From: World Forum of Fish-harvesters and Fishworkers (WFF)
Fishworkers Killed in Police Firing in India
Fri, 11 Jun 1999
Protest Against the killing of fishworkers in Orissa, India.
Four fishworkers, including a woman, were killed and 13 injured some of them seriously as police opened fire late at night against the fishworkers who were in their villages after participating in an anti prawn culture agitation organised by Chilika Matsyajibi Mahasangh.
The problem in Chilika is going on for some time. There was a strong movement in Chilika which was supported by the National Fishworkers Forum which had earlier resisted the industrial group of TATAS from conducting aquaculture there which destroys both the livelihood of fishworkers and the environment.
The Chilika lake (which is the largest Brackish water lake in India) has been occupied by mafias for aquaculture with the support of local politicians and bureaucrats. The Supreme Court of India by their historical judgement against aquaculture has said that there should be no shrimp farms within 1000 meters of the lake.
The fishworker organisation had given a 24 hour ultimatum to demolish all prawn gheries which lapsed on May 29. Fishworkers then destroyed about 11 illegal prawn farms.
Police raided the village on midnight after 10,000 villagers led by Chilika Matsyajibi Mahasangh destroyed the prawn farms. Police then began to beat villagers mercilessly, threw tear gas shells and began shooting without provocation. Banchhanidhi Behera died on the spot; Digambar Behrera and Prema Behra on the way to hospital (and another victim died later at the hospital).
The National Fishworkers Forum Chairperson Mr.Harekrishna Debnath has condemned the incident and strongly protested against the police action.
He said that National Fishworkers Forum uphold the right of the fishermen to freely fish in the lake and asked the administration to evict all outsiders from the lake. NFF is supporting the strike call of June 5th.
NFF vows to intensify the struggle against industrial aquaculture and demands the withdrawal of the Aquaculture Authority Bill.
Thomas Kocherry Co-ordinator of World Forum Of FishHarvesters and Fishworkers has also condemned the police firing and asked the guilty to be punished immediately.
ORISSA BANDH OF 5TH JUNE.
The police violence has resulted in a massive popular strike held on June 5th called by the fishermen's union.
On 5th June, due to the 12 hours Bandh called by Chilika Matsyajibi Mahasangh, the railway and road connection with eastern coast of the country came into a standstill. This bandh was supported by two left groups and Janata Dal. Fishworkers have blocked the railroad in many stations as a result of which trains were stranded in different stations. From the morning fishworkers started sitting on the railway lines of Rambha, Khallikote, Bhusandapur and other stations. In Bhubaneswar station 600 women carrying their children stopped the Chennai-Howrah Koromandal Express. Eight trains including Puri-Talcher Passenger, Puri-Katak Passenger were cancelled.
Apart from the communication system, in rest of the state the impact of the Bandh was partial. In capital Bhubaneswar it was totally successful, shops were closed. Thousands of fishworkers from Chilika and adjacent area have made human wall in the city and vehicles were totally stopped. Attendance in offices was very poor. Police arrested 2000 people including fishworkers and workers of different political groups.
For more information, contact:
Thomas Xavier Kocherry
Co-ordinator, World Forum of Fish-harvesters and Fishworkers [WFF]
Co-ordinator, National Alliance of Peoples Movements (India), [NAPM]
Velankanny, Junction, Valiathura, Thiruvananthapuram 695 008, INDIA
Phone & Fax: +91 - 471 - 50 1376
Please send faxes and/or letters of protest to Prime Minister and Orissa
Chief Minister at the following addresses:
Fax : +(91) 11 301 8906, 301 6857
Fax: +(91) 674 401 007
------------------------------------------------ SAMPLE LETTER
Honourable Prime Minister Vajpayee,
With this letter, I wish to express to your government condemnation and absolute repulsion over the lamentable events that have occurred in Orissa, India that resulted in the killing of four fisher people, and the wounding of 13 others, as a result of police actions taken against their protests over the construction of shrimp aquaculture facilities in Chilika Lake.
Chilika lake has been occupied by the shrimp industry, with the support of the local politicians and bureaucrats, even though the Supreme Court of India has ruled in an historical decision that shrimp farms were to be prohibited within 1,000 meters of lake.
In response to the illegal establishment of these shrimp farms, the fishermen of Chilika, supported by the National Forum of Fisherworkers, were exercising their right to protest against these actions, and denounce them to the authorities.
The Indian Government must initiate actions against the people responsible for the deaths of these citizens of Chilika, and to prosecute those who have installed or continue to operate shrimp farms, in violation of the order of the Supreme Court of India.
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