|An injured tribal|
In a gruesome incident, early morning on Saturday, the Jharkhand police is said to have left five persons dead and many injured as it opened fire on the villagers protesting “forcible land acquisition” for a thermal power plant being built by the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) in district Hazaribagh, Chirdudih area.
The firing, according to independent sources, has left five people dead, 12 critically injured and nearly 50 injured. There is a curfew in the area, and outsiders can’t go, and many missing are yet to be traced, these sources added.
While protests against the NTPC plant have been going on since 2010, when the project was announced, critics says, till date far acquired 8,056 acres of land acquired, most it “forcibly and fraudulently.”
This has happened despite the fact that, it is suggested, many issues even on the acquired land remains to be resolved, including higher compensation, employment and so on.
“Without meeting any of the promises and resolving the outstanding issues, attempts continue to be made to forcibly acquire more land, completely violating many provisions of the Land Acquisition Act (LAA)”, 2013, says National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), a network of tens of civil rights organizations, in an early statement.
The latest round of protests began at the site about 10 days days ago, with thousands from different villages staging “kafan” (shroud) satyagraha at Badkagaon village.
“Government rather than trying to resolve the situation tried to arrest one of the leaders and after resistance from the villagers resorted to police firing leading to death of five people”, NAPM has contended.
Condemning the incident as a “dastardly act of terror and unprovoked firing on the long resistance against the forcible acquisition of land”, NAPM has said, “This incident comes barely few months after a police firing on villagers protesting ill impacts of thermal power plants left two dead in Ramgarh district.”
It adds, “The impunity with which the Jharkhand government has been dealing with peaceful protests and several instances of opening fire on the peaceful protesters raises serious questions of violations of human rights and complete disregard for the law and order.”
“The incident also exposes the continued repression and exploitation of the adivasis and the land despite Jharkhand becoming a separate state in 2001. In 15 years, the Indian State and political class has only colluded with the private corporations for exploiting the natural resources”, the statement says.
It adds, “This has often faced stiff resistance from the people and led to manifold instances of police firing, imprisonment and torture.”
In a letter written to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), NAPM convener, well-known social activist Medha Patkar and her colleague Madhuresh Kumar, have sought immediate “stop to this reign of terror”, adding, the police should be immediately “withdraw from the area” injured be “treated”.
Asking in the letter to NHRC chairman HL Dattu to ensure that the state government does not to begin “witchhunt and arrest of the villagers as we have witnessed in numerous instances in past”, the letter says, the government should take “immediate action on the police officials who ordered firing.”
Seeking NHRC intervention to “to stop an end to the forcible land acquisition, which is rampant in the state and often has led to the death and imprisonment of the adivasis and farmers there”, the letter says, all “outstanding issues” with the tribals should be settled immediately.