The Goldman Environmental Prize
Prafulla Smantara, National Convener, National Alliance of Peoples' Movements and the leader of Lokshakti Abhiyan, Orissa has been awarded ‘The Goldman Environmental Prize’, Asia, 2017. The Goldman Environmental Prize honours the achievements and leadership of grassroots environmental activists for their sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the Natural environment.

He has been awarded the Prize for committing his life for the people's struggle and the hardships that he has faced in the historic 12-year-old legal battle along with Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti that affirmed the indigenous Dongria Kondh's land rights and protected the Niyamgiri Hills from a massive, open-pit aluminium ore mine proposed by Vedanta.

Prafulla Samantara, 65, a socialist by thoughts, has been a part of many leading People's struggles, one of which is Anti-POSCO Movement (POSCO Pratirodh Sangharsh Sanriti) in Orissa. POSCO planned to invest in the mining industry, the building of a Steel Plant, captive power plant and a port in Erasama block of Jagatsinghpur District. Along with the activists like Abhay Sahoo, Prashant Paikaray, Manorama, and many others, he stood against the land acquisition process by POSCO; and has fought the legal battle in the Courts. He has undertaken Satyagraha, hunger fasts, padyatras, rallies against the building of Dams and Barrages and the emerging issues out of it on the upper stream of river Mahanadi. Living on the campus of Lohia Academy, Bhubaneshwar, he has kept its doors open for everyone and movements struggling for equity, justice and rights-based development. Respected by people's movement and academics and intellectuals alike, he has given articulation to a socialist vision for Orissa and is an ardent advocate of fight against the open loot of the natural resources of Orissa by corporations. He has been kidnapped, assaulted and attacked on many occasions by the mining company for his activism, and continues to receive threats for his 'anti-development' stance. But he stands strongly against such threats by believing in "We Shall Fight, We Shall Win!"
NAPM, New Delhi

Death in Custody
'Ganatantrik Adhikar Suraksha Sangathan, Odisha' condemns death of Bari Pidikaka, a Dongria tribal in judicial custody. He died on 24th June, just few hours after his admission, at SCB Medical College, Cuttack. But his family members were informed on 25th June, 2017 after one day of his death by the local police. His son Dabru Pidikaka received the body on 27th June at Cuttack travelling 600km from his village. His body was cremated on 28th June 2017.

Bari was an under-trial prisoner confined in Rayagada district jail for last two years. Bari Pidikaka belonged to the village Tahali of Munikhola Panchayat coming in Muniguda Police Station of Rayagada district.He was 67 years old. If Bari Pidikaka was seriously ill, then his family members could have been informed much earlier either through local police or through his advocate. GASS got to know from activists of "Niyamgiri Surakhsa Samiti" that when situation became worse, then only he was admitted in Rayagada District Medical Hospital. But the doctor referred him immediately to Cuttack Medical College. Bari died there.

Death of Bari is not one incident. Death of poor tribals, dalits and others while in judicial as well as in Police custody has been rising in Odisha. On 19th June, just few days before death of Bari, Abhaya Singh died in Burla Medical College, Sambalpur. Abhaya (25 years) belonged to Haripur village of Bardhaman district in West Bengal.

Abhaya and 40 other members of his village had come to Sambalpur town of Odisha in 3rd week of May for selling toys and other items at road side. On 30th May 2017 Sambalpur police picked up Abhaya Singh and two others, Ajay Singh and Khata Singh, suspecting them of stealing mobiles. Their family members tried from pillar to post to know about their whereabouts. At last resort when they went to the Court and the SDJM Court intervened then only three of them were produced before the Magistrate on 8th June, 2017 that is after 7 days of their arrest on charges of selling narcotics. Three of them were injured and were unable to walk. The police had beaten three of them what the family members alleged. Abhaya was admitted in Burla Medical College on 10th June 2017 by the jail authority for treatment. He died on 19th June 2017.

Both, Bari Pidikaka and Abhaya Singh belonged to poor families. Both of them died due to negligence of jail authority of their respective jails. In case of Abhaya Singh, police torture at the time of arrest is an additional complaint which should be investigated. Often it comes in the media that due to lack of judges number of cases in various layers of the Court has been increasing. In this case, the worst sufferers are poor people of this country who are neither getting bail nor are facing trial for a longer time. This is the reason why Bari Pidikaka languished in jail as an under trial for such a longer time.
Ganatantrik Adhikar
Suraksha Sangathan (GASS),

Burning Widow Alive
Pandit Golok Nath Sharma, Teacher of Fort William College, made understand his wife repeatedly about glory and dignity of voluntary burning of a widow on the funeral pyre of one's husband with the secret motive of the end of her life along with his death. The wife of Golok Nath Sharma burnt herself on the pyre of her husband and it was the first case of burning widow alive in Dinajpur district. Further, sometimes it is true that the mother in-laws who generally retaliated upon the daughter in-laws after her husband's death.

In the beginning of this practice, the interior female-kins took inception and initiatives for burning widow alive of their daughter in-laws. It is supposed that the interior environs are the place of inception for the practice. The reason beyond such type of decision taken inside the interior environs is nothing but the jealousy of the female-relatives who are envious of their daughter in-laws. The standing example on such supposition is Tarini Devi, mother of Raja Rammohan Roy, who took main initiatives for burning alive Saraswati, her elder daughter-in-law after the death of Jagmohan, the elder brother of Rammohan. She (Tarini Devi) was very suspicious, resentful of rivalry and mistrustfully watchful to her as Saraswati was beautiful, educated, free from all superstitions and overall liked Raja Rammohan. Ultimately Tarini Devi was successful in her initiatives and Saraswati was burnt alive in the pyre of her dead husband Jagmohan despite utmost resistance made by Rammohan. Rammohan was beaten up and was made senseless during the incident of burning Saraswati alive.

Ultimately burning widow alive was turned towards a sensational craze like festival or celebration within the society. Festivals like Durga puja, Charak etc are the public festivals of the rural areas of Bengal, although some village had not enough money to go through the expense of such expensive festival leaving the rural people of that village dearth of celebrations. So to those rural people without any celebrations, the then day-long process and preparations for the burning widow alive in the pyre of her husband was like a festive-scenery. The rituals of such practice was full of festive- spices like drum-beating, pronunciation of the hymns by the Brahmins or holy- dip in the nearby lake or rivers by the widow to be burnt after a while on the pyre of her death husband. Not only the people of the same village, but the people from the neighbouring villages were rushed to the spot when pyre to be ready for an unfortunate widow. Ultimately the widow was burnt alive within the empyrean fire with her dead husband.
Gautam Kumar Das, Kolkata

Vol. 50, No.4, Jul 30 - Aug 5, 2017