Public outrage and mounting resentment against the police for 'arresting’ Kuni Sikaka (20), her husband and other family members past midnight on May 1 from Niyamgiri forced the police to release the woman after 36 hours; but not before the arrested were paraded at a police station as ‘Maoists’.
Kuni Sikaka was finally released, explained the police, because she had agreed to ‘surrender’ and given a pledge that she would not engage in any violent activity. Kuni and her family members are associated with Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS), which has been at the forefront of opposing mining activities by the Vedanta Group in Niyamgiri.
Earlier this year the Union Home Ministry had identified NSS as a ‘Maoist’ organisation and the clumsy attempt by the police and the CRPF, which acted in violation of section 46 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) that prohibits arrest of any woman after sunset without prior permission of a judicial magistrate, is believed to be a part of the campaign to discredit NSS and undermine the tribals’ resistance to mining.
The Delhi chapter of Bastar Solidarity Network released the following statement to condemn police action:
“On the night of 1st May Muniguda police and paramilitary forces raided the village of Gorata and abducted Kuni Sikaka, a prominent young adivasi activist of the historic anti-mining Niyamgiri struggle. The police came up with the bogus claim that she is a “hardcore Maoist rebel” with a prize on her head and declared that anyone trying to contradict it ought to be seen as a Maoist. The raid, abduction and the drama that followed was also to harass her father-in-law Dodi Pusika and her uncle Lado Sikaka’s families, both again prominent leaders of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS). Her husband Jagili Pusika is also a vocal anti-Vedanta activist.
A scripted drama unfolded thereafter as the police after two days released Kuni Sikaka but only on condition that she along with her husband Jagili Pusika, father-in-law Dodi Pusika and other activists of Niyamgiri 'accept' that they are 'Maoist guerrillas' and hereby 'surrender' to the police. As reported by the human right activist Surya Dash, the SP also tried to pressurise Dodi Pusika into withdrawing from the anti-Vedanta protests to free Kuni Sikaka but finally only managed to fake their ‘surrender’.”
The name Niyamgiri acquired worldwide prominence owing to the historic and militant struggle of the adivasis as they stood resolutely against the might of the mining giant Vedanta. In connivance with the state, Vedanta was planning an alumina refinery and a bauxite mining plant in the bio-diverse region of the Niyamgiri hills. In their sustainable livelihood, as many have pointed out, for the Donghria Konds this was not just the matter of their land, but their landscape.
The bauxite reserves of the hills – the abode of their divine Niyam Raja (The King of Law) – act as a sponge soaking all the monsoon showers to hold it as reserve for the summers thereby sustaining the perennial streams that irrigate their lands. It is only their resolve and unrelenting struggle in the face of mounting state repression, intimidation and deceit that stalled the mining project in 2013. After years of struggle, they rejected Vedanta’s designs in the Gram Sabhas that were finally held under the Supreme Court’s ruling.
While they halted the clutches of the corporates for the time being, the struggle has been far from over. The legal and extra-legal arms of the state have been relentless in their pursuance of terror, fake encounters, fake cases, arrests and harassment so as to break the resistance of the people of Niyamgiri.
The ones specifically being targeted have been the leadership. The people are fully aware that these were nothing but pressure tactics to silence them and dissuade them from the struggle for jal-jangal-jameen.
Haribandhu Kadraka, for instance, was arrested in October 2014. Drika Kadraka, another prominent voice from Niyamgiri was intimidated by the police and picked up with no charges being filed. After his return, he committed suicide in November 2015. Villagers are of the firm belief that this was triggered by the trauma he was subjected to in custody.
It has been more than a year that youth leader Dasuru Kadraka remains incarcerated and every time he gets bail in one, the police files new cases against him so as to prolong his harassment.
Similarly, Saibo, another young activist has also been arrested on similar charges a few days back and is yet to be released. Most such instances of arrests, fake encounters and intimidations hardly ever get reported in the media. These are the realities that they want to cover up or silence in their farcical TV debates.
The abduction of Kuni Sikaka, the fake charges, and the drama of “surrender” that followed is part of this relentless saga of state terror, or what some refer as “developmental terrorism”.
The fact that the police stepped into the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti president Dodi Pusika's home at midnight and abducted Kuni Sikaka without any women police personnel shows how the so called law-enforcers are only there to enforce the writ of the corporate sharks still on prowl.