New Delhi : On the night of 26th June, Prafulla Samantara, senior activist and National Convener, NAPM and Lingraj Azad, Samajwadi Jan Parishad was attacked at Bolangir station, while returning from a Padyatra organised by the people opposing Lower Suktel Project in the region.
They were attacked by the President of Bolangir Lower Suktel Action Committee and his supporters. It has to be noted here that Lower Suktel Action Committee is the group which supports commencement of the project. Odisha government has managed to create a conflict and division amongst people, who is fuelling this kind of violence in the region, only to grab land, water and forest from communities.
A section of the Bolangir press and local police rushed to the spot and rescued them. Prafulla Samantara has reached back Bhubaneswar. It was never expected of the President of the Action Committee Mr. Panda to resort to undemocratic and brutal methods to express his anger and frustrations. In the last but one issue of the Samadrusti, Prafulla Samantara had appealed Mr. Panda to come for an open discussion on the issue. Mr. Panda discuused it openly by attacking him last night.
Lower Suktel Project is one of the hundreds of projects being implemented in name of development in Odisha which is displacing the adivasis, workers, farmers in favour of the capitalists. The project got its environment clearance during 1980s, but no construction started after that. The government has spent a large amount of money on paper on the rehabilitation of the displaced people. In 2013, the govt. tried to start the construction by forcefully acquiring the land but due to strong protest and resistance of the people they could not do it. Villagers were even brutally attacked but protests have continued. National Alliance of People’s Movements supports their struggle for a dignified livelihood and to save their land, water and forest from forceful acquistion.
Prafulla Samantara is one of the most visible activists of Odisha, playing an active role in supporting various people’s movements like anti-POSCO movement, anti-Vedanta movement and many other struggles in Odisha. He is also a petitioner to the Supreme Court’s committee to protect Niyamgiri as well as a petitioner for the Saxena Committee whose report forced the Ministry of Environment and Forests to suspend the clearance for Vedanta. Lingaraj Bhai is a renowned peasant leader and Secretary of Samajwadi Jan Parishad.
We understand that the recent attacks and many other previous attacks on the life of Prafulla Samantara is based on the committed action and writings of him, against the massive ecological destruction and displacement initiated by the industrialists, capitalists with the help of the State Government.
NAPM demands that Odisha government must desist from further acquisition in the area, since water will no longer be used for irrigation but for meeting the needs of the industry. It should also stop dividing and supporting a section of people pitching them against their own fellow beings. The struggle of people in defence of their livelihood and natural resources will continue and grow in strength with support from people’s movements across the country.
Medha Patkar, Dr. Sunilam, Arundhati Dhuru, Gabriele Deitrich, Sister Celia, Ramakrishna Raju, C R Neelkandan, Sudhir Vombetekere, Bhupender Singh Rawat, Saraswati Kavula, Kamayani Swami, Mahendra Yadav, Rajendra Ravi, Vimal Bhai, Meera, Madhuresh Kumar, Seela M Mahapatra. (साउथ एशिया सिटीजन वेब)