[2015 Update] The Meat Factory Issue, surging ahead yet not getting into communal divisive politics

13 Dec

A meat factory was setup in Simraha (Forbesganj, Araria) by Al Sameer Exports Pvt. Ltd against the wishes of the local people. There is lot of resentment against the meat factory primarily because it emits foul smell and partly because of cultural and religious reasons. Some political groups took advantage of the situation and gave communal colour to the issue so that it could have a wider impact throughout the district. In fact some political leaders went to the extent of saying that Meat factory would be setup on their dead bodies. Vicious and communal pamphlets were distributed in many areas. JJSS has a presence in that area and it also came up in our discussions. Initially we didn’t get involve in the struggle as its tone was quite communal and divisive.

The Meat factory started operating, people were very angry with the political leaders as they didn’t take the struggle forward. People got the impression that those leaders were “managed” by the factory owner.

In September 2014 just after factory became operational and started emitting foul smell, about one thousand villagers gathered against the factory and also dug up the approach road. Administration immediately took action and promised the locals that a dialogue would follow, till then let the factory run. Several of JJSS members were part of the protest including Ashish, Shivnarayan and Amar. Ashish was asked to address the gathering. He said that JJSS would help the struggle and would bring out all the documents regarding pollution control.

An RTI was filed and after few months we managed to get most of the documents we wanted about factory, management, pollution certificate etc. The documents revealed that the land was purchased privately and the farmers belonged to both the communities. That about 600 buffalos (and not cows) would be slaughtered every day. It also gave us information about pollution norms, water treatment process to be followed etc. We translated the documents in Hindi and distributed several copies of it. The fact that the land was sold by both the communities helped dismiss some misgivings about each other.

Since then JJSS saathis have been instrumental in organising several meetings with the people affected by the factory pollution and were able to dispel the communal feeling to a large extent. Amar, a long time JJSS member started taking the lead and organising became better. A local committee was setup to take the struggle forward (since sep 14 there was no communication with administration). The committee resolved to take the struggle forward by peaceful means and decided to push the gram sabha, to come up with a resolution against the meat factory. It also encouraged local saathis to involve themselves in the case at the SDO court. However around 8th august the factory started emitting foul smell with greater intensity. Two pregnant women had also died recently and people blamed the factory for that. There was lot of anger. On 8th August more than six thousand people gathered and blocked the National Highway and an Express Train was stopped. Meanwhile Police had already arrived but their approach didn’t help, they resorted to firing to disperse the people. The agitation took an ugly and there was some loot and arson in the factory.

JJSS saathis tried to stop the arson but their appeal for peace was not heard in the mob frenzy. The JJSS is now trying to support the few innocent people who have been falsely implicated in the FIRs registered by the local administration. We have also been appeal to the district magistrate, and in these special circumstances and with the Bihar elections intervening the factory is currently closed but no permanent solution to the pollution from the factory has been found.

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Officials meeting the villagers over the meat factory issue.

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