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SITUATION CRITICAL IN BASTAR OVER LAND ACQUISITION FOR TATA STEEL PLANT

Dear Friends

The situation in Bastar is at a critical stage, with
clashes on 27-28 Feb trying to force land acquisition
for Tata's steel plant. The "manufactured civil war"
pursued by Salwa Judum continues with at least 80,000
tribal refugees in what are virtually concentration
camps.

The steel plant is planned on 2,000+ hectares of
tribal land belonging to 10 villages in Lohandiguda
block, near the amazing Chitrakot waterfall on
Indravati river. The agreement for the plant was
signed between the Chhattisgarh Govt & Tata in June
2005 - precisely the month when Salwa Judum was formed
- labelled a "people's movement against the Naxalites"
but actually a police sponsored terror militia
forcing the evacuation of one tribal village after
another, with refugees pressurized to join SJ.

On 27 Feb police in the 10 villages to try & force
thro land acquisition arrested a number of tribal
leaders and were pelted with stones. The next day
(28th) a leading non-tribal activist who had come to
support the people was hounded out of Bastar. He was
slapped in front of the hotel manager where he had
stayed in Jagdalpur, who was warned the hotel would be
burnt if he put him up again, and all Jagdalpur's
hotelowners have been told not to accept any guests
who may be opposing Tata. This activist was then
hounded by violent mobs threatening to burn him alive,
and also police accusing him of running someone over.
There is an ONLINE PETITION TO APPEAL TO CANCEL THE
PROJECT. Please sign. This is at http://www.gopetition.com/
petitions/protect-the-property-rights-of-poor-tribals.html -
the petition is called "Protect the
property rights of poor tribals".

The next day (1st March) the Collector of Dantewara
Dustrict called a meeting of all the political parties
(except CPI who are sidinmg with the tribals),
journalists, business leaders etc, and reiterated the
message that opposition to the Tata project will not
be tolerated.

The area is outstanding for the tribal culture as well
as outstanding for nature - this part of Bastar is one
of the few places in India where wild buffaloes &
Cattle survive. The tribal culture of the Maria Gond &
other tribes is one of the world's most beautiful &
wise of all surviving tribal cultures, written about
beautifully by Grigson & Elwin in the 1930s-40s. Their
culture survived intact at least till 2005 when the
Salwa Judum war started, which has split virtually all
the tribal villages into SJ versus Maoists. There have
been 1000s of deaths & rapes. See e.g. human rights
reports by Peoples Union of Civil Liberties (pucl.org)
and Asia Forum for human rights.

On 17th Feb an organisation called Rambhau Mhalgi
Prabodhini organised a day seminar in Delhi as
propaganda for SJ, at which the Chief Minister of Chh.
Raman Singh talked about Naxalism as India's greatest
threat, and the Director General of Chh. police called
SJ "a process of purification". Other pro-SJ academics
& journalists spoke of it as a "people's struggle -
the most important since Independence" etc. This is
the greatest inversion of the truth I personally have
ever come across, similar to holocaust denial. The
Naxalites are undoiubtedly misguided to use violence,
but they are opposing an extreme level of exploitation
& corruption, and stand up for the rights of tribal
people, and appear alot more principled than the SJ &
State forces opposing them. Since Bastar tribals have
been opposing Tata steel plant plans for many years,
it does actually seem that SJ was largely set up to
implement Tata & other mining/metal plans. (The Chh
Govt is also recommending Tata to prospect at
Bailadila iron ore Mt range)

Please circulate news about what's happening in the
tribal heart of India, and the terror tactics & utter
thuggery being used to promote Tata, whose steel plant
plans in Orissa at Kalinganagar caused 13 deaths in
Jan 2006, and are still being opposed there, and
similar terror tactics at Singur in W.Bengal. Please
sign the petition or take any other appropriate
action.

orissa sakhi

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posted by Resistance 3/15/2007 05:56:00 PM,

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