Chhattisgarh Tribals protest industry policy
Raipur, Nov 5 – About 75,000 impoverished tribals, some armed with bows and arrows, took to the streets in a southern Chhattisgarh city, raising slogans against the state’s special economic zone (SEZ) policy and plans to set up steel units.
The rally at Jagdalpur, dubbed as one of the biggest protest marches of tribals in Chhattisgarh, was called by the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Mahasabha, an umbrella organisation of tribal groups.
‘Indigenous tribals of Bastar will be driven out from their native lands if the blind industrialisation plan and other schemes of the state government are carried out in the region,’ Manish Kunjam, national president of the Mahasabha, told the gathering amid anti-industry slogans at Jagdalpur, 300 km south of state capital Raipur.
Despite heavy police deployment, shopkeepers rolled down their shutters fearing violence during the march.
Tata Steel is investing Rs.100 billion to install a five-million tonnes per annum (mtpa) steel unit on 2063.06 hectare land in Bastar. The land acquisition process for it began last week.
Essar Steel will bring in Rs.70 billion for a 3.2 mtpa steel plant in Dantewada district and it will require 600 hectares of land for the purpose.
‘Tribals will not hand over their lands for steel units and will oppose authorities’ forced land acquisition. We will not allow industry majors to set up plants in Chhattisgarh at the cost of mass displacement of tribals,’ Kunjam told the protesters’ gathering.
Rally participants sought early rehabilitation of about 50,000 people of Bastar region displaced due to a fallout of the anti-Maoist civil militia movement, Salwa Judum, launched in June 2005, and 50,000 other people who were allegedly forced to flee their villages and are living as refugees in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh due to authorities’ ‘excesses’.