SKM continues its support for protesting Bengal, Odisha farmers

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The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) on Saturday expressed deep concern at the continued police repression against farmers in Birbhum in West Bengal and Dhinkia in Odisha, who, they said were protesting the land acquisition for coal mining and industry, respectively, without due process.

The Morcha also expressed anguish as large number of farmers continued to languish in West Bengal jails.

When the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), a consortium of farmers that had agitated for more than a year to successfully repeal the three farm laws last year, had come out in support of the farmers in West Bengal, condemning the police repression in Deocha-Panchami-Harinsingha-Dewanganj area of Birbhum district, it was followed by the West Bengal Chief Minister on February 23 announcing that the farmers and cattle & small ruminant keepers shall not be ousted from their farm and pasture lands and they will receive land-for-land.

“However, so far, details of the land-for-land announcement are not available in the public domain. If local farmers accept this proposal through a process clearly laid down in the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, it can pave the way for resolution,” the SKM said in a statement.

“The SKM is deeply concerned that activists and local farmers arrested by the police on February 20-21 for holding democratic and peaceful protests continue to languish in jail due to non-production of documents in court by the district police,” it said and condemned the high-handedness of the police and urged the West Bengal Chief Minister to personally direct the administration to set free the arrested persons and withdraw all cases against them.

The SKM also said it shall soon send a Fact Finding Team to West Bengal under the Chairmanship of Medha Patkar.

Meanwhile, the SKM said, it also condemns the continuous presence of the Odisha police in Dhinkia and its surrounding villages in the Jagatsinghpur district since December 4, 2021.

“The Odisha government has given a free hand to the district administration and the police are responsible for mindless police violence as witnessed in many incidents, the worst being the brutal lathi-charge of January 14. Over 200 people were injured, mostly women and girls. Many people have been arrested and many others remain in hiding as the police set up its camp inside the village,” the SKM claimed.

“This continuing state of siege of the villages for the coercive acquisition of land for the state sponsored project of JSW Utkal Steel, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sajjan Jindal-led JSW Steel, is in violation of laws and due processes related to forest rights and land acquisition. The MoU between JSW and the Odisha government, if it has been signed, is not available to the general public,” it alleged.

On February 16, the Odisha High Court had formed a five-member committee to visit the village of Dhinkia and assess the current situation, especially after the police crackdown of January 16. It visited the village on February 19 when the villagers that had gathered to give their deposition were attacked by miscreants and four people sustained serious injuries.

“This happened in front of the High Court Committee members. There was no protection provided by the police that only watched,” the SKM statement claimed.

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