The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jharkhand fuel to Orissa fire

Ranchi, Jan. 2: Tribal leaders of Jharkhand have vowed to intensify their struggle against “outsiders” intending to set up industrial units in the state following the death of tribals in alleged police firing in neighbouring Orissa.

The tribals of Kalinga Nagar, in Orissa’s Jajpur district, were reportedly opposing the construction of a boundary wall coming up for a Tata steel plant when trouble broke out today.

The tribals reportedly threw stones at the policemen, injuring several of them. Some of the injured tribals, however, said they retaliated only after the police fired.

The tribals, mostly from the villages situated around the Kalinga Nagar industrial complex, then turned violent and hacked a policeman to death.

The area of Kalinga Nagar is being developed as a steel hub, but the tribals are opposed to it. They believe the project would alienate them from their land.

In Jharkhand, too, there are plans to set up steel plants in the state, which is rich in ore. Steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal has signed an MoU with the state government.

But Jamin Bachao Andolan convener and former Congress MLA Deo Kumar Dhan has decided to take up the cause of the Orissa tribals. Reacting to the alleged police firing deaths, he said a meeting of 30 villages, spread over the Manoharpur area in Singhbhum district, has been called tomorrow to intensify the “people’s resistance” against the proposed Mittal steel project in the region.

“Tomorrow’s protest rally is to be followed by another such meet at Karra in Ranchi on January 10. All outsiders, who cannot speak the mundari tongue, would be prohibited entry into the tribal dominated areas,” Dhan stressed.

He said his organisation would not resort to violence, but emphasised that they were ready to face the police bullets to stop further alienation of tribals from their land.

When asked if they were opposed to speedy industrialisation of the state, Dhan said they were committed to their promise to not let outsiders set foot on tribal land in the state. “Jan denge par jamin nahin denge (We will give up our lives rather than part with our land),” he said.

Dhan said that there have been instances when tribals have given their agricultural land to others on the condition that 50 per cent of the produce is shared with the land holder. “We may agree to allow entrepreneurs to set up units on our lands on the same condition,” he said, but “we shall not sell our lands to outsiders. Ownership of all lands would rest with the original holders”.

Jharkhand Janadhikar Party vice-president Ratan Tirkey stressed that the Orissa incident had only strengthened their resolve not to give even an inch of their plots to the 40 odd entrepreneurs who have so far signed pacts with the state government.

“We have won the battle at Koel Karo where we have forced the state to withdraw construction of the proposed 420-mw hydel project as it would have displaced several lakh tribals. We have thwarted a central move to set up a field firing range at Netarhat. We will win this battle too,” Tirkey, also a spokesman of the Adivasi Janadhikar Morcha, said.

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