Rayagada. In what can be another example of state repression, the stringent UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act), 1967 was invoked against nine Dalit-adivasi activists of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, Odisha, when they protested against the detention of two other activists, Krushna Sikoka and Bari Sikoka, who were allegedly “kidnapped” by the police. This incident occurred on August 6, while the rest of the world was engrossed in preparations for World Indigenous Day.
The Mooknayak spoke to Madhusudan from the Mulniwasi Samajsevak Sangh (MSS), who is actively raising issues of Dalit- Adivasi people throughout the state of Odisha. He said that on August 5, two activists of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti were “kidnapped” by plain clothed policemen from the Lanjigarh haat area, which falls under the Kalahandi district. The activists were discussing with the locals on the celebrations of the upcoming World Tribal Day. The police initially denied knowing the whereabouts of the two activists, but it was only after the village people held a demonstration at Kalyansinghpur police station that they released one of the activists and detained the other based on a pending case against him dating back to 2018.
He said that on August 6, Adivasi people demonstrated in front of the Kalyansinghpur police station to demand the release of the two kidnapped activists. After the demonstration concluded, people were peacefully returning from the police station. Meanwhile, the police stopped activists Drinju Sikaka, Samba Sikaka, and Lenin Kumar who were riding a bike. The police initially claimed they were stopped for not wearing helmets, but instead of issuing a citation, they attempted to arrest them. A confrontation ensued between the Adivasi people and the police.
Reacting excessively to the incident, the police booked nine individuals under the stringent UAPA Act of 1967. The nine people booked are Lada Sikaka, Drinju Sikaka, Samba Huika, Manu Sikaka, Upendra Bhoi, Lenin Kumar, Lingaraj Azad, British Kumar, and Gobinda Bag. Madhusudan stated that three of the booked individuals were not at the incident site, and Lingaraj Azad, one of them, was not even present during the protest outside Kalyansinghpur Police Station. Upendra Bhoi and British Kumar, Dalit activists who addressed the protestors outside the police station and then left, have been booked under UAPA and according to local sources, police arrested Upendra from Rayagada.
FIR Alleges Attempted Murder by Assembled People- The FIR alleges that the assembled people were armed with axes and lathis, swinging axes in the air with the intention to kill. However, police personnel managed to evade the assault. According to Niyamgiri Adivasi Dongoria Kandh tribe, it is a part of their Adivasi cultural tradition for people to keep axe while leaving home. The Mooknayak spoke to Lingaraj Azad , one of the accused named in the FIR. He said he was not even present at the protest scene since he was supervising some work at his home. Azad is clueless on how and why he has even been named in the false FIR.
Madhusudan, who initiated the second phase of the Motorcycle Diaries on August 9th to commemorate the World Indigenous People's Day, stated that the false FIR and arrests aimed to hinder the Niyamgiri grassroots movement. Undeterred by the intimidation, Motorcycle Diaries reached Nyamgiri Hills, spoke to people, and extended solidarity to their struggles. He pointed out that with upcoming elections, be it any party – BJP, BJD, or Congress – they require corporate funds. To appease corporates, false cases are imposed on those fighting for Jal, Jangal, Zameen, and Jeevika. He alleged that the current central and state governments aim to give Adivasi land to corporates like Vedanta and Adani in exchange for an Adivasi President, advancing both their political and economic agendas. However, Adivasi and Dalit communities remain steadfast and will not be misled by government intimidation and traps.
Niyamgiri Hills, situated in the Eastern Ghats and spanning Rayagada , Koraput and Kalahandi districts of Odisha, are home to the Dongria Kondh community. Rich in minerals, the region has attracted voracious corporations seeking to exploit resources. The serene hills have been a site of extensive protests for decades, as the tribal community resists corporate resource extraction at the expense of the environment.
Led by Dalits and Adivasis, Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti has fought against exploitative mining since 2000 when Vedanta acquired Bauxite mining rights in the region. In 2013, the movement against corporate exploitation gained traction when the Supreme Court granted Gram Sabhas the authority to decide on Niyamgiri's fate.