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Odisha: Nisan Sammelan-2010

"Combating the impending corporate imperialism backed by the state along with white terrorism in the name of Operation Green Hunt, political as well as cultural resistance is the call of the time in order to protect the life and livelihood and to safeguard the rights of the poorest populace of world's greatest democracy", was unanimously resolved voice of the "Nisan Sammelan-2010", Bhubaneswar on "Cultural Resistance: War on People in Corporate Interest".

The two tiered conference was attended by more than five thousand people from around 30 co-operating organizations from various corners Odisha, along with progressive intellectuals like writer-activist Arundhati Roy and Varavara Rao.

It was a cool Nov, 21st forenoon and the Shahid Smaraki Swadhinata Sangrami Sadan campus was over flooded with roaring banners, flags, slogans and the village and tribal folk with their traditional attire and armaments.Speaking on the occasion Arundhati remarked that the people ruling the state are the formulators of the constitution and laws for people and they are the ones who are violating it ruthlessly, waging war against their own people to serve the interest of the corporate sector, both national and transnational. The power lines begin from Prime Minister to the Home Minister to the Chief Minister Navin Pattanayak who, it seems is determined to fulfil his father's dream to metamorphose Odisha into a steel state.

"Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, which was brought to safeguard land of tribal areas, is being grossly violated. But now the people in power say that it is imperative on the part of the state to acquire land from tribals in the name of development", said Arundhati. She re-asserted that the people who raise their voice to protect their ancestral land from corporate are being termed as Maoists and terrorists and are being terrorized by the state. "People's sovereignty is at stake. The Indian state is using military forces in places like J & K, Punjab, North East, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand and West Bengal to suppress the voice of the people against the land acquisition attempts by big corporate houses supported by the state. Planned strategy is being enforced to snatch away the rights of the people on their land, water, forest and hand them over to corporate forces, making people fight among themselves. Their sole aim is to vacate these lands. They are openly using the military to take hold of the affairs. The country is swiftly turning into a military state, even though in the neighbouring Pakistan, the people fighting against military rule to establish democracy in their country" she explains. Force, according to Arundhati, is being used by the Govt. and not by Naxalites.

Further she added that "Democracy in India is changing fast and those at the helm of the affairs want the country to be militarized. One should not trust the organizations of democratic set-up, even judiciary and media are being influenced. Media has joined hands with the state and the corporate, and has become more dangerous than terrorism itself. The situation is quite similar to what we had during emergency. The media has lost its credibility, origin and ethics, and has become a tool of oppression to justify the voice of interest of the state backed corporate world. Likewise, democracy is being administered by the capitalists. After 1986 two faces of fascism have emerged in India, namely, company fascism and communal fascism, proliferated by the congress and the BJP, respectively. This gave rise to the Maoists and the Islamic terrorists. Ruling parties have 10 percent of voters while the rest 90 percent of the people are fighting for their rights. As there is no judiciary, we are now talking about human rights".

Staying firm on what she earlier said on Kashmir issue, Arundhati maintained her support to the national liberation movements in Kashmir and the North East. She stated that the Maoists are patriot of a kind but their patriotism is very complicated. "I do not think there could be only a Maoist revolution a solution to the problems. There will be a new kind of alliance of all kinds of people and all froms of resistance. I ask the people to think on how to confront the challenges thrust upon the country by the corporations. How do the people, whose land, right, river, jungle, livelihood are snatched, whose women are raped and houses gutted, should react? They can't go on hunger strike because they are already hungry. Even they can not launch non violent agitations is the deep jungle which is controlled by armed forces of the state. It should now be left on the people to decide whether they would resort to violence or non-violence to safeguard their life and livelihood", clarified Arundhati.

Commenting on the role of writers, she remarked that a writer has every right to express his views. She did not see any problem in that and told "I am not a politician. I am not asking for any vote. The people have a right to protest and I have a right to express my views".

She re-iterated her thoughts on the plight of the tribals and said that the condition of the poor people, especially the tribals, in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal is critical. The attention of the whole world has now turned towards Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand because the poor here have fought off and stopped the biggest corporate houses on the globe from enacting their plans. Recalling the successful anti-BALCO movement in 80s in Gandhamardan in Odisha, she said activists have to think and devise strategies to win battle against Vedanta, POSCO and other corporations. She also added that people's mass movement in Odisha against POSCO and mining in Niyamgiri and Gandhamardhan Hills are a success so far, but it still lacks complacency and therefore appropriate strategy should be formulated to continue the struggle in the Forthcoming days. Successful resistance against projects in Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand should not mean that the movement has translated into victory since there is a huge amount of capital, power and force which is backing these monstrous projects. Places like Niyamgiri, Kandhamal and Lalgarh have already been militarized. The tribals cannot confront the state terror within the apparatus controlled by the state, and to lecture them on violent and nonviolent forms of struggle is totally futile. Let the tribals decide how to wage the struggle. There is a bio-diversity of resistance and she greeted the militant milieu of the state for their strong resistance - of various forms - against Operation Green Hunt.

