Bhubaneswar, Nov 20 (LocalWire) Human rights network Amnesty
India has asked the Odisha government to uphold law and order in the
Niyamgiri hills and halt alleged police intimidation of the indigenous
Dongria Kondh community.
“Allegations of police intimidation and ill-treatment of the Dongria
Kondh community in the Niyamgiri hills are deeply disturbing. It is
unacceptable that the police ill-treat and abuse the very people they
have a duty to protect,” said Manohar Chauhan, Senior Campaigner,
“The authorities should carry out a prompt and impartial
investigation into the police’s conduct and bring to justice any
officer suspected to be responsible,” he said.
Earlier on Oct 25, at a press conference held in Bhubaneswar, leaders
of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS), a community organization that
opposes mining in the Niyamgiri hills, alleged that police arbitrarily
pick up, detain and ill-treat members of the community.
NSS president Lada Sikaka claimed that on Oct 20 he was picked up by
local police from the old market in Lanjigarh and taken to the police
station, where he was brutally beaten.
Senior NSS member Dadhi Kadarka alleged on Oct 8 he was picked up by
the Rayagada police from the Munikhol Panchayat office and taken to
the office of the Superintendent of Police, Rayagada, where he was
subjected to physical violence.
He further said in a similar manner, on Oct 18, police picked up Jamu
Gauda from Lanjigarh Market and beat him in an effort to get
information on ‘Maoist movements’ in the area.
Lada Sikaka alleged that all those who were picked up by the police
were either “compelled to surrender as a ‘Maoist’ or to give
information on ‘Maoist links’”. However, if they explained that they
did not have any such information, the police would torture or
ill-treat them, and threaten them with imprisonment.
On Oct 23, the NSS had planned a peaceful protest against the police
intimidation, and the harassment by Maoist groups, that the Dongria
Kondh community in Niyamgiri hills faces.
The protest was supposed to take place outside the office of the
District Collector of Rayagada.
Lingaraj Azad, a senior organizer of NSS, informed Amnesty India that
on Oct 20, the Superintendent of Police, Kalahandi, called and asked
them to stop the planned protest or face severe consequences.
Therefore, the protest had to be cancelled.
“People have a right to peaceful protest under the Constitution of
India and international law. The authorities have a duty to heed the
voices of the Indigenous Dongria Kondh community and ensure that their
rights are upheld,” said Manohar Chauhan.
After the press conference, on the same day, members of the Dongria
Kondh community and activists from the state, submitted a petition to
Odisha Chief Naveen Patnaik, demanding an impartial investigation into
the allegations and stringent action against those found to be
So far, there has been no response from the authorities, the
Lingaraj Azad from the NSS said,“While there has not been any further
arrests, torture or ill-treatment by the police after the press
conference, the police from Rayagada and Kalahandi districts continue
to call and harass community members, especially those who belong to
“Despite the NSS cooperating with the police in their duties and
investigations, the police threaten to arrest people for alleged
crimes and refuse toprovide substantial evidence related to their
claims. People are living in a constant state of fear, these police
actions must be condemned,” he said.
In April 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the Indigenous (Adivasi)
communities – the Dongria Kondh – will have the final decision on
plans for a bauxite mine by a subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta Resources
in the Niyamgiri hills of Odisha.
Based on this decision, in a series of Gram Sabhas held by the Dongria
Kondh communities, the people unanimously voted against the proposed
mining project in the Niyamgiri hills.
Many members of the Dongria Kondh communities consider the Niyamgiri
hills to be sacred and inhabited by a deity that they worship.
They contended that mining would severely undermine their rights
pertaining to their traditional lands, socio-cultural practices and
religion. It would also pose serious risks to their rights to water,
food, work, and an adequate standard of living.
The presence of the Central Reserve Police Force and the Maoist groups
in the Niyamgiri hills has made the life of the Dongria Kondh people
very difficult.Police reportedly target community members as they are
perceived to be supporters of Maoist groups, while Maoist groups
target them as they are perceived to be police informants.The Dongria
Kondh community face harassment and intimidation from all sides.
Under international human rights law and standards, states have a
specific obligation to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples.
These rights are recognized in the UN Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples, and also by UN treaty bodies interpreting the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and
the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial
Discrimination, to all of which India is a state party.
Amnesty International India is a diverse and democratic movement of
people who share fundamental global values – dignity, freedom,
justice, equality for all.