The dam project on the river Indra began in 2000. The project was to consume 10 villages fully and 2/3rds of 19 more villages. It is to officially submerge 2,646 hectares of fertile agricultural land and 2,120 hectares of common forestry resources.
The displaced people organised themselves to form the Lower Indra Bisthapita Sahayata Samiti, TIkhili of Nuapada district and took out a massive rally in December 2012 in Khariar town. Protests continued but the state government never seriously responded to the demands of the displaced villagers.
This area was known for organic rice cultivation and the people have saved some rice seeds and contributed them to ‘The Sovereign Forest’ and other organic growers to save and sustain its cultivation. The agonies of displacement have been captured in the poetry of a farmer, who calls himself ‘The Wicked Poet’.
Since 2005, the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS), primarily a movement of tribals freed from bonded labour practices, have been a powerful force for tribal land restoration (recovering 2500 acres of fertile land) and also stopping liquor trade in the Narayanpatna block of the Koraput district in Odisha. The state Chief Minister and Revenue Minister were initially appreciative of the CMAS and declared measures to ensure the return of land grabbed by non-tribals to tribals.
In 2007-2008, CMAS began resisting bauxite mining on their lands, mainly in the Deomali and Maliparbat regions. This provoked the displeasure of the state government and the local pro-mining mafia. The conflict intensified, CMAS became branded as Maoist-supporters and were targeted by the police, illegal private armed local groups were also created to curtail the anti-mining activism of CMAS.
Nachika Linga, the leader of CMAS was arrested in 2014, while his assistant Singana was killed on 20th November 2009 by the police. Hundreds of CMAS activists have since been illegally arrested and some have died inside the jail in Koraput.
The Hirakud dam was built over river Mahanadi between 1947-1953. Its purpose was to check flood, irrigate 2,35,477 hectares of land and generate power. This dam displaced 22,000 families and submerged more than 300 villages. More than 50 per cent of those displaced have not been resettled yet and the whereabouts of half of them are not known. Not even 2/3rd of the targeted land is irrigated and power generation is on the decline for the last 2 decades.
Now industrial projects have started competing with the farmers of the Hirakud command area for water. As a result of this, farmers have been denied irrigation. In October 2006, the farmers organised a 20 kilometre long human chain to protest this diversion of agricultural water to industry. In November 2007, about 30,000 farmers protested at the main gates of the reservoir and erected a wall close to the reservoir warning the industry not to steal irrigation water. Despite the police atrocities, the farmers of western Odisha have refused to give up hope in the war for Hirakud’s water.
The Lower Suktel dam project on the river Suktel was first proposed in 1995. As per official estimates it would affect 29 villages and 4,164 families (about 35,000 people). Many of these people united under the banner of the ‘Lower Suktel Budi Anachal Sangram Parishad’ to resist the project. In April 2013, protestors were brutally attacked by the state police and 68 men and women were arrested including the leader of the agitation, Dhanu Sahu. Media persons covering this incident were not spared either, as the police smashed their video cameras. Even now, most villagers have been booked in false cases. But they remain determined and refuse to give up hope.