Odisha Turns Blind Eye to Custodial Death of Vedanta Protestor

The custodial death of Pattnaik Hairijan during the Vedanta protest in Odisha is reminder of a failed state.

ODISHA | The Vedanta group has been seeing constant protests against its strategic practices of forceful displacement and land grabbing in the state of Odisha. Today, the condition is such that several adivasis are languishing in Odisha’s jails because they dared to protest against the injustices being perpetrated on them by the corporate giant Vedanta.

One of the protesting adivasis named Pattnaik Harijan has died in police custody in Kalahandi jail. Pattnaik Harijan was a resident of Rengapalli village under Lanjigarh block.

Pattnaik Harijan, died in police custody. Image source – Millennium Post

After the death of Pattnaik,  tensions continued t prevail throughout the block as a large number or residents sat on a dharna outside the main gate of the Vedanta Alumina Refinery.

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The protestors asked for a compensation of Rs 10 lakhs for their fellow villager, who had lost his life in police custody.

The activists are claiming that Pattnaik Harijan died in police custody on August 23, while the police claim that he died at the Medical College Hospital. The activists allege that since Pattnaik passed away in police custody, the police pretended to have taken him to the Burla hospital for treatment so that it wouldn’t be blamed later on.

Another protestor named Bari Pidikak had also died in police custody after being refused proper medical care during his illness. In addition to the custodial deaths, it has been reported that more than fifteen people have already died due to contamination from toxic waste disposal of Vedanta’s aluminium production plant which is located right next to the village.

The imposition of Section 144 in the area has created intense panic among the people.

The police have even gone on to warn the activists against meeting Pattnaik’s family.

In the aftermath of Pattnaik’s custodial death, activists from the field have issued a joint statement wherein they have asserted that the state government has altogether withdrawn from its constitutional responsibilities and the reign of the company has replaced the reign of the government itself. The people have been terrorised and intimidated and the environment has been largely damaged.

The activists associated with the Vedanta protest are now demanding a probe into the custodial deaths of protestors that have unfolded in the recent years and stringent punishment for officials who were involved in this malpractice.

They have also demanded that Pattnaik’s family be paid a compensation of Rs 50 Lakh.

It is widely known that the state government of Odisha has been resorting to widespread violence to suppress the voices of the adivasis who have been protesting against the corporate giant Vedanta since 2006.

It will now remain to be seen whether the Odisha government initiates a fare probe into the custodial death of the protestors or whether it continues to turn a blind eye to the apathy of the protesting adivasis.


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