UPDATE, 2nd April: PPSS Plans a Hunger Strike
From 22nd March 2013 onwards, more than 200 women of Govindpur village have been continuing their daily peaceful protest opposing the undemocratic moves of the government and POSCO in the village of Gobindpur in Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha. The leader at PPSS have decided to call a hunger strike on 3rd April 2013 if their demands for police removal are not met.
the proposed POSCO plant site.
UPDATE, 4th March: Bomb attack on PPSS Meeting Kills Three
On 2nd March 2013 the anti-POSCO movement was met with a fresh instance of violence and oppression when bombs were hurled at around 6:30 pm into a meeting room of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, at Patna Village, Dhinkia, Jagatsinghpur. The bomb killed Manas Jena – Age 32 on the spot and two others, Nabanu Mandal – 35 and Narahari Sahoo – 52, succumbed to their injuries as the police didn’t respond to their call for ambulances on time. Mr. Laxman Paramanik was critically injured and is undergoing treatment at the moment.
Company-sponsored goons who were allegedly trying to target the PPSS leader Mr. Abhay Sahoo carried out the attack. Police however deny this and have stated that the bombs were set off accidently by members of PPSS as they were trying to make explosives.
This is not the first instance of violence against members of the anti-POSCO movement. A recently released fact-finding report by the Alternative Law Forum titled ‘Captive Democracy’, details how the State has been misusing various sections of the Indian Penal Code to repress the movement.
People’s movements from across the country stand in solidarity with the struggle of villagers of Jagatsinghpur. “This act of terror is extremely condemnable but will not deter the spirit of resistance,” said spokespeople of the National Alliance of People’s Movements.
We urge you once again to sign this petition asking the Government of Odisha to stop land acquisition in Jagatsinghpur.
UPDATE, 12th February: PPSS Leader Abhaya Sahoo Ends Hunger Strike
On 10th February 2013, Mr. Abhaya Sahoo, the chairperson of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti was persuaded by the villagers and visiting activists from across the state and outside to call off his six-day hunger strike as the state government temporarily suspended the forcible land acquisition process owing to the resistance on one hand and the support and solidarity the movement received from across the globe. It is difficult to predict the government’s next move but PPSS feel they will not resort to forcible land acquisition for some time at least since the State Assembly’s budget session is about to start soon. The PPSS wishes to thank all those who expressed their support and solidarity with the movement.
Image: Abhaya Sahoo (Second from left) sits with other activists from POSCO Pratirodhak Sangram Samiti
“Although a majority of the armed police personnel has been withdrawn from the site outside Govindpur where land was being acquired for POSCO by the State government by demolishing betel vineyards, two platoons of police are still camping in the village. We have decided to continue our mass peaceful demonstration at Govindpur till the police completely withdraws from Govindpur village. We would request you to please keep a watch on POSCO and to please remain in touch with us –the victims and potential victims of POSCO’s invasion,” says Prashant Paikray, Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti.
UPDATE, 7th February: Government Halts Land Acquisition in Jagatsinghpur
The government of Odisha has temporarily halted the land acquisition drive in Dhinkia Panchayat however there are still 2 platoons of police present. We urge the supporters to keep the pressure on the government to ensure that there is no further attempt to forcefully evict people from their lands. In the past, police have retracted forces from the villages when there is national and international pressure but later resumed the land grabbing drive.
The human rights defenders from Jagatsingpur who have been arrested and charged with false cases continue to be in prison or fear being arrested. Human Rights Activist Debendra Swain, who was arrested during 3rd February’s police attack has been taken to Kujang prison. Below is a video from Samadrusti Televisions which captures the events of 3rd February and the Debendra’s arrest.
We urge you to call the Deputy General of Police, Odisha, Prakash Mishra on 0671-2304834 and pressurise him to release Debendra Swain. Also ask him to drop the false charges filed against the other 230 individuals and several leaders of the anti- POSCO movement.
You can also sign the petition started by Front Line Defenders, an International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders which has taken action in support of Debendra Swain and responded to the recent arrests and repression of protest in Jagatsinghpur.
