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Lower Suktel Irrigation Project: Development at gun point

Jul 09, 2013

A visit to the dam site of Lower Suktel irrigation project in the east Indian state of Orissa made me realise how our democracy has become a puppet in the hands of those with political and muscle power, writes Amitabh Patra.

Manhandling

Having heard about the Lower Suktel Dam project since quite some time, I visited the villages of submergence area a couple of times to understand the true facts and people’s responses to the dam construction.

What I witnessed during my visit shook my faith in democracy and I eye-witnessed how our democracy has become a puppet in the hands of those with political and muscle power and how a handful of people who control our democracy twist it for their self-interests.

They not only misuse our police and administration but also fool people. The unfortunate incident of choking our democracy to death was witnessed by me on the unfortunate day of 29th April. It was on this day when the police, dam construction authority and district administration of Bolangir broke all laws to atrocise the peacefully democratically protesting people – the possible losers.

Make a search of Lower Suktel, on youtube.com and you will find what opinion of various people on the same – the pro-dam, people and those resisting a big dam in fear of getting displaced, uprooted and losing all their belongings, their family, society, village, culture, society, community land, forest, water and everything else, has been experienced in all the big dams that have been constructed in the state post-independence.

I arrived GS Dunguripali village at about 10:30 pm, after getting first-hand information. There were a few participants who were discussing about the frauds, cheatings and threats being given by some local goons and forced land acquisitions for the LSIP. I chit-chatted with them about their family wellbeing, condition of the villagers, what people are thinking about the dam after 22 days of protest and still the construction work on going. Had dinner and took rest.

At about 4 AM on 29th April the local people started to move to the project site, on the other bank of the river. They all walked upto a place and decided to block the roads for resistance demonstration at the entry point near the OCC Camp.

On the way they were joined by villagers of Magurbeda, who were saying that the company and govt promised them the compensation, but did not give it. So they will obstruct the construction work. As per the mutual discussion by the villagers, Magurbeda Villagers remained at the front while Budi Anchal Sangram Parishad demonstrators remain seated about 100 meters behind them.c

At about 6:00 AM, the company people came with police officials, led by SDPO Narayan Naik and Sub-Collector of Bolangir. As they arrived, irate villagers of Magurbeda stopped them from proceeding. The police official was acting as a middle-men while the sub-collector remained silent, a glaring example of role reversal.

The SDPO was showing his red eyes to the public and the armed police were cordoning the area. After about half an hour discussion the SDPO announced that the Dam Executive Engineer is promising to clear the dues.

Police atrocity on the peaceful demonstrators:

In less than 5 minutes, the SDPO announced that the time has been over, and now we are taking action, and started arresting the protestors selectively.

Women in the front did not get up and continued with their sit-in. Ladies police were also there started to threaten them and started making arrests, which the villagers resisted.

In the scuffle, the police tried to abuse and provoke the villagers using filthy languages to which the villagers objected. After this the police cordoned the entire area at both sides of the road and started beating up people selectively and arresting others.

Post assault neglect by police:

When I came to my senses, I found to be bleeding a lot from my head, nose and being carried on the road, which was about 200 meters from the ‘Dharna’ place. My belongings were not present, and I also found my towel wrapped on my head which was meant to hide the bleeding.

My throat was drying out and when I asked for water, the policemen did not bring me water. Instead one of them abused me in an un-parliamentary language. They also forced me to walk and took me to a vehicle. I kept asking for water out of thirst, but they mercilessly kept joking of me.

Neglect in giving medical facility to the injured:

I was not feeling well and all my body was aching allover including feet, legs, back, nose, head. Everywhere, I was feeling pain of being kicked, battened and punched. After some time, a few reporters arrived and interviewed me. Seeing my bad condition they asked the police to provide me immediate medical treatment.

But, the police was still reluctant in giving me any kind of medical facility despite my bad physical condition due to the brutal assault. After being pressurized by the fellow press & media people they finally sent me to the hospital. On the way some police official asked the driver and medical staff to return back the vehicle for some unknown reason.

Police IIC asking me to sign on register with Blank fields:

There the IIC was trying to get me sign on a register where there were no details in the line. On the heading of the register it was mentioned that, I have been made to understand on what charges they have arrested me, and I have been told and made aware of my constitutional rights, to which I objected, as, I was neither aware of my mistake, if any, nor any of the responsible police official told regarding that. While I was just recording the events, I was brutally assaulted by police and brought here. Listening to this he went back without getting it signed.

Government Hospital Doctor’s suspicious role

After some time, they sent me to the district Head quarter hospital, where a young lady doctor was assigned to check me. Two police men were guarding me continuously. While she had just started to examine me, one of the policemen handed over a mobile to the doctor and they talked for a brief time.

After that she did hardly any examination and did not mention any injury or visible marks on my head, nose, back, legs, hands. It seemed like someone in power influenced her, not to mention of my physical injuries, rather release me from the hospital, though I was feeling giddy and was becoming unstable, due to the baton charge on my head, kicks on the back of head, which could have easily taken away my life.d

I was punched on my nose and face and was also hit by back of the gun or brute force attack by boots to cause invisible internal damage by the police.

At that time some of my friends had arrived to see me. Then they checked my back which had become red with baton beating marks. After questioning the doctor about the non-performance of her duty, she wrote down about the injuries.

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