Narayanpatna is a block in Koraput district of Orissa (bordering AP), mostly populated by tribals and some dalits. Here, lands belonging to tribals have been grabbed over time by non-tribal landlords, liquor mafia etc, in violation of the Orissa Land Reforms Act and the Orissa Scheduled Areas Transfer of Immovable Property Regulation. In spite of the fact that the area falls under the 5th Schedule, the Government has made no efforts to recover and redistribute tribal land. The impoverished tribals here mostly work as bonded labour for landlords.
Some tribal youths led by Lachika Linga, himself a bonded labourer who managed to free himself from bondage, formed the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha, which led struggles to recover and redistribute adivasi lands illegally taken over by non-tribals. In retaliation, private companies and landlords began sponsoring Salwa Judum- or Ranveer Sena-type ‘peace committees’ (Shanti Samitis) that are basically private armies, branding the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha as a ‘Maoist’ front.
Women’s team’s visit to Dantewada disrupted
Recently, in combing operations for alleged ‘Maoists’, the police indulged in severe repression and harassment of women and children. In protest, on 20 November, 200 CMAS members including 100 women came to Narayanpatna Police Station. When a delegation of leaders was meeting police officials, forces on the roof of the police station began to fire on the crowd gathered outside, and then directly at leaders. One CMAS leader Singanna and another member Andru Nachika of Bhaliaput village were killed in the firing and around 60 more seriously injured.
On 23 November, CPI(ML) State Committee members attended the cremation of Singanna and Andru Nachika. The CPI(ML) Liberation, along with CPI(ML) New Democracy and other ML groups jointly gave a call for a South Orissa bandh, and our comrades participated in the bandh to make it a success in districts of Rayagada, Koraput, Kalahandi, Gajapati, and the state capital of Bhubaneswar, in the course of which some 100 Liberation activists were arrested. At Bhubaneswar, Liberation activists held a rail roko.
The protests continue as the police continue with arrests of supporters and sympathizers of the CMAS, branding it a ‘Maoist’ outfit. Nachika Linga has been branded “most wanted.” It is clear that the Aditya Birla group that is mining bauxite in Deomali hill tracts in Narayanpatna is also backing the repression and even funding the Santi Samitis.
Interestingly, not long ago when the CMAS movement for land recovery was at its peak, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Revenue Minister Surya Narayan Patra had declared its demands genuine, and promised recovery of tribal lands. Now Naveen has done a volte face, deploying police and paramilitary against tribals to defend the non-tribals’ illegal land holdings and interests of corporates.
There is an attempt to paint the whole issue as an assault by CMAS on dalits; but this is a false picture. The non-tribals who have seized tribal land illegally are Dalits who are moneylenders, and liquor mafias – they employ poor Dalits as labourers. When CMAS took over the lands, dalit bonded labourers initially fled, but the CMAS gave a call, widely publicised in local media, for poor dalits to return without fear.
At Narayanpatna, the attack on democracy is so severe that even a women’s fact-finding team attempting to visit the affected villages and meet with adivasi women to investigate the incident, were beaten up on the premises of the Narayanpatna police station by police in civil dress as well as non-tribals.
In Patangi, the constituency near Narayanpatna, our MLA candidate in the last Assembly polls, Jaga Hika, has been jailed on false charges of “Maoist” connections. Clearly, the Naveen Govt has decided to crack down on all manner of democratic and adivasi movements, branding all and sundry as ‘Maoists’.