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Complaint to NHRC and NCW on Police atrocities on villagers in Balitutha, Jagatsinhpur

To,

The Chairperson

National Human Rights Commission

Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg,

New Delhi 110 001

25-8-2010

Sub: Police atrocities on villagers in Balitutha, Jagatsinhpur District, Orissa

Dear Sir,

This is to bring to your attention the unprovoked atrocities and arson carried out by the Orissa state police on a peaceful demonstration of farmers and fisherfolk in Balitutha town of Ersama block in Jagatsinhpur district, Orissa on 15th May, 2010. As you may be well aware, around 4000 acres of agricultural and forest land in the area is proposed to be acquired for setting up of a steel plant by the South Korean multinational Pohang Steel Company (POSCO). Since 2005, the inhabitants of the surrounding villages, specifically of Dhinkia, Gobindpur and Nuagaon, have been opposing the land acquisition and establishment of the factory on grounds of loss of livelihood, environmental degradation and violation of their rights to forest land under the Forest Rights Act. In this context, hundreds of villagers had been sitting on a peaceful dharna organized by the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) at Balitutha from 26th January, 2010.

On 15th May 2010, while hundreds of villagers, a majority of them being women, were assembled peacefully at the dharna site at Balitutha, 40 divisions of Orissa state police led by the Superintendent of Police of Jagatsinhpur district, ordered and then proceeded to forcibly disperse the assembled villagers. What followed was an unleashing of unspeakable atrocities on the villagers present at the site, in which the police used lathis, teargas, rubber bullets and shotgun pellets to attack the villagers, regardless of age and sex. The villagers’ wounds and their description of what happened that day in Balitutha is a grim testimony of what the state can inflict on peaceful protesters. Around two hundred people from the three villages of Dhinkia, Gobindpur and Nuagaon were injured in the brutal attack by the police. Wounds were from rubber bullets, lathis and something that is unprecedented, from pellets fired from shotguns. These are small spherical pellets, like bicycle ball-bearings, which have been fired in thousands. Many people had five or six of these metal pellets painfully embedded under their skins. This is a most inhuman weapon, which have been used in the past in Israel and South Africa to break up demonstrations without causing life-threatening injuries. The Orissa police seem to have adopted this as a new means of sowing terror among peaceful demonstrators. Without availability of doctors and unable to reach hospitals, as the police had blockaded the villages, many people were being forced to extract the pellets at home using knifes and blades even three days after the incident.

Women seem to have been especially targeted for assault and humiliation. We met the following injured personally and witnessed their injuries and heard their description of the police atrocities (photographs attached):

Mounabati Das, in her fifties, who after being hit by a rubber bullet on her leg and falling on the ground, described how she was dragged around by her hair by the police who threatened her in filthy language that this would be the consequence of resisting the government. She had a large subcutaneous blood clot from the rubber bullet which hit her thigh which seriously impeded her walking.

Tikki Bardhan, whose foot seems to have been fractured after being hit by a rubber bullet, could not walk at all. There had been no doctor to see her and plaster the fractured foot. Her husband, Bharat Bardhan, had been hit by a rubber bullet and a shotgun pellet on his face. He had barely missed losing his right eye, but the bullet broke a tooth and a blood vessel in his nose because of which he had been profusely bleeding from his nose. The shot gun pellet was still embedded in his left cheek.

Shantilata Mahapatra was hit by a rubber bullet and a shotgun pellet on her leg. She could barely walk.

Gujuri Mahanti, a 72 year old grandmother, had been hit by three rubber bullets on the back of her head, on the small of her back and behind her waist. It was difficult for her to sit or even lie down, except on her side. She described how the assembled women were attacked by the police on that day. The women had been sitting in dharna in front of the bridge. The police, who were on the bridge, ordered them to move away and clear the path. After about two hours, when they got up and turned to move away, the police suddenly attacked with tear gas, rubber bullets and pellet guns. Many of the elderly women, including herself, choking on the tear gas, somehow moved away from the spot and reached what they thought to be a safe distance, where they tried to gather together. But the police turned their fire on this group and kept firing on their backs as they tried to run away. This is clearly shown by the fact that she was hit by rubber bullets on her back. The police, who had the advantage of being situated on higher ground on the bridge, fired at will on the people assembled on lower ground at one end of the bridge. When the women were running away, the police descended from the bridge and assaulted them with lathis and dragged them around by their hair. Five of them, including a 60 year old grandmother, were dragged into police vans and taken away, without being formally arrested or without any charges.

