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21 Aug 2023



Free Niyamgiri!

Stop Arrests, Illegal Detentions and Attacks on NSS and the People of Kashipur!


Since 5 August 2023, the people of Niyamgiri, particularly those associated with the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS), have been the target of a virulent attack in the form of disappearances, arbitrary arrests, police raids and the use of unlawful force against protesters resisting mining and police action in Rayagada district. At present, two persons- Krushna Sikaka and Upendra Bagh have been formally shown as arrested under various different charges. Upendra Bagh, along with 8 others, have been named under an FIR invoking charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and other provisions of the IPC. An unknown number of persons continue to be missing following midnight raids in the adjoining Kashipur block of Rayagada district starting from 13 August 2023, continuing erratically until today. In the absence of consistent media reporting and public disclosure of information by the police, the following presents a broad timeline of events of the past two weeks from 5 August 2023:

5 Aug 2023

Krushna Sikaka and Bali Sikaka of Lakhpadar village illegally abducted by plainclothes policemen at 9am. Members of the NSS seek information about their possible arrest of whereabouts from four different police stations, all of whom deny having arrested them.

6 Aug 2023

Protest outside Kalyansinghpur PS against the illegal abduction of Krushna Sikaka and Bali Sikaka, and the refusal of the police to provide information on their whereabouts. The Kalyansinghpur PS requisitions two platoons of armed police to control ‘law and order’ in response. Police attempt to take away Drenju Sikaka from the protest, but are prevented to do so by the protestors.

Later the same day, Inspector Incharge of Kalyansinghpur PS files FIR No.87/ 2023 against nine named persons, all associated with the NSS, calling the protest an ‘unlawful assembly’. These include two senior leaders of NSS, Ladda Sikaka and Drenju Krushka, and two other youth leaders Manu Sikaka and Samba Huikia; Lingaraj Azad, an old socialist activist who has been supporting NSS as an advisor, and two other members of NSS, Gobinda Bag and Upendra Bag. The same FIR also include the names of British Naik, an activist of Khandualamali Surakhya Samiti and Lenin Kumar, a poet and solidarity activist.

FIR invokes allegations under IPC (Sections 147, 148, 109, 294, 188, 353, 332, 307 and 149), UAPA (Sections 16, 17, 18), and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act (Section 7). These pertain to unlawful assembly, disobeying and causing hurt to public servants, attempt to murder etc.; as well as terrorist activities, raising funds for terrorist activities, and conspiracy under UAPA.

Earlier media reporting and public statements mistakenly identify UAPA charges as under Sections 10, 11, 13 (relating to unlawful activities), whereas the FIR invokes the more stringent provisions relating to terrorism, under which bail is effectively barred.

6 Aug 2023

Protest in Kashipur block against Vedanta’s new proposed mining projects in Sijimali mountain in the Sunger area.  Vedanta has hired the services  of the Maitri company to carry out initial operations.

7 Aug 2023

Habeas corpus petition filed before the High Court against the disappearance of Krushna Sikaka and Bali Sikaka.

Bali Sikaka released on 8th August. Krushna Sikaka arrested under old FIR of 2018, GR 383/ 2018 under Sections 452, 294, 376(n), 506 and 34 IPC.

10 Aug 2023

Upendra Bagh, named in UAPA FIR 87/2023, goes missing from Rayagada

13 Aug 2023

Midnight police raids at 3 villages in Kashipur block of Rayagada district. Several adivasi youth reported missing in aftermath of raids.

14 Aug 2023

Upendra Bagh shown as arrested under FIR 87/2023 at 1pm and thereafter produced before court.

16 Aug 2023

Police raids continue. Total tally of missing rises to 15-20 persons.

18 Aug 2023

Krushna Sikaka's bail application rejected.


Out of those believed to be missing from Kashipur block, four have since returned home, some have been produced before court as arrested under various provisions of IPC, Arms Act and Criminal Law Amendment Act, while the whereabouts of others continue to be unknown. It is deeply concerning that several adivasi youth have been picked up from their homes and kept in illegal detention for several days. If they have been arrested, their families have not been informed violating the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and various Supreme Court guidelines, which mandate that the families should be promptly informed of arrest and the place where they are held in custody. We call upon the state police and the Odisha government to immediately disclose the names, allegations, and present whereabouts of those arrested from Kashipur block between 13 August 2023 until today.

For more than two decades, the Niyamgiri hills have been sought to be exploited for mining of bauxite and other mineral reserves violating the land and forest rights of the Dongria Kondhs under the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution, Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, and the Forest Rights Act, while also causing significant ecological destruction and displacement. In 2013, the Supreme Court upheld the rights of the affected communities to be consulted about the setting up of the mines in the landmark Niyamgiri verdict, following which the gram sabhas unanimously rejected permission for mining in their forests.

Since then, the people of Niyamgiri, particularly the NSS, has been subject to targeted action to undermine their struggle for constitutional and democratic rights. In 2016-17, the Ministry of Home Affairs sought to project the NSS as a ‘frontal organization’ of the banned Maoist party, and unleashed a series of arrests and detentions in 2018. In the Lanjigarh police firing of 2018 outside the Vedanta refinery, where two persons also lost their lives, including workers at the refinery. This was also the period when the government was setting up paramilitary camps at the base of the Niyamgiri hills in an effort to militarise the area and throttle resistance against mining.

More recently, the central and the state government have continued their policy of intimidation through CRPF and other forces and labelling false charges against leaders of NSS. Even companies like Vedanta which is in the forefront in acquiring mining projects in the area has been using goons to intimidate NSS leaders and luring youth in the area to indulge in violence. Recently in the first week of August, goons hired by Vedanta along with the police and paramilitary forces have prevented the people from attending people hearing in Pipilimal, Jharsuguda district for 2000 crore coal mining project. Almost 90% of the people who were allowed in the meeting were outsiders. Even the EIA report for this project had  indicated insufficient information about the likely human, ecological and livelihood cost of the proposed project.   

Vedanta has even hired the service of third party agency, Maitri,  to organise camps in the area to ‘gain trust of locals’ for Sijimali bauxite mines in Kashipur block of Rayagada.  However residents of around 40 tribal villages of Sunger area in Rayagada districts did not allow Maitri company to even enter in their area.  When officials of the Maitri tried to forcibly enter the area, villagers blocked their way and raised slogans against them which even led to a minor scuffle. Even the cops threatened to lodge cases against them, villagers held their ground and didn’t allow the company to hold any camps on their area.

The central and state governments, behind the shield of “development”, are violating the fundamental constitutional rights of the Dongrias, and for this the governments have been linking these democratic and peaceful struggles of  Dongrias against mining in their areas  to ‘Maoist’ and falsely implicating their leaders  under repressive laws like UAPA. Their ulterior aim is to clamp down on leaders and repress their spirit of two decade struggle to save Niyamgiri hills, which are life and livelihood of tribals such as Dongria Kond.

PUDR thus demands:

  • The Rayagada police immediately disclose information about the names, allegations, and place of detention of those arrested from Kashipur since 13 August 2023
  • Release Krushna Sikaka, Upendra Bagh and all those wrongfully arrested
  • Quash FIR 87/2023 against those associated with the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti
  • Immediately discontinue mining in Niyamgiri, and uphold the V Schedule to the Constitution, PESA and FRA rights of the people