Tribal youth loses eyesight to govt. brutality
Over the last six months, IndiaUnheard has published several community videos documenting the people’s rising resistance to the state government’s attempts to acquire their land for so-called ‘development’ projects. Most of these videos have been produced by our Community Correspondents (CCs) in the state of Jharkhand where mines, dams, power plants, highways, Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and other mega projects have displaced lakhs of tribal inhabitants. Rehabilitation and compensation remains mere lip service as people lose their homes, livelihoods, culture and a way of life. Atleast, ten IndiaUnheard CCs in the state has been directly affected by the state’s land grabs. Most are part of popular resistance movements across the state who together share a slogan of resistance. “We will give up our lives but not our land.”
In today’s Community Correspondent Sonatan Murmu from District Dumka talks to Shivlal Soren, a martyr of the people resistance who, 2 years after his peaceful protest came under gunfire, still has a police bullet stuck in his head.
On 6th December 2008, over 100 farmers had gathered in the region of Kathikund to protest against the government’s attempts to usurp their fertile land. The farmers had unanimously decided that they would not give up their lands. But the state, invoking the draconian Land Acquisition Act, over-ruled the people’s voices and sentiments. They were acquiring the land for a private interest, the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation of The RPG Goenka Group of companies who would build a dam and operate a power plant. The ultimate irony of the state trying to trample over the people’s land was that the people of Jharkhand themselves would profit very little from the power generated.
6th December was also a day commemorating the tradition of people’s resistance of Jharkhand. The protesting farmers first paid tribute to Sidhu and Kanu, local legends, two tribal brothers who had led the regions earliest resistance against the colonizing British force. A century later, the colonizers have now been replaced by elected representatives but the tribals were still fighting against their oppressors for their rights.
The protest began peacefully. There were speeches and slogans. The air was charged with the sound of “We will give up our lives but not our land.” The police who had been deployed by the state to ensure peaceful proceedings broke the decorum themselves when without provocation, they fired into the crowd. A fact finding team of the Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) categorically framed the police’s action as - "un-called for, un-justified and, from all accounts, pre-meditated. The well-planned and systematic repressive measures adopted by the State Government appear to be part of a strategy to peddle development via state terror without any regard to Constitutional provisions and/or people’s democratic rights to life, livelihood and determination”
In the ensuing conflict, two farmers Lakhiram Tudu and Soger Marande lost their lives. Hundreds were injured, many critically. One of then was Shivlal Soren who received bullet injuries around his right eye and brain. He was bleeding profusely and was in a state of shock. His actual memory of the events is hazy but he attempts to put his ordeal through state-sponsored hell together from hearsay and the fragments that he has managed to retain.
Without even being administered first aid, he was dragged to the local police station with the bullet lodged in his skull. From there was shifted to the District Collectorate in the main town ofDumka. The District Collector refused to allow him treatment and Shivlal had to be shifted to the government hospital in the neighboring district of Dhanbad where he was housed for a month without adequate treatment.
With the bullet still in his head, his mind blank and body partially paralyzed he was shifted to the state hospital in the state capital of Ranchi. It was there that he started to recover his memory. He remembers being shifted to the prestigious AIIMS atDelhiwhere once again, in violation of the Hippocratic oath, basic human rights and regular everyday decency, he was refused treatment. He returned to his state untreated and was immediately consigned to prison.
Shivlal is currently out of jail. His external wounds have healed. He has lost sight in his eyes. His sense of feeling, movement and balance is yet to come together. The simplest movement requires the greatest effort and all his concentration. He can no longer provide for his family. That responsibility has fallen on the shoulders of his young wife who can barely make ends meet. He is in great pain. The bullet is still lodged inside his head.
Community Correspondent Sonatan who has produced the video on Shivlal says that one way or the other, the state is always committing acts of violence against the tribals. The building of the damn itself is act of violence that threatens to displace and make wretched the lives of hundreds of innocent families. When they protest against the violence of the dam, the state responds with bullets and bloodshed.
“All we want is dialogue and our voice to be heard and the state wants to silence us in the roar of gunfire,” says Sonatan. “What the governments and newspaper calls ‘development’ is actually violence against us tribals.”
Call To Action: Sonatan asks viewers who watch his video to call Administrative Office, District Dumka on 06434222202 and make an appeal for Shivlal’s case. He asks the viewers to support Shivlal and ensure that he receives:-
1) Immediate Medical attention
2) Adequate compensation for his losses
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