Anti-displacement agitators held, threatened

Moushumi Basu | Ranchi

This is the time, when the formal announcement of the State Rehabilitation & Resettlement (R&R) policy is on the anvil, when certain key investors in the power sector among others have turned their back on Jharkhand.

This is also the time, when Damodar Turi, Convener of Jharkhand Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan (JVVJVA), an umbrella of 30 organizations across the State, protesting against displacement of villagers, is arrested.

When, Dayamani Barla, frontal leader of Adivasi Moolvaasi Asthithva Raksha Manch (AMARM), opposing the Arcelor Mittal's proposed Greenfield project, in the Karra, Rania Torpa and Kamdarra blocks in the districts of Khunti and Gumla, gets death threats on her mobile phone. With two death threats since March, Barla has been asked to refrain from holding rallies and meetings with the villagers, against the steel giants. Two FIR's had been lodged by her at Chutia and Torpa PS respectively.

When, Munni Hansda, leading the Jharkhand Ulgulan Manch, against the CESC's proposed 1000 MW power plant, in Dumka, has an FIR lodged against her, including 900 unknown persons and 8 others named accused, in Kathikund PS. She has alleged, "Police is threatening to arrest me, if I do not stop holding meetings and demonstrations in the villages."

Any connections between the above? According to Shashi Bhushan Pathak, State general secretary, People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), "The State Government is deliberately applying repressive mechanisms on the agitationists. Now that the R&R policy will be announced soon, the real question on the issue of land acquisition will come into play, hence grounds are being prepared in advance to ward off the leaders who can jeopardize their future game plans."

However, for the Director General of Police, Vishnu Dayal Ram, "Why should the innocents be harassed, unnecessarily? But neither can we ignore the latest modus operandi of the Maoists of percolating into such frontal organisations that take up issues concerning the local populace, to draw the latter to their fold. Displacement is one such hot issue involving numerous villages in the state. We have to be on the alert and persons with proven connections with the Maoists can not be spared."

However, all of them obviously cannot be seen with eyes of suspicion, he added.

Meanwhile, Munni Hansda, while talking to Pioneer, retorted, "We were simply holding a meeting in the village of Aamgachi and Pokharia. It was a traditional meeting of village heads, there was no banner either, we had met to decide on the punishment of some of our fellow village persons, who were playing pimps to the agents of CESC."

But the police simply stormed into the scene to disperse the gathering. Later, an FIR was lodged at Kathikund PS, against 600 men and 300 women, (unknown), along with 9 others named including Munni Hansda, under Sections, 147, 148, 149, 353, 452, 511 and 504, pertaining to unlawful meetings , house trespass and creating obstructions to public servant in discharge of duty.

"Isn't it strange? that today, we are threatened, booked and arrested for protesting against the investors who want to take possession of our own ancestral land.... can they ever compensate for the land, which is owned by so many generations," shot back Dayamani Barla.

Meanwhile, the office of the JVVJVA, here, at Ratu road, wore a deserted look, after the arrest of Damodar Turi. The members informed, that he was lifted by the police and has been booked for possession of arms and naxal literature. "This is just a ploy to keep him away for the next couple of months," they alleged.

However, Hazaribagh SP Pravin Kumar Singh, who had led the joint operation with Ranchi police, following the arrest of Turi along with three others, from Doranda, said they were to collect documents and posters for the Maoists' Bharat Bandh on July 2, which was to be circulated in Giridih, Hazaribagh and Chatra. Incriminating documents were seized from their possession. Police intelligence point to the fact, that one of them even had close connections with the Maoist frontal leader Navin Manjhi, since the past 12 years.