India: Death of one Human Rights Defender Mr. Dani Batra and injuring about 30 other protestors in Lanjigarh
April 1, 2019, 11:12 am
Background of the incident:
Vedanta, a multi-national mining private company, is reported to have acquired about 3,000 acres of land from 2004 onwards, around Lanjigarh and other surrounding villages in Kalahandi district of Odisha for construction of an aluminum refinery plant. The company promised to provide permanent jobs to the native tribal community in the plant and also to provide healthcare, education and other facilities for the displaced community. Over a decade since then, Vedanta has not fulfilled its promises and responded to the demands of the native people who have been displaced due the construction of the aluminium refinery plant. As the demand and promises were not fulfilled by the company, the displaced community used to peacefully protest on a given day every month in front of the Vedanta’s plant in Lanjigarh.
Details of the Incident:
As per the sources, on March 18, 2019, morning at about 10 AM, displaced villagers and local contract workers from the Vedanta’s aluminum refinery plant had gathered in front of the plant to peacefully protest for their demands. The security of the plant is provided by the OISF, a special police force formed by the Odisha State Government to protect the industries owned by the government and also extended its protection to private companies. As they were protesting peacefully, the OISF personnel tried to evict the protestors which was resisted by the displaced villagers. It is alleged that the OISF personnel started to physically attack the protestors and used force to dispel the crowd. This resulted in injuries to almost 30 protestors and death of Mr. Dani Batra. This incident comes as a shock as it is less than a year since the brutal killing of 13 peaceful protestors against Sterlite Industries, a copper smelter plant owned by Vedanta in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu. It is strongly believed that Vedanta’s collusion with the State and its unjust legal and regulatory mechanisms have led to the unethical practices and displacement of the tribals and Adivasis in Lanjigarh. Further the resettlement, rehabilitation and development of the locals as promised by the company is not fulfilled and therefore infringed the right to life of the locals as guaranteed by the Constitution of India. Further, arbitrary lathichargeleading to death and grievous injuries to peaceful protestors qualifies as highhandedness by the company and the State. It is evident that standard operating norms for the police weren’t followed by the OISF personnel.
This excessive and unjustifiable useof force was just to silence and deter any peaceful protest which once again violates fundamental rights and freedoms as guaranteed Indian Constitution and therefore requires urgent and immediate attention of this Commission.