Revolutionary poet Varavara Rao in his eloquent deliberation also affirmed that tribals are being targeted for corporate interest. Thousands of people are anguishing in jails for their struggle for water, forests, and land. Demanding immediate release of the tribals illegally detained in jails, he alleged that the Naveen Pattanaik government is following a policy of making Odisha a steel state, which would ruin the tribals. He asserted that the Pollavaram project is against the tribals of Andhra and Odisha. Rao also criticized the state for using media to generate propaganda around the issue of violence in the resistance struggle, in order to divert the public discourse from its large-scale violently repressive measures on resistance movements which are seeking justice and control over the livelihood resources. Hailing the Nisan Sammelan in this critical juncture he further said that the so called builders of Odisha and modern India, Biju Pattanaik and Nehru have converted Odisha as well as various other regions of the country into jungles of steel plants that gave death instead life, and these so called temples of development debarred all dalits and adivasis as untouchable and outcast depriving them of their own land and resources. Further he stated that the definition of Nationalism propagated by communal, capitalist-politico forces and media is against the ideal of nationalism of the struggling masses that are flighting as citizens to save the country from disaster. He questioned whether the plundering of rich natural resources by the corporations, backed by capitalism can be equivalent to nationalism, whereas the struggle by the poor to retain their livelihood and for upholding democratic values like equality and justice is equivalent to anti-nationalism.

"The state is trying to suppress the tribal movements against displacement and their refusal to the corporate bodies taking over their land, water, forests", said Rao. In electoral politics the political parties are supporting the corporate houses as they are being funded by them, he added, and called upon the people to unite and support the tribals in their fight against corporate bodies. They are being targeted by administration and the military. An armed struggle is a must to combat the atrocious violence of the state in form of Operation Greenhunt.

Anti-Vedanta tribal leader and member of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samity, Lado Sikoka said that the people are fighting for their land and are being detained. Police is acting as an agent of the corporate and physically assaulting them, in a hideously brutal fashion, for raising their voice for justice.

Abhaya Sahu, leader of the PSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, raised a similar concern and told that the state is working for corporate houses and unleashing atrocities on the hardworking people.

Diksha Majhi, a resident of Mohana village in Gajapati district narrated the plight of her daughter Arati Majhi, who was gang raped by police personnel and thereafter jailed on the charges of sedition.

Lokashakti Abhijan leader Prafulla Samantaray stated that economic imperialism invites cultural imperialism. According to him, to resist imperialism altogether, we ought to fight against cultural imperialism armed with art, literature, theatre, etc. Lingaraj of Paschim Odisha Krusak Sangathan Samanway Samiti further elaborated on this by saying that we don't want gun rather we require more ploughshares, ponds, farms, check dams. Lingraj described the meeting, involving the various mass movements and the literary intellectuals on such a huge platform, organized by Nisan, as historical.

Odisha Forest Majdur Union Leader Dandapani Mohanty gave a clarion call for a third war of independence to face the fire of resistance by state. The struggle of Mandrabaju, Gajapati, Kalinga Nagar and others, he said, are the struggle of life and livelihood. Police atrocities herald a dark administration. He criticized severely the present Operation Green Hunt, specifying it as a war against the people struggling for their life and livelihood, and demanded political prisoner status for the jailed activists. According to his research, till now more than 600 people are languishing in various jails, in the name of sedition.

Kalia Mullick of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh, Ghumusar along with Vidika Soma and Ram Andro of CMAS, Narayanpatna described that they are fighting for their survival and are being jailed and tortured. Their paddy, foodgrains and household are being looted, villages and houses are being raided, and women are being sexually harassed. More than 200 activists of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangathan are in jails while Ganguli Tadingi and Rata Sirika lost their lives in jail as they were deprived of medical facilities. They invited the writers and intellectuals of the Capital to come down to their villages and see the real picture themselves and called for their support.

