Vol. XL No. 42 October 16, 2016

Jharkhand: Barkagaon Police Firing Lays Bare Barbaric Designs of BJP Govt

Prakash Viplav

THE Barkagaon police firing incident, in which four persons including two minor students were killed, lays bare the barbaric designs of the BJP-AJSU government in Jharkhand and its intentions of serving the interests of the corporates at the cost of the toiling masses of the state.

On October 1, police resorted to unprovoked firing on the agitating peasants who were demanding proper compensation for their lands that were acquired for mining operations to supply coal to NTPC power plants. The peasants had been on ‘kafan satyagraha’ under the leadership of local MLA Nirmala Devi for 16 days. Police arrested Nirmala Devi from the venue of the dharna in the early hours of October 1. As the villagers resisted her arrest, police opened indiscriminate firing on the villagers without warning, killing four persons and injuring more than 50, 12 of whom were still critical.

A delegation of CPI(M), led by state secretary G K Baksi and comprising Ram Chandra Thakur, Sufal Mahato  (state secretariat members), Birendra Kumar (state committee member) and Hazaribagh district secretary Ganesh Kumar Verma visited the affected villages of Chirudih, Dadhikala, Sindwari and Sonbarsa, and met the family members of the victims. An atmosphere of gloom and terror loomed over the villages. The team assured the villages that the party would extend all possible help to them. It was observed that the villagers were hesitant to open their mouths about the incident out of fear of backlash by the police administration. Later, some villagers said that police arrived at the site of dharna at 5 AM on the day of firing and began assaulting the villagers who were then sleeping and arrested the local legislator. When the villagers protested, police resorted to unprovoked firing. The victims were hit by bullets in their head, chest and upper torso, a fact which lays bare the intention of the police action. The CPI(M) delegation also met the injured at the Hazaribagh Sadar Hospital.

NTPC is to start three units of a thermal power plant at Tandwa in neighbouring Chatra district, and as a result Pakri-Barwadih mines project is being run in North Karnpura Coal Block to meet the requirements of the power plant. NTPC has given the mining project to Triveni Sainik Mining, a private mining company. There is a requirement of 8,055 acres of land for the project, out of which 4,043 acres of land has already been acquired. The land acquired contains forest land, wasteland, green land and government-owned land, in addition to large tracts of cultivated land, most of which is multi-crop land. As a result of the acquisition, 8,745 families have been displaced and out of them, only 2,614 have received compensation. Most of the ryots in the area were against acquisition of their lands, which has resulted in stiff resistance being put up by them. There have been several instances of clashes between villagers and police in the past.

The October 1 police firing clearly indicates the pro-corporate, anti-farmer, anti-people stance of the BJP-led Raghubar Das government in the state. Only a month ago, two farmers were killed in police action in Gola in Ramgarh District while they were protesting against forcible acquisition of land. The latest incident is a bead in the chain of assaults being unleashed by the government against the people of the state in pursuit of neo-liberal policies that would serve the interests of the bourgeoisie. In the name of ‘Momentum Jharkhand’, the mineral wealth of the state is being exposed to corporate loot.

The Left parties in the state have severely condemned the firing incident. On October 1 itself, protest marches were organised by the CPI(M) and other Left parties in most of the districts in the state. On October 2, a joint press conference of Left and secular parties was organised in Hazaribagh, where the entire incident was condemned. A delegation of Left and secular democratic parties met the Governor of Jharkhand on October 5 and demanded a high level judicial inquiry into the matter, proper compensation to the displaced and the victims, and stern action against those responsible for the firing incident. Meanwhile, a delegation of Left parties was stopped by the police from entering Barkagaon on October 4 at the behest of the state government. The leaders sat on a dharna at the spot where they were stopped. The Left parties would organise a Sankalp Sabha at Barkagaon on October 17 and a state-wide bandh call has been given on October 24.

On October 3, addressing a press conference in Ranchi, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat said: “We strongly condemn the police firing in Barkagaon, killing four kisans. The BJP-RSS Jharkhand government has conducted ‘surgical strikes’ against kisan protesting against land grab. Let Modi-Bhagwat answer: Is this nationalism? Shame on them.”

The Jharkhand High Court has taken up the case of police firing suo motu and asked the DGP and the Chief Secretary of the state to submit their reports before it. The Barkagaon incident has increased resentment against the BJP rule in the state and the Left has to channelise the resentment to intensify struggles against the attacks unleashed by the government on peasants and the toiling masses. (END)