Closure on the tragedy has still not come about, say tribal leaders
A large number of people, many of them from Scheduled Tribes, on January 2, 2020, paid tribute to 14 tribal activists who were gunned down by the police 14 years ago in the infamous Kalinganagar shooting incident in Odisha’s Jajpur district.
The tribals — 11 men and three women — were protesting on January 2, 2006, against their forcible displacement due to the construction of a boundary wall by Tata Steel for its 6 million tonne steel plant in Kalinganagar.
Around 5,000 tribals, including leaders from other states, participated in a march that started from the “Martyrs’ Tower” in Champakoila village, and ended at the Bira Bhoomi in Ambagadia, where the 14 firing victims had been cremated.
After reaching the Bira Bhoomi, a large number of people paid tribute to the victims.
Rabindra Jaraka, the secretary of the Bistapan Birodhi Mancha, alleged that even 14 years after the incident, the Odisha government had failed to bring closure to tribals in the area.
“The government has not explained the reason behind the firing so far. Around 5,000 tribals have been displaced from their land for this steel plant. Kalinganagar is the hub of as many as 14 steel companies. But many locals, who lost their lands for industrialisation, have been deprived of jobs,” Jaraka said.
The doctors of the government hospital in Jajpur had cut off the palms of ten victims from their bodies to establish their identity through finger prints and DNA tests.
The palms were chemically preserved and kept in a plastic jar after the family members of the deceased tribals refused to accept them, demanding a DNA test.
The palms of the ten victims have not yet been cremated. For most of these 14 years, they were kept at Ambagadia village.
On November 17, 2018, the palms were stolen and thrown on the ground near the Bira Bhoomi.
Jaraka criticised the police for their failure to arrest those who had carried out the act.
The state government had been very keen to sign MoUs with big corporate houses and gift them the best deposits of iron ore at a meagre royalty, Prasant Paikray, the spokesperson of Posco Pratirodha Sangram Samiti, said.
He also criticised the decision of the state cabinet two years back to accept the report of the Inquiry Commission on the Kalinganagar firing.
“In the report, the inquiry commission had not blamed the police for the killing of 14 tribal people. That is why we totally rejected the report,” Paikray added.
The meeting was addressed by tribal activists including Amarsingh Banara, Abdul Wali, Soni Sori and others.
Security has been tightened at Kalinaganagar and its nearby areas for the 14th anniversary of the Kalinganagar firing, Rajendra Narayan Patnaik, the inspector in-charge of Kalinganagar police station, said.
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