India
15.03.02
Urgent Interventions

India: the construction of a steel plant and violent attacks against tribal peoples

ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS CONCERN
Case IND150302. ESCRC


The International Secretariat of OMCT requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in India.


Brief description of the situation

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the India Center for Human Rights and the Law, a member of the OMCT network, of violent attacks that took place from March 8th to March 11th, 2002, and that involved beatings and arrests carried out by police forces on the tribal peoples of Nagarnar in the Indian State of Chhattisgarh.

According to the information received, on March 8th, 2002, local authorities issued an ultimatum to the tribal peoples living in Nagarnar who had not yet accepted compensation cheques for acquiring the land on which they were living, asking them to accept such cheques immediately. It is reported that at the same time, as the ultimatum was issued, police forces started a first wave of attacks on the tribal peoples.

It is reported that, two days later, on March 10th 2002, hundreds of policemen arrived at Nagarnar and started to indiscriminately beat the people who were peacefully protesting by sitting on the street. According to the information received, the police forces carried out a large-scale hunt for those who refused to accept the compensation cheques, notably in the villages of Nagarnar, Amaguda and Kasturi, breaking into their homes, beating up men, women and children. It is also reported that 169 people were arrested.

According to the information received, on March 11th 2002, approximately 500 armed policemen were deployed in order to arrest the few remaining people who refused to accept the compensation cheques. Those who refused the cheque were allegedly beaten up. It is reported that around 300 people, most of whom are women, were put in jail. It is also reported that the villagers who were arrested have been charged under Sections 307 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code. Moreover, some of the imprisoned women were reportedly in the latter stages of pregnancy and three other women were forced to leave their newborn babies outside the prison.


Background Information

The above-mentioned incidents are reportedly in connection with a local protest following the decision taken in May 2001 by the National Mineral Development Cooperation (NMDC) to construct a steel plant in Nagarnar. The people living in Nagarnar claimed that the acquisition of land on which the steel plant was meant to be built was being carried out in violation of the Constitution and of the Land Acquisition Act.

The tribal peoples therefore asked the National Commission for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes to rule on the matter. In the meantime, on October 24th 2001, activists were arrested and the police fired at an assembly, injuring 45 persons, most of whom were women. Nonetheless, the National Commission ruled that the land acquisition process had in fact been carried out in violation of the Constitution and that it was therefore null and void ab initio. The Commission also noted that the National Guidelines (1974) for the construction of industries in Scheduled Areas have not been followed and that some public officials had committed crimes of destruction of public records and falsification of documents. Furthermore, the National Commission recommended that both the State Government and the NMDC restart the process of land acquisition in compliance with legislative provisions on the matter.

However, the recommendations of the National Commission for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes were totally ignored by the State Government and the NMDC. As a result, the four main Gram Sabha –the local village assemblies representing the interests of the peoples- held a joint assembly on the 2nd and 3rd of March 2002 in order to find a peaceful and democratic resolution to this issue. They came to the decision that they would not oppose the construction of the steel plant but they demanded at the same time that National Guidelines for the construction be followed, that an adequate compensation package be offered to all the people affected by the project and that safeguards against privatisation be provided to the community. The authorities put an end to this attempt of finding a peaceful resolution of the different issues by launching an attack on March 8th 2002.


Action Requested

Please write to the authorities in India urging them to:

i. take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the above-mentioned injured and arrested persons;

ii. guarantee adequate reparation to all victims and their families;


iii. guarantee an immediate investigation into the circumstances of these events, identify those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply the penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions provided by law;

iv. guarantee respect for the economic, social and cultural rights of the peoples in the Nagarnar area in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards and in particular the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the ILO Convention No. 169;

v. guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards.


Addresses

· H.E. President K.R. Narayanan, Office of the President, Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi 110 004, INDIA Fax: 91-11-301 7290 / 7824;

· H.E. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister of India, South Block, Raisina Hill, New Delhi, India-110 011 Fax: 91-11-3019545 / 91-11-3016857; E-mail: indun@undp.org;

· Mr L.K. Advani, Home Minister of India, South Block, New Dehli 110001, India, Fax: +91 11 3015750;

· Justice A. N. Varma, Chairperson of National Human Rights Commission, Sardar Patel Bhavan, Sansad Marg, New Delhi 11001, India, Fax: 91-11-334 0016


Please also write to the embassies of India in your respective country.

Geneva, March 15th 2001

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
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