there are other cut-off villages, again inaccessible by land. One can only access them by small wooden boats or ‘dongaas.’ The further inland one travels, the less development has ‘trickled down’. For instance, the village of Karlamal lacks all the basic amenities like clean water, electricity, healthcare and roads, but interestingly, they were issued voter cards in 2004. All of them voted for the first time in their lives in 2004, even though they didn’t know who they voted for, and no one told them that they couldn’t vote.

According to the villagers of Karlamal, the only thing that works, is the primary school. At one such school, the Educational Complex for ST Girls, Badapada, there are more than 250 girls who study in the light of one solar-battery powered lamp and two kerosene lamps at night. Seven teachers and one clerk haven’t been paid for more than 3 months and have been taking ration on credit from Chitrakonda. ‘The collector visited on the 25th of February and said that the funds hadn’t been allotted yet’, they said.

All of the teachers were born in the Cut-off area, and now a whole new generation is growing up, unaware of the history of their grandparents.

Ichibuti Matem (70) of the village of Karlamal.

Ichibuti Matem (70) of the village of Karlamal holds her grandson in her arms. Her grandson suffers from mild fever and she recounts how her village of Majiput in Jolaput was submerged in the 1960s. She says she didn’t receive any compensation from the government. There are many children around her as she talks, many young men and women.

‘The new generation doesn’t know where it has come from.’

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Narayanpatna: Revisited

March 5, 2010

The remnants of Dom homes in the village of Podapadar, which saw clashes between the Adivasi Kondhs and the Dalits in May of 2009.

This article first appeared on the 7th of March, 2010.

An old Kondh lady smokes her cigar walking past Narayanpatna police station, without turning her head towards a gate where one of the leaders of a popular adivasi uprising lay dead with a cluster of rifle bullets in his back. It was the 20th of November 2009, when the Kondh adivasis had come to the police station to complain. An altercation broke out, the police fired and killed two tribals and wounded many. The police claimed that the Kondhs wanted to snatch weapons.

Recently, the issue of cutting paddy had come to the forefront as the Kondhs who had reclaimed and cultivated more than 2000 acres of land from non-tribals, had mostly gone into hiding due to frequent combing operations and arrests. Crores worth of paddy was about to go into waste. Yet the harvest began to resume and it has been alleged that the paddy was split 50-50 between Kondh families and particular landlords or ‘Sahukars’.

Collector of Koraput, Rajesh Patil was unaware of this distribution. According to him, the matter of splitting the paddy was left to the people themselves. Therefore, in the villages of Paching, Gadmaguda, Kandhasai, Bikrampur, Karikona, Khilua, Chankotasai and Rajasai, each Kondh family was left with five kerosene boxes of paddy – around 60kgs of rice, cultivated on land that traditionally belong to them.

In the villages where the uprising (Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh) had its roots, there was no splitting of the produce as all the rice went to the Kondhs themselves.

Similarly, as per Gram Sabha judgements, liquor is still completely banned in Kabriwadi, Dimtiguda, Sulupalamanda, Ketaravalsa, Lowpeta, Panaspadar, Unkadidi, Madiwalsa and Jangidivalasa.

The Arrests

The wives and children of the arrested Kondh tribal men of Podapadar, Narayanpatna.

Hidden out of sight is the state’s brutal crackdown on the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh. There have been widespread arrests of anyone who was deemed to be even remotely associated with the CMAS, that the police claim is a Maoist-front.

Andru Nachika of Bhaliaput was killed on the day of the 20th November firing and now, his wife Balsi and two children only run into the jungles when they hear that the police are approaching their village.

There have also been more than 26 arrests from the village of Podapadar, the hometown of CMAS leader K. Singanna who was killed on the 20th November firing.

Another village of Jangidivalasa has seen 14 arrests, out of which around six are allegedly minors, who’re not in a juvenile home but in Koraput jail, which is a violation of the Juvenile Justice Act 2006.

Puvala Malati s/o Sitayya from Jangidivalasa, has a school leaving certificate that clearly states that he is born on the 20th of March, 1995. He has been languishing in Koraput jail for over three months. He has been booked under section 121/121A of the IPC – Waging War against the state, and conspiracy to wage war against the state, Section 25 of the Arms Act, and section 3/4/6 of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908.

