The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Blockade ball in govt court

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 31: The long-awaited dialogue between chief minister Naveen Patnaik and the tribals of Kalinga Nagar today ended without a concrete solution though the government said it could concede some of their demands.

At the end of a meeting that lasted over three hours, leaders of the Bisthapan Virodhi Jan Manch (BVJM) — the organisation leading the anti-displacement movement in Jajpur’s Kalinga Nagar — said they would lift the blockade only if the government fulfilled their demand for withdrawal of cases pending against some villagers and return of the chopped palms of the firing victims.

The manch, however, asserted that the villagers would not spare an inch of land for industry.

The government apparently did not want to take a risk with the panchayat polls coming up and was “prepared” to conceded a couple of demands. “Some of their demands like withdrawal of cases and return of the chopped palms can be conceded,” said the chief minister.

Patnaik said he had a “positive” discussion and hoped the villagers would lift the economic blockade in deference to a recent high court order.

“We explained to them that everyone should follow the high court order,” he told reporters after the meeting.

The villagers have been blocking the Daitari-Paradip expressway since January 2 last year in protest against the police firing that killed 13 tribals. A few months ago, they allowed passenger vehicles to pass through but the economic blockade continued, preventing the movement of mineral-laden vehicles.

On January 5, Orissa High Court directed the administration to initiate steps to facilitate lifting of the blockade. The government then initiated steps to arrange talks.

Manch secretary Rabindra Jarika said they set two conditions before the government.

First, he said, the government should give a written assurance on the withdrawal of cases instituted against some of the tribals during the anti-displacement movement. Second, it has to return the chopped palms of five of the police firing victims along with the forensic reports. “We also told the government not to allow the Tatas to step on land that is in our possession,” he said.

The manch leaders said the high court had given a directive to the government and not to them. “We will discuss the matter with our people after the government fulfils our demands and then take a decision,” said Jarika.

Jajpur collector Arabinda Padhee was present in today’s meeting with the villagers.

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