In an unprecedented manner, the police also indulged in widespread arson at the site of the incident. Balitutha, where the incident took place had been converted into a scene of destruction. The police, exhibiting a disturbing sign of wreaking vengeance, not only burnt down the shamiana under which the dharna had been held for the last five months, but also set fire to all the roadside shops, eateries and thatched houses on one side of the Balitutha bridge. About fifteen motor cycles, many bicycles, a truck and a tractor was burnt down in this process. A shop, owned by an individual named Ranjan Sahu, was burned down resulting in the loss of goods worth Rs Five lakhs. All of this has been vividly shown on the Oriya television channels. It is absolutely unexpected that the police, considered as “keepers of the law”, would indulge in such widespread arson in the course of a police action in the presence of high officials. We apprehend that these were done under the orders of the Orissa government to sow terror amongst the villagers who have been resisting the acquisition of their land. More disturbingly, after the incident all the exit points from the villages of Dhinkia, Gobindpur and Nuagaon, through Balitutha and Trilochanpur, had been sealed by the police, and with the threat of arrest looming large on anyone who stepped out of the villages, nearly no one had received medical treatment for their wounds. With festering wounds and fractured limbs, many people, including the elderly, had to suffer their ordeal silently in the confines of their homes for several weeks after the incidence. Even till date, some of the injured people remain without medical attention.

Similar brutality on the people by the State was repeated on 2nd June 2010, when the villagers protested the forcible socio-economic survey being conducted by the district administration in Nuagoan. Armed Orissa state police attacked the people with lathis, and kicked them with boots. Over 15 people were injured in the police lathi charge. Two of the injured villagers from Nuagaon- Natha Samal and Ajay Swain were also arrested and imprisoned (were released on bail on 2nd July, 2010). Natha Samal had metal pellets embedded on his head from the 15th May attack by the police and had been unable to get treatment due to fear of arrest. Even while he was in the prison, no treatment was given to him for his injuries. Ajay Swain was severely beaten in the Kujang police station after his arrest on 2nd June.

Sir, we would like to bring to your notice that these atrocities by the Orissa police on villagers assembled peacefully gravely violates their fundamental right to freedom to assemble peacefully without arms and to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. It is also of grave concern that the police of the Indian state can inflict such brutal atrocities on peaceful protesters, especially women and the elderly. We note with growing concern the increasingly frequent cases of injuries and deaths of protesting farmers by police firing, as happened recently on 14th August, 2010 in Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh which follows the same pattern as the incident in Balitutha, Orissa. We request you to urgently investigate the matter concerning the police atrocities on villagers in Balitutha, Orissa on 15th May and in Nuagaon on 2nd June and take measures that the victims get justice and due compensation and such incidents, which are blots on our democracy, are not repeated.

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely,

Partho Sarothi Ray

96/2 Rajdanga School Road, Kolkata 700107, West Bengal.

Madhumita Dutta

H 31/39, Ashtalakshmi Gardens, Besant Nagar, Chennai 600 090, Tamil Nadu. Phone: 09444390240

Satya Sivaraman

482, Mandakini Enclave, Alaknanda, New Delhi 110019.

Encl: News clips and photos of police attack on 15th May and 2nd June 2010.

To,

The Chairperson

National Commission for Women

4, Deen Dayal Upadhayaya Marg, New Delhi110 002

25-8-2010

Sub: Police atrocities on villagers in Balitutha, Jagatsinhpur District, Orissa

Dear Madam,

This is to bring to your attention the unprovoked atrocities and arson carried out by the Orissa state police on a peaceful demonstration of farmers and fisherfolk in Balitutha town of Ersama block in Jagatsinhpur district, Orissa on 15th May, 2010. As you may be well aware, around 4000 acres of agricultural and forest land in the area is proposed to be acquired for setting up of a steel plant by the South Korean multinational Pohang Steel Company (POSCO). Since 2005, the inhabitants of the surrounding villages, specifically of Dhinkia, Gobindpur and Nuagaon, have been opposing the land acquisition and establishment of the factory on grounds of loss of livelihood, environmental degradation and violation of their rights to forest land under the Forest Rights Act. In this context, hundreds of villagers had been sitting on a peaceful dharna organized by the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) at Balitutha from 26th January, 2010.

On 15th May 2010, while hundreds of villagers, a majority of them being women, were assembled peacefully at the dharna site at Balitutha, 40 divisions of Orissa state police led by the Superintendent of Police of Jagatsinhpur district, ordered and then proceeded to forcibly disperse the assembled villagers. What followed was an unleashing of unspeakable atrocities on the villagers present at the site, in which the police used lathis, teargas, rubber bullets and shotgun pellets to attack the villagers, regardless of age and sex. The villagers’ wounds and their description of what happened that day in Balitutha is a grim testimony of what the state can inflict on peaceful protesters. Around two hundred people from the three villages of Dhinkia, Gobindpur and Nuagaon were injured in the brutal attack by the police. Wounds were from rubber bullets, lathis and something that is unprecedented, from pellets fired from shotguns. These are small spherical pellets, like bicycle ball-bearings, which have been fired in thousands. Many people had five or six of these metal pellets painfully embedded under their skins. This is a most inhuman weapon, which have been used in the past in Israel and South Africa to break up demonstrations without causing life-threatening injuries. The Orissa police seem to have adopted this as a new means of sowing terror among peaceful demonstrators. Without availability of doctors and unable to reach hospitals, as the police had blockaded the villages, many people were being forced to extract the pellets at home using knifes and blades even three days after the incident.

