Statesman News Service
JAJPUR, Jan. 30. — Contrary to all expectations, tribals of Kalinga Nagar decided to continue with their 28-day-old road blockade instead of lifting it and also flagged off a “rath” carrying ashes of the 12 persons who were killed in police firing on 2 January. The chariot carrying the urns was full of pictures of the mass cremation that had taken place, the chopped palms of the dead and the ongoing agitation.
Thousands of tribals, majority from neighbouring states of Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh and West Bengal as well as extreme Left leaders from Andhra Pradesh congregated at the Indira Gandhi ground, three km from the mass cremation site, to hold an impressive “Sahid Divas” today.
Distancing themselves from mainstream political parties, the tribal leaders declared their intent of carrying forward their movement against the anti-tribal policies of the government. They denounced the Naveen Patnaik regime and rejected his invitation for peace talks.
Sensing that the general public was irked over the long drawn road blockade, some of the tribal leaders appealed to one and all to bear with them till the seven-point charter of demands were fulfilled. “We shall not lift the road blockade till our demands are met by the government,” they said.
Rejecting the invitation for talks with the chief minister, they claimed that the peace and normalcy was destroyed by the government not by tribals and hence there was no question of any such talks. “First let the local minister Mr Prafulla Ghadei resign and the other demands including criminal cases against those responsible for the police firing be registered,” they said.
Mr Sarat Rout, a Congress leader and former MLA of the area was isolated in his appeal to lift the road blockade.
Mr George Tirkey who had quit the ruling BJD recently after leading the tribal agitation in Rourkela, was most critical of the government.
The “rath” will move around the state and drum up public opinion against the government and its anti-tribal policies he said. Significantly, as many as 24 outfits including several from outside the state were represented at today’s meeting. The entire area was spruced with leaflets of these organisations.
Twenty six platoon of police was there on guard but from only a great distance lest they irk the tribals.
Prominent among those who addressed the meeting which began after a procession was carried out from the mass cremation site, were DS Bhuria, DV Rao, Dandapani Mohanty, B Kanungo, Dr Prem Pati, Arun Majhi, Sivaji Patnaik and BD Sharma.
The tribals refused to be displaced and reaffirmed that they would not allow industrialisation at the expense of tribal property and livelihood.
Officials who were present and watching the entire proceedings with grave concern said that such a stand may now result in a backlash from the non-tribals. They also felt that tribals from outside the state had outnumbered the locals at the meeting venue today. A strong suspicion of extreme Left Maoists hijacking the show was also gathering ground.