NAPM expresses outrage at the firing at peaceful protest of farmers-workers in Sonbhadra

Brutal assault on the constitutional rights of Dalits and Adivasison Ambedkar Jayanti!

Stop forcible land acquisition and illegal construction of Kanhar Dam, Implement Land and Forest Rights!

14th April 2015, New Delhi: While the memory of bloodshed in Telangana and AP is still fresh, another incident of brazen violence unleashed by the police and state machinery has come to the fore in Sonbhadra, Uttar Pradesh. Police opened fired at the peaceful protest of adivasis and dalits today morning, followed by brutal lathi charge, which has left many, including women, gravely injured. It is indeed a painful irony that the villagers were celebrating ‘Save the Constitution Day’ on Babasaheb Ambedkar Jayanti when this ruthless assault of the very soul and spirit of Constitution took place.

The protest, which saw participation of thousands of villagers, was a continuation of the struggle against land acquisition and large-scale displacement by the controversial Kanhar Dam. Without conducting any fresh cost benefit analysis and social and environmental impact assessments, and violating the order of the National Green Tribunal dated 24thDecember 2014 which mandated Environment Clearance and Forest Clearance for any construction to be done by the Irrigation Department of UP, the government is illegally going ahead with the construction. Kanhar Irrigation Project was originally approved by the Central Water Commission in September, 1976. The project is located downstream of the confluence of River Pagan with Kanhar near village Sugawan in Tehsil Dudhi of District Sonebhadra, Uttar Pradesh. The project proposes a 3.003 km earthen dam having a maximum height of 39.90 m from deepest bed level which may be increased to 52.90 m if linked to Rihand reservoir. The project envisages submergence of 4131.5 Ha land of 111 villages which includes parts of Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. The project was completeley abandoned since 1989 and construction work is started on 5th December, 2014. Information accessed under RTI shows that the project does not have a valid ‘Environment Clearance’ and ‘Forest Clearance’.

Further, Kanhar dam will feed water to Rihand reservoir, the water from which is being used for nearly 25-30000 MW of electricity generation in Singrauli, which is witness to all kinds of violence against the tribal people. Some of them have already faced multiple displacements, police harassment and wrecked environmental disaster for years now.

As the resistance against land acquisition and struggle for land rights intensifies in every nook and corner of the country, this valiant battle lead by women in villages of Sonbhadra and the attempts to repress it by the state government brings out the double standards of the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) in UP. On one hand the SP has been opposing the Land Acquisition Ordinance brought out by the BJP-led Government at centre and on the other hand, it attacks peaceful protesters who are demanding land rights in its own state. The denial of land rights, and gross violations of the right to life, livelihood and dignity of the marginalized, for mere political gains across political spectrum clearly hints towards moral degradation of the party politics in India on the one hand and the swelling corporate-builder-bureaucrat-political nexus on the other.

The National Alliance of People’s Movements expresses its outrage at the incident and strongly condemns the police and administration for firing at the citizens. We are shocked at the growing number of instances of state violence, impunity of police and targeted attacks on the most marginalized people of this country.

We demand immediate disciplinary and legal action against the officials involved in this heinous act and compensation, medical relief to all affected persons and their families. An independent judicial probe must be initiated at the earliest to ensure the justice is rendered.

We express solidarity with the struggle against Kanhar Dam and demand that the illegal construction of dam be immediately stopped, a participatory review of the Project be initiated at the earliest, consultations be held with the Gram Sabhas and land and forest rights of the adivasis, as enshrined in the Constitution of India, be guaranteed.

NAPM India