A decade after killing of 13 Adivasis, illegal land acquisition and impunity of TATA continues in Kalinga Nagar, Odisha

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Akash Poyam

Akash Poyam

Founder/Editor at Adivasi Resurgence
A Koitur from Balrampur, Chhattisgarh. Currently pursuing M.Phil. in Department of Sociology at University of Hyderabad.

Email- poyam.akash@gmail.com
Akash Poyam

As one rides along the roads of ‘developed’ industrial hub of Kalinga Nagar, the bright lights of TATA Steel plant are soon overshadowed by a memorial pillar at Ambagadia village. The 70-feet-high pillar on the road side is where all the 13 victims were mass cremated. This gloominess intensifies as one moves further and sees the newly constructed boundaries over forest land in nearby villages of TATA plant.

11 years ago, on 2 January 2006, a group of Adivasi farmers had protested against the land acquisition for TATA steel plant and became victim of one of the most gruesome violence on Adivasis by the state. Total 13 people were killed on the spot and 4 more scummbed to injuries after police open fired on the Adivasi protesters. After their killings, even their dead bodies were mutilated by chopping off private organs of both men and women.  No compensation was paid, neither any adequate rehabilitation package was given leaving many Adivasis homeless. Earlier who expected empolyment opportunities for their youths also were left hopeless even after ten years. Displaced, victimised and exploited the helpless Adivasis population are still seeking for justice.

The memorial of Adivasis who died in the police firing. (Photo Courtesy: Basudev Mahapatra)

According to a media report, on the Kalinga Nagar killings,”…the District Administration has been trying to take over the land for TATA steel for the last few months after an attempt to start construction on 9th May, 2005 was foiled by resistance by the local Adivasis, who claimed that they will not vacate the land till their demands are met. During their annual get together at Chandiya on Jan 1st, the people came to know through sources within the administration that the TATAs would initiate Boundary wall construction on the 2nd January, 2006 without taking the consent of the people. The tribals decided to oppose attempt as they have opposed other attempts earlier.

On 2nd January, 2006 morning, the district administration including the Collector and the SP and TATA Steel officials reached the site with a bulldozer, and started construction of the boundary wall. The team was escorted by 12 platoons of armed police armed with sophisticated weapons.”[i]

It is within this backdrop of state and capitalist impunity, the Adivasis are to relive the painful experience like a reminder. The company has now been trying to forcefully acquire land through unsolicited means, in collaboration with the Odisha state. The construction of boundary wall began last year, but has come to lime light this year after a social media page on Facebook started documenting and sharing photos of the illegal construction. However, these informants are now hounded. According to an activitst who himself received threats and intimidation for their expose, ‘The locals who are trying to expose TATA are now being hounded and threatened by the hired goons. Most of the informants of TATAs illegal work are young unemployed Adivasis themselves, whose vulnerabilities are being misused’. Still largely, whatever is happening in Kalinga Nagar is unknown to most of the country citizens.

Chandiya and Gobarghati Panchayats under Kalinga Nagar Police Station are the two areas which are directly affected by the current (extended) land acquisition by TATA Steel. The villages are located about 2-3 kms from TATA Steel Plant and are predominantly populated by Ho community.  In 1992, a total of 1419.95 ha. of forest land was diverted by the Odisha government for the purpose of Iron ore based industries at Jakhapura – located 8-9 kms away from TATA plant Kalinga Nagar. A letter to the Secretary, Forest Department, Odisha in 1992 notes that – “legal status of the forest land will remain unchanged. No forest land will be utilized for construction of factory, township etc. 176 ha of forest area proposed for construction of township should be located in the non-forest area the proposed area should be used for green belt plantation using mainly indigenous species…Forest area which contains 1.13 lakhs trees, no tree cutting shall be done and this area shall be part of green belt.” [The letter attached below.]

National Green Tribunal in its order dated 05.01.2017 (attached below) directed that, “…according to the Id. Sr. Counsel, the 5th respondent has got forest clearance. However no copy has been produced in this respect. He is directed to produce the same on the next date of hearing. Till then no further construction and tree felling will be made…” The order further refers to 1992 document for diversion of forest land and notes that, original forest clearance were modified in 2005 and condition 2 of the 1993 order was deleted. Showing it’s concern over clause 6 of the Forest Clearance dated 3.2.1993 which prohibits user agency in cutting of 1.13 lakhs trees, the tribunal ordered that “the user agency would submit that the said 76 ha are not under their possession and they have not cut any trees in the said area…we direct that either the 5th Respondent or any other person shall not be permitted to cut any tree in that area…meanwhile we direct the DFO to inspect the portion concerned and file a detailed status report on physical features.”  (Document attached below)

The land that is now being illegally acquired by TATA was initially proposed for one interpreted/independent Steel plant of capacity of 3 million tonnes per annum, two more steel plants of 1-1.3 million tonnes per annum, two Pig Iron Plants, one Hot Strip Mill and other ancillary Industries at the site. Ministry of Environment and Forest gave lease to TATA, while the land was acquired for the (public) steel plant. The land acquisition order came in 1992 and meagre compensation (₹37,000 per acre) was paid to the people. The promise of rehabilitation at Tata colony Gobarghati, Sansahilo colony, was offered with 10 dismil to each family.

After the new acquisition, Government and company offered 1 lakh and 4 lakhs respectively for the total sum of 5 lakh, of which, interestingly, previous compensation amount 37,000 was deducted.  While the proposal was opposed by the people, which also led to the killing of Adivasis, people were finally forced to leave the area while Adivasis were protesting. People finally left their land by 2009-10.


Images of illegal construction by TATA :


(Compilation of photos by: Priyanka Purty)


According to a resident of nearby village, “TATA company is forcefully taking land beyond the limit they were sanctioned. Ramra Jarika, one of the resident had a house in forest land, but the administration had broken their house recently. Meanwhile, many people have complained that their names are not there in the list of remuneration/beneficiaries list.”He adds that, “1500 acres of our land has been taken by TATA, without permission. When TATA started extending its prescribed limit, people gave complaint to Administration but they did not take any action. After that people reached Green Tribunal, which has given stay order in January 2017.” However the NGT stay order are still being violated without any scrutiny.

The state government in May 2017 maintained that the judicial commission, which probed the killing of 13 people in police firing at Kalinga Nagar in Jajpur district in 2006, has not indicted any official for the incident.
“The judicial panel headed by Justice Pradyumna Kumar Mohanty has not made recommendation against any official for the police firing incident,” Minister for Food Supplies, Consumer Welfare and Cooperation Surya Narayan Patro told mediapersons after the Cabinet approved a proposal to place the final report of the Commission of Inquiry in the Assembly – according to an Indian Express report.

According to Patro “one member from the families of the persons deceased on account of police firing had been offered employment by the beneficiary companies in Kalinga Nagar Integrated Industrial Complex”. This insignificant gesture on top of ‘no indictment’ comes out as great humiliation for these families who were opposing TATA plant in 2006. The nexus between TATA and Odisha state government has only intensified over time and hope of justice to the families of deceased Adivasis in Kalinga Nagar has become grim with commissions’ report. The recent negligence of NGT order and further land grab and construction by TATA with support of district administration only goes on to prove this nexus and continuing violence in Adivasi villages of Kalinga Nagar.


[i] https://www.countercurrents.org/hr-im060106.htm

Profile photo of Akash Poyam

Akash Poyam

A Koitur from Balrampur, Chhattisgarh. Currently pursuing M.Phil. in Department of Sociology at University of Hyderabad. Email- poyam.akash@gmail.com

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