Women seem to have been especially targeted for assault and humiliation. We met the following injured personally and witnessed their injuries and heard their description of the police atrocities (photographs attached):

Mounabati Das, in her fifties, who after being hit by a rubber bullet on her leg and falling on the ground, described how she was dragged around by her hair by the police who threatened her in filthy language that this would be the consequence of resisting the government. She had a large subcutaneous blood clot from the rubber bullet which hit her thigh which seriously impeded her walking.

Tikki Bardhan, whose foot seems to have been fractured after being hit by a rubber bullet, could not walk at all. There had been no doctor to see her and plaster the fractured foot. Her husband, Bharat Bardhan, had been hit by a rubber bullet and a shotgun pellet on his face. He had barely missed losing his right eye, but the bullet broke a tooth and a blood vessel in his nose because of which he had been profusely bleeding from his nose. The shot gun pellet was still embedded in his left cheek.

Shantilata Mahapatra was hit by a rubber bullet and a shotgun pellet on her leg. She could barely walk.

Gujuri Mahanti, a 72 year old grandmother, had been hit by three rubber bullets on the back of her head, on the small of her back and behind her waist. It was difficult for her to sit or even lie down, except on her side. She described how the assembled women were attacked by the police on that day. The women had been sitting in dharna in front of the bridge. The police, who were on the bridge, ordered them to move away and clear the path. After about two hours, when they got up and turned to move away, the police suddenly attacked with tear gas, rubber bullets and pellet guns. Many of the elderly women, including herself, choking on the tear gas, somehow moved away from the spot and reached what they thought to be a safe distance, where they tried to gather together. But the police turned their fire on this group and kept firing on their backs as they tried to run away. This is clearly shown by the fact that she was hit by rubber bullets on her back. The police, who had the advantage of being situated on higher ground on the bridge, fired at will on the people assembled on lower ground at one end of the bridge. When the women were running away, the police descended from the bridge and assaulted them with lathis and dragged them around by their hair. Five of them, including a 60 year old grandmother, were dragged into police vans and taken away, without being formally arrested or without any charges.

In an unprecedented manner, the police also indulged in widespread arson at the site of the incident. Balitutha, where the incident took place had been converted into a scene of destruction. The police, exhibiting a disturbing sign of wreaking vengeance, not only burnt down the shamiana under which the dharna had been held for the last five months, but also set fire to all the roadside shops, eateries and thatched houses on one side of the Balitutha bridge. About fifteen motor cycles, many bicycles, a truck and a tractor was burnt down in this process. A shop, owned by an individual named Ranjan Sahu, was burned down resulting in the loss of goods worth Rs Five lakhs. All of this has been vividly shown on the Oriya television channels. It is absolutely unexpected that the police, considered as “keepers of the law”, would indulge in such widespread arson in the course of a police action in the presence of high officials. We apprehend that these were done under the orders of the Orissa government to sow terror amongst the villagers who have been resisting the acquisition of their land. More disturbingly, after the incident all the exit points from the villages of Dhinkia, Gobindpur and Nuagaon, through Balitutha and Trilochanpur, had been sealed by the police, and with the threat of arrest looming large on anyone who stepped out of the villages, nearly no one had received medical treatment for their wounds. With festering wounds and fractured limbs, many people, including the elderly, had to suffer their ordeal silently in the confines of their homes for several weeks after the incidence. Even till date, some of the injured people remain without medical attention.

Similar brutality on the people by the State was repeated on 2nd June 2010, when the villagers protested the forcible socio-economic survey being conducted by the district administration in Nuagoan. Armed Orissa state police attacked the people with lathis, and kicked them with boots. Over 15 people were injured in the police lathi charge. Two of the injured villagers from Nuagaon- Natha Samal and Ajay Swain were also arrested and imprisoned (were released on bail on 2nd July, 2010). Natha Samal had metal pellets embedded on his head from the 15th May attack by the police and had been unable to get treatment due to fear of arrest. Even while he was in the prison, no treatment was given to him for his injuries. Ajay Swain was severely beaten in the Kujang police station after his arrest on 2nd June.

Sir, we would like to bring to your notice that these atrocities by the Orissa police on villagers assembled peacefully gravely violates their fundamental right to freedom to assemble peacefully without arms and to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. It is also of grave concern that the police of the Indian state can inflict such brutal atrocities on peaceful protesters, especially women and the elderly. We note with growing concern the increasingly frequent cases of injuries and deaths of protesting farmers by police firing, as happened recently on 14th August, 2010 in Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh which follows the same pattern as the incident in Balitutha, Orissa. We request you to urgently investigate the matter concerning the police atrocities on villagers in Balitutha, Orissa on 15th May and in Nuagaon on 2nd June and take measures that the victims get justice and due compensation and such incidents, which are blots on our democracy, are not repeated.

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely

Partho Sarothi Ray

96/2 Rajdanga School Road, Kolkata 700107, West Bengal

Madhumita Dutta

H 31/39, Ashtalakshmi Gardens, Besant Nagar, Chennai 600 090, Tamil Nadu. Phone: 09444390240

Satya Sivaraman

482, Mandakini Enclave, Alaknanda, New Delhi 110019.


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Written by janjagriti

August 27, 2010 at 4:10 am

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