IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent Debendra Swain was arrested on 3rd February by the police when they entered and attacked Villages Dhinkia and Govindpur in the early hours of the morning. During the police attack, over 50 villagers were detained and at least 6 women and elderly people were seriously injured.
A week ago, he made this video which gives an accurate picture of the protest which has been going on for the last seven years.The residents of Dhinkia Panchayat clearly state that they do not want to give the land to POSCO as they will lose access to the land and water resources their livelihoods depend on. The peaceful protest made up of dharnas (sit-ins) and human chains has usually been met by armed resistance by the state.
The land in question is extremely fertile land. If they move, the 4,000 families of Dhinkia Panchayat will not be able to find land as suitable, to cultivate their betel vines on which is the primary source of income for the people.
"We are not against the company, why don't they go where there is no livelihood? They come here, don't let us sleep, drink or roam around," says one resident of Dhinkia Village.
Six years ago, 52 families were forcefully evicted from Dhinkia Panchayat. They 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 their basic needs.
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 also suspended the environmental clearance given to the project.
The actions by the government of Odisha with the support of the police and POSCO clearly violate several international human rights treaties including the International Covenant on economic social and Cultural Rights the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women, all of which India has ratified.
As this video is published, Debendra is in police custody in Abhayachandrapur jail, Jagatsinghpur District and has been falsely accused of crimes he did not commit.
"I want to make videos that tell the stories of the people," he had said while joining the IndiaUnheard team of Community Correspondents.
Call To Action: As Debendra's community faces increased force from POSCO and the Government of Odisha, he requests you to Call the Ministry of Environment and Forests on 011-244360605 and pressurise them to withdraw permission for the construction of the steel plant.
Video Volunteers requests you to call the DGP of Odisha, Prakash Mishra on 0671-2304834 and pressurise him to release Debendra Swain.