Bhagaban Majhi of Prakrutika Sampad Suraksha Parishad , advocate Biswapriya Kanungo, Satyabadi Mahar of Kalahandi Sachetan Nagarika Manch, Vikram Mallick of Adibasi Adhikar Andolana, Kandhamal, Gupteswar Kanhar of Gandhamardan Surakshya Yuva Parishad, Paikmal, Viswanath Nayak of Bruttanga Birodhi Manch, Santosh Mohapatra of Dakshin Odisha Shramika Federation, Narendra Mohanty from Banbasi Suraksha Parishad, Kandhamal, delegates from Odisha Janabadi Lekhak Sangh, Bhubaneswar, Kalahandi Janabadi Lekhak Manch, Behera, Oriya Bhasa Bikash Manch, Rourkela, Prakrutika Sampad Suraksha Parishad, Kucheipadar, Malkangiri Zilla Adibashi Sangh, Tarlakot, Rajnaitik Bandi Mukti Committee, Cuttack, AISF, Bhubaneswar, Rastriya Yuva Sangathan, Jagatsinghpur, Rajdhani Basti Unnayan Parishad, Bhubaneswar, Jal Jamin Jungle Surksha Manch, Sundargarh, Adihak Jana Sangharsha Committee, Sundargarh, Aanchalika Bisthapit Sangh, Rourkela, Janaswartha Suraksha Parishad, Mahanga, Chilika Matsyajivee Mahasangh, Balugaon and others also addressed the sammelan and opined that in this juncture of history, besides diversity of struggle and thought, everyone should come together to pave the way to fight against corporate bodies, Operation Green Hunt and resist state atrocities and massacre, bravely. They condemned both the Odisha government and the centre for their anti-people policy to safeguard the corporal interest and called for an effective cultural resistance.

The conference was co-chaired by radical poet Kumar Hassan and eminent writer Bibhuti Pattanaik. Reception committee chair person, eminent poet Rajendra Kishore Panda, Veteran Journalist Ravi Das, revolutionary octogenarian writer Prafulla Das, Poet Ashutosh Parida, poet Aswini Kumar Mishra and others also addressed the congregation.

Poet and president of Odisha Janabadi Lekhak Sangh Kumar Hassan delivering his presidential address defined the unsustainable and anti-people industrialization as death toll of human future and stated that whenever there is any attack by selfish interests a resistance is a must, be it political or cultural or of any kind. The combined resistance of people is the need of the hour. He called all the like minded people to unite and ceaselessly fight against anti-people state and corporate bodies for land and life.

A detailed resolution was tabled in the sammelan and was accepted by all with a reverberating and wide applause. The points in the resolution include, 1) stop all sorts of attack on people in corporate interest including Operation Green Hunt, 2) all the fake cases against people's movement be withdrawn; unconditional release of all the nabbed activists of Narayan Patna movement, 3) proper and impartial investigation on fake encounters and punish the real culprits accordingly, 4) withdrawal of police and paramilitary camps from areas of mass movement, 5) stop the attack on freedom of creative expression which is intended to establish a real democratic social order, 5) stop industrialization induced displacement and stop industrialization for luxuries of few, devastating the land, water, jungle, livelihood of the majority, 6) cancel all the MOUs with native and foreign companies and cancellation of SEZs, and 7) safeguard the natural resources, forest, peasantry, wage earner, tribals, labourers, youth, students, slum dwellers, displaced, fishing folks, political prisoners, language, writer, poet, intellectuals, artisans and art. The conference also condemned arrest of activists and members of Laxman Nayak Yuva Chhatra Manch and Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh while coming to attend this conference, near Rayagada station. It was declared as a heinous crime and demanded to set them free immediately. At the start of the conference, the attack on Arundhati by communal Sangh Parivar was condemned and the conference considered it as a facet of ongoing corporate conspiracy against the struggling masses.

The conference was opened with Nisan rhythm by Shankar Mohananda and company. Rich homage was paid to legendary resistant poet Bhima Bhoi and writer Bhagabati Charan Panigrahi and silent regards was paid to martyrs of people's struggles. The recent issue of the magazine Nisan was also released on this occasion. Welcoming the conference, Nisan Editor and poet Lenin Kumar, with vivid portrayal of present critical imposition of Odisha and state-cum-corporate war on people trampling democratic values and human rights, stated that Nisan is trying to present artistically, the muffled voice, trying to lead the cultural resistance against all forms of status quo. A cultural programme was organized and an exhibition of art by Naresh Suna, Ashish Gadanayak and Lenin Kumar, was also arranged. An open canvas painting by Ramakanta Samantaray and Vijayan was displayed on this event. This was brush touched by Arundhati Roy, Rajendra Kishore Panda, Ashutosh Parida, Basudev Sunani and others.

Young story teller Samir Ranjan was conferred with the Nisan Samman-2009. Nisan's editorial board member poet Akhil Nayak gave the final vote of thanks.

Earlier when Arundhati arrived at the venue, she faced tussle perpetrated by a group of eleven Sangh Parivar activists shouting "anti-national", "go back", etc. The police remained mute spectator, to clash that followed between ABVP activists and the organizers. The ABVP activists were driven away and lately the police arrested all of them.