The national alliance of mining-affected communities and support groups- demanded the immediate arrest of Mr. Naveen Jindal, after senior security officers of Jindal Steel & Power Limited (JSPL), Brigadier (Retd.) K.K. Chopra and Deputy Manager S.N. Panigrahi surrendered in Raigarh district court on Friday, in relation to the armed assault on activist Ramesh Agrawal.
The court sent them to a police remand till October 25th. The police had earlier arrested four people in the case- Sangram Singh, Sanjay, Naresh Patro and Tarkeshwar Rai.
On 7th July, 2012, Ramesh Agrawal of Jan Chetna Manch was shot twice in broad daylight at his office in the industrial town of Raigarh, Chattisgarh, and had to be operated upon twice in Raipur and Mumbai. Agarwal is best known for fighting for the rights of communities threatened by illegal mining and industrialisation perpetrated by the Jindals, and it is at their hands that he has faced the most ruthless intimidation. While his medical expenses are mounting and he is faced with the need for further surgery and a prolonged period of recovery, the local community and activists are confident that justice will prevail.
The private sector steel major, JSPL, has steel and power plants and other interests in Raigarh district, which the company treats almost as its private fiefdom. JSPL’s environmental irregularities had been brought to the notice of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) by Mr. Agrawal. While the government was forced to initiate action, it subsequently found ways to accommodate the interests of its party colleague, Naveen Jindal.
Finally, the National Green Tribunal stuck down the environmental clearance awarded and remarked that the whole public hearing was a mockery of democratic procedure. The last time the Ministry withdrew the Terms of Reference for Environmental Impact Assessment, JSPL filed false cases of extortion and defamation against Mr. Agrawal and his colleagues, and he was tortured, handcuffed and chained to a hospital bed as an undertrial. The case eventually bit the dust in the Supreme Court. This time around, when the National Green Tribunal suspended JSPL’s environmental clearance, Mr. Naveen Jindal and his employees have resorted to eliminating all dissent by force. The fact that a senior officer who has adorned the rank of Brigadier has surrendered is ample proof that the Management was closely involved in the entire plot.
As Mr. Agrawal and his colleagues amply point out, there has been no cause for personal animosity among any of these people so far in custody, while there is prima facie evidence that JSPL has been involved in harassing and eliminating anyone seeking justice. “It is a ploy to protect the Jindals that the officer in charge of the security agency is being surrendered. The management of JSPL is at its pits; two workers have died in the supposedly “closed” plant,” said R. Sreedhar, Chairperson of mm&P. It may be recalled that the plant was shut down by the Green Tribunal on a petition filed by Mr Ramesh Agarwal. “We demand the immediate arrest of Mr. Naveen Jindal and that a CBI probe is instituted into all the projects of the company.” Similar stories of violence, violations and repression by the Jindals are taking place in Angul in Odisha and in its various operations across the country.
Given its proximity to power, the company is treating all laws with impunity. Secretary General, Ravi Rebbapragada, said that beyond his arrest and interrogation, “We demand that the government confiscate natural resources worth billions given away, as the industry is violating all the laws of the land and indulging in downright violence.”
(This is a press release issued by mines, mineral & People, a growing alliance of individuals, institutions and communities who are concerned and affected by mining. The release do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)