AN inquiry team comprising human rights activist Fr Stan Swamy, anti-displacement activist Arvind Avinash, Prashant Rahi, and Anil Anshuman from the AIPF visited different villages in the main region of the Pakri-Barwadih Coal Project in Barkagaon block in Hazaribagh district on 18 June to inquire into the atrocities unleashed by the police and administration on villagers who were protesting against the forcible land grab by NTPC under their Karnapura (Pakri-Barwadih) project. They met villagers who were victims of the police oppression and spoke in detail to them. They also spoke to activists from people’s organizations fighting against the land grab and displacement of the villagers, on whom false cases have been slapped. The findings of the team have been presented in brief below:
Villagers from Sonbarsa, Sinduari, Churchu, and Dadikala said that the villagers of this area had been continuously protesting against the illegal means adopted by NTPC management for the coal project. Despite this, when the coal mining contract was given to private companies and work was first started at Chirudih Talia Tand, the neighbouring farmers (raiyyats) started an indefinite peaceful dharna from 31 March at the mining venue. On 16 May when the companies started using bulldozers, the farmers intensified their stir. On 17 May, when hundreds of farmers were participating in the dharna. Barkagaon thana in-charge Ramdayal Munda came with some policemen and asked the farmers why they had lathis if their protest was peaceful. Hearing this, the farmers put aside their lathis. Then suddenly without warning hundreds of policemen attacked them with lathis, injuring many.
After the above attack, according to 300 to 400 eyewitnesses, armed policemen attacked many nearby villages also, beating up the old, young, women, children, and anyone they could get hold of. Houses were broken into and in the absence of male members, women were obscenely abused and beaten. Household goods were destroyed. Several people were left with cracked heads and broken limbs. Even pregnant women were not spared. Wherever the inquiry team went, they could see visible proof of the police brutality.
Mukesh, an inter student from Sonbarsa village, said even the British would not have inflicted brutalities as inflicted by these policemen. 60-year-old Bhuvaneshwar Sao shared that he was beaten up so brutally that he had to get admitted in Ranchi for 5 days. Sudama Kumar, a class five student was beaten so badly that he got fever and still walks with a limp. Several children shared the brutalities they were subjected to. Similar reports came from Dadikala and Sinduari. Villagers across villages shared that for several days after the attack they were fearful and could not sleep for the police had threatened further violence unless they cleared out. The villagers told the team that the government says that this land is fallow and wants to take it away on that excuse; but in reality it is very fertile and yields good vegetable and paddy crops.
The administration has slapped false cases on activists who raise their voices for the farmers’ rights and land including Com. Mithilesh Dangi, Rajeev Ranjan, Mohd Ansari and others, who are still in the Hazaribagh Central Jail. Their hearing is being done not through physical presence but through video conferencing. Cases have been registered against 31 named persons and hundreds of unnamed persons under sections such as stone-pelting, snatching rifles from policemen, and obstructing government work. 3 members of the family of Baija Rana, struggling for their 40-acre multi-crop land are in jail. Clearly, the situation in Jharkhand is even worse than during the Emergency in 1975 as this time fascist rule is being imposed for the benefit of corporate companies. The reality is that the BJP government wishes to make Jharkhand a heaven for corporate companies and a graveyard for democracy.