Hunting Season

12 Apr., 2011.

Abhimanyu Bhotra s/o Kusumani Bhotra was picked up by plain clothes police from outside a temple in Kalyansinghpur, Rayagada Dist. at 5 pm yesterday and falsely charged with being a Maoist informer. Sources that tried to contact him say that he was being interrogated in Hindi- implying that the police force was from outside the area, and is most likely the CRPF. An FIR has been filed at the Kalyansinghpur police station.

Abhimanyu, age 35, is a schedule caste migrant labourer from Parsali village, Rayagada Dist.. Locals testify that he has no connections whatsoever to the cadre. He is the sole breadwinner in a family of seven- his parents, wife Sutali Bhotra, two sons, ages 14 and 5, and two daughters, ages 8 and 9 are dependent on his meagre, fluctuating income.

Abhimanyu’s arrest marks the renewal of an disturbingly familiar pattern. Combing operations have been stepped up over the last month in the districts bordering the Niyamgiri Hills- men have been threatened with being branded Maoists, adivasi women told to keep out of the forest, and Vedanta has allegedly sponsored an indoctrination feast for para-militaries.

All of this, just as the Odisha Govt. moves the Supreme Court to challenge the revoking of Vedanta’s mining license and suspension of its dangerously ambitious plans of expansion.¬† It is predicted the refinery below will need six times the bauxite that is partly sourced from illegal quarries at the moment, six times the water stolen from its already polluted sources and will generate exponential amounts of toxic red mud and fly ash.

The very fact that the Orissa Government has challenged the MoEF and asked the apex court to go back on its word to protect the mountain of law means that they will stop at nothing, and the fight for Niyamgiri is far from over. Who, then, can predict how many state-sponsored arrests and violations  are needed to sow enough fear and break a people best known for their spirited resistance?