Protesters squat near a Tata Steel office in Dimna on Wednesday. Picture by Bhola Prasad
Around 200 descendants of families, who had been displaced during creation of Dimna lake in the early 1940s, were arrested while trying to lock up Tata Steel offices on Wednesday afternoon. They were released in the evening.
The protesters under the aegis of Jharkhand Mukti Vahini had planned to lock up Tata Steel Management Development Centre, Mirzadih rest house, Dimna house and staff quarters of the company’s water management department, seeking cash or livelihood options such as fishing or boating in the lake.
The 200 tribals, including the 50 who had been carrying out jal satyagraha by standing in waist-deep water in Dimna lake since Monday, walked around a kilometre from the agitation site to lock up Tata Steel offices when they were taken into preventive custody by Bodam police near the development centre’s gate.
“We have been staging the jal satyagraha since Monday. But neither the East Singhbhum district nor Tata Steel officials bothered to lend an ear to our woes. In keeping with our agitation plans, we decided to proceed towards Tata Steel offices to lock them up today (Wednesday). However, the police prevented us after which we staged a dharna. Thereafter, we were arrested,” said Jharkhand Mukti Vahini convener Madan Mohan.
The protesters, armed with traditional musical instruments and tribal weapons, alleged that so far, more than a dozen rounds of meetings had taken place among the displaced, Tata Steel and the district administration, but no solution was worked out.
“At every meeting, Tata Steel promises to give us permission to carry out boating and fishing activities in the lake for a livelihood. But it has never given us the sanction in writing. Neither have we been paid any compensation,” Mohan claimed.
Dhalbhum subdivisional officer Prem Ranjan, meanwhile, passed on a message to the protesters through Bodam block development officer Dipu Kumar that a tripartite meeting would be held at the district collectorate on the issue on Thursday.
“The meeting will be held among Tata Steel officials, displaced families and district administration to find a permanent solution to the problem,” said Patamda circle inspector A.K. Tiwary.
However, the displaced have vowed to continue the agitation if the talks ended inconclusively.
More than 2,000 families from 12 panchayats under Patamda block were displaced during construction of Dimna reservoir in 1942-43. Around 1861 acres were acquired under the Land Acquisition Act 1894 for the dam.