Video Volunteers Community Correspondent Rangadhar Mohapatra visited Dhinkia and Gobindpur to record statements from the residents. These statements are from those who stood head to head with the police on the morning of 3rd February.
Debendra’s brother Suresh Chandra is not disheartened by Debendra’s arrest. “My brother didn’t steal or lie. He was fighting for his motherland,” he says.
Dhruba Charan Swain dismisses the illusion of a peaceful land acquisition being created by the police and Posco. “If they are acquiring the land peacefully, why is the police here?” he says.
JAGATSINGHPUR, ODISHA: At 4AM on 3rd February 2013, twelve platoons of police forcefully entered villages, Dhinkia and Govindpur to take over forest land. These villages have been at the centre of a seven year long resistance movement against the Korean steel company POSCO which seeks to build a port and a steel plant in Jagatsinghpur District. Worth 12 Billion, the project stands to be the largest Foreign Direct Investment in India.
On entering the village, police targeted women and children first. At least 6 women, children and elderly people were seriously injured; 50 people were arbitrarily detained and one arrested– anti-POSCO activist and IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent, Debendra Swain.
The police also started cutting down the betel leaf plantations of the villages which are the main source of income for the people. Our Community Correspondents on the ground say that the affected residents are facing serious threats to their lives and security.
A week ago Debendra had sent in the following video which documents the voices of the people on the ground and their reasons for opposing the land acquisition. While joining the IndiaUnheard team he had said he wants to document the people’s movement and its harsh consequences on them.
Video Volunteers has been working with the people’s movement in Odisha for some time now. We have been documenting the statements of the people who will be most affected by the POSCO plant.
“ We are not telling the company (POSCO) not to enter Odisha, they can come, but not here where we have our livelihoods.” Outraged she continues, “They bring authorities and point guns in our faces,” says a resident of the village.
Around 4000 families who will be affected by the project do not want their home and livelihood sources to be ceded for construction of the integrated steel plant. The Gram Sabhas-Assembly of elders in the village/Panchayat, of the concerned villages have time and again reiterated their opposition to any acquisition of their land as the people will lose forest land, water bodies and rice-paddies in the area, which are important sources of livelihood.
There is evidence of the land acquisition being unconstitutional as it violates the Forest Rights Act 2006 which states that no forest land can be diverted without the informed consent of the gram sabha (village council). The National Green Tribunal has suspended the environmental clearance given to the project. The actions of the government of Odisha with the support of the police and POSCO clearly violate several international human rights treaties, which have been ratified by India.
Despite overwhelming evidence of the illegalities and unconstitutionality in acquiring land against the people’s consent, the Jagatsinghpur District Collector SK Mallick made a public statement to the media on 28th December 2012 that the acquisition would be resumed.
Six years ago, 52 families who were forcefully evicted from Dhinkia Panchayat now live in make shift shelters built by POSCO. What was meant to be a transit camp is now their permanent residence. Some of them are given a dole of Rs.20/- per day, which is insufficient to meet even basic needs.
Appeal from Prashant Paikary, Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti:
“As the situation gets increasingly alarming, we appeal all our friends to protest against the barbarism and call/write/fax to the Prime Minister, Chief Minister of Odisha and Chief Secretary of Odisha, Home Minsitry, Odisha appealing them to immediately stop the police brutality and withdrawal of the force from our area. We request our media friends to rush to our villages and see the situation with their own eyes and report it.”
- Ask why this use of force was sanctioned on 3rd February 2013-02-03
- Release Debendra Swain. Also ask him to drop the false charges filed against the other 230 individuals and several prominent leaders of the anti- POSCO movement.
- How many people have been injured and what treatment are they receiving
- Demand for an immediate withdrawal of forces from the area.
Chief Minister, Odisha
Tel. No.(O) 011 91 674 2531100,011 91 674 2535100,
011 91 674 2531500, Epbax 2163
Tel. No.(R) 011 91 674 2590299, 011 91 674 2591099,
011 91 674 2590844, 011 91 674 2591100,
Fax No- (91)6742535100
E Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cell number: 09437575759
office numbers: 0624- 220115, 220370(F)
Residence number: 220015