//Orissa tribals to cremate chopped palms

Orissa tribals to cremate chopped palms

Friday, May 19th, 2006

Jajpur (Orissa) – The chopped palms of five of the 12 tribals killed in police firing in Jajpur district in January will finally be cremated by their peers after being kept in a hospital for months.

These people were killed when over 500 tribals clashed with police Jan 2 at the industrial complex in Kalinga Nagar, some 100 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, while protesting constructions undertaken by Tata Steel. A policeman was also killed.

Doctors subsequently cut off the palms from five of the tribals’ bodies during autopsy, saying they had done so to preserve the identity of those killed. But the incident created a storm in and outside the state.

Following pressure from various human right groups, the state government had suspended three doctors who conducted the autopsy.

Although the bodies of the tribals were handed over to their relatives, the chopped palms were kept in hospital. Their peers have been demanding that the palms too be handed over to them.

The state government Tuesday directed the local administration to return the chopped palms after the nod of the Orissa Human Rights Commission, which is probing the circumstances under which the doctors severed the palms.

The district administration sent a vehicle to bring the family members of the deceased to receive the chopped palms from the Jajpur district headquarter hospital Thursday.

However, the family members did not turn up, a district administrative official said.

‘It is a sensitive issue. It is not a matter of the families that lost their near and dear alone. It is related to entire tribal communities,’ Chakradhar Hiburu, president of the local tribal group Vistapita Virodhi Janamanch, told IANS.

‘We have convened a conference May 23 and the palms can be received with full honours on that day,’ he said. ‘Relatives of the deceased will cremate the chopped palms at ‘Birbhumi’, the place where the last rites of the dead were performed,’ he said.

The tribal protest in January occurred when they alleged they were not adequately compensated for their land that Tata Steel wanted to acquire for its plant.

The Jan 2 clash has hit the state government’s industrialisation drive under which at least 43 memoranda of understanding (MoU) have been signed with various companies for setting up steel plants.