Prafulla Samantara, 62, Bhubaneswar, Odisha
IN 1975, when Prafulla Samantara was a student leader, he joined the JP movement and was arrested along with several others from his hostel and sent to prison for a year. Apart from being the president of the Lok Shakti Abhiyan (Odisha chapter) and one of the conveners of the National Alliance of People’s Movements, Samantara was one of the petitioners against the Vedanta group.
In December 2000, when Samantara was leading a massive rally in Kashipur against Vedanta’s proposed aluminium plant and bauxite mining, they were first assaulted by goons and then fired upon by the police.
“To justify the firing, the police fabricated a case of attempt to murder against me and others in 2001,” says Samantara. “The police’s honesty can be gauged by the fact that we were given bail by a judicial commission headed by a sitting high court judge, who termed the evidence produced by the police as fabricated. What is really sad is that the State is protecting the rights of industrialists at the cost of tribals.”
Despite the efforts to silence him and his comrades, Samantara is happy that the State and the mining companies have failed to do much damage thanks to the stiff opposition from the people’s resistance movement.
Brijesh Pandey is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.