According to the FIR, he and some 14 others were apprehended by the police on the 29th of November, 2009 near the Jangidavalasa forests in possession of four SMG guns, five single-barrel country-made rifles, two arrows, detonators and CPI (Maoist) flags with communist logos.

Tapan Mishra, an activist of the CPI (Kanu Sanyal Group), is noted to have been arrested in the same incident, even as activists claim that Tapan Mishra was arrested at the train station at Parvatipuram, Andhra Pradesh. Amnesty International has already condemned the arrest of Tapan Mishra, claiming his arrest to be motivated by the fact that he had initially accompanied a seven member fact-finding team to Narayanpatna.

The villagers of Jangidivalasa also claim that five other young people who studied in the same class as 15 year-old Puvala Malati were arrested. One of them, Mandangini Narsu s/o Dullaiya suffers from epilepsy and recently had an attack on the 21st of February, 2010 at Koraput Jail.

From the village of Podapadar, almost every other family has a relative who is an undertrial at Koraput Jail. Suno Mandingi’s two sons Narsing and Linga are in jail. Rabena Wadeka’s husband Sombu Wadeka and his brother Benu Waderka are in jail. Dipayi Mandingis son Dama Mandingi is in jail. Narsing Wadeka is in jail with his father Palsu Wadeka, and his older brother Subana Wadeka.

Muley Mandingi is all alone in the village of Podapadar with her three children as her husband Betru Mandingi is in jail.

There are a total of 16 cases against the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh, and more than 150 undertrials in Koraput jail with no idea of their rights.

‘One man Baria Buti suffers from nightblindness,’ Says Nihar Ranjan Patnaik, their defence lawyer and President of the Bar Association, Koraput, ‘Apparently he wages war against the state only during daytime.’

The Displaced

The displaced Doms of Podapadar at the Soil Conservation Building at Koraput, Orissa

Once the Kondhs began to re-assert their rights over the jungle, numerous clashes broke out between the Kondhs and the non-tribals, especially those of the Dalit caste. There was no secret that bonded labour was endemic to Narayanpatna and that the grievances of the adivasi were genuine when it came to liquor and land alienation. Now while the liquor trade was a source of profitable trade for non-tribals, it was a source of social devastation of the adivasi Kondhs. It has been often observed that the Kondh uprising against exploitation was genuine, but clashes between the Kondhs and the Dalits led to massive displacement of the latter.

There are still around 92 families of the Dom Caste from Podapadar living in miasmic filth in decrepit government buildings for Soil Conservation of Koraput town. The stench of faeces pervades the air, and while the administration has promised them homes as per the Mo Kudia Scheme, they fear they shall soon be evicted to make way for a CRPF camp.

They had initially lived at Narayanpatna town for 15 days, and then at the Collectorate of Koraput in May of 2009 and were refused further help by the then-collector Bichitrananada Das. They literally lived in the open during the monsoons. One woman Kondo Mahanandia (50) allegedly died of starvation or ‘khaibaku na payee’, according to the IDPs at Koraput.

Eventually, on the 7th of July, Gadadhar Parida was re-posted as Collector for Koraput district. The IDPs were then moved into the Soil Conservation building and they have been living there since.

‘We lost our NREGs card and we lost our ration card,’ says Pulati Kondpan, from her ‘room’, which used to be the toilet at the Soil Conservation Building. She goes on to claim that her ration is being siphoned off at Narayanpatna, ‘If we had that rice, at least, we could have managed here.’

Similarly, Suna Bagh of Podapadar claims that he hasn’t been receiving his pension of Rs.200 per month as per the Madhu Babu Pension Scheme, while Sushil Kumar Kondpan (15) says that because of displacement, he hasn’t been able to finish his studies.

Collector Rajesh Patil claims that the majority of the IDP children have been sent to school and that pensions have been given. Relief packages have also been provided to the IDP families. Each month, they receive either 45 kilograms or 90 kilograms of rice.

The Doms meanwhile also hope for a resolution and compromise with the Kondhs of Podapadar and wish they could return to their homes. Yet as combing operations have intensified in the area, and numerous cases are filed against the Kondhs and the leaders of the CMAS, an atmosphere for a peaceful resolution seems slim.