MAC: Mines and Communities

Amnesty International Statement on POSCO shootings

Published by MAC on 2010-05-23
Source: Times of India, CNN, Amnesty International (2010-05-21)

Amnesty International has released a statement following the police shooting of anti-POSCO protesters at Jagatsinghpur (see: http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=10107), although it also encompasses an earlier incident at Kalinganagar, also in Orissa, where Tata Steel is forging ahead with a proposed plant against the wishes of local villagers.

Meanwhile the Government is reviewing the previous clearances given to the POSCO project in Jagatsinghpur, as it is blatantly clear from the on-going protests that the report claiming that ""no claim for settlement of rights from tribals and traditional forest dwellers were received" can be true.

The Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said that his government would advice POSCO not to take the private lands of the people there, but as welcome as this would be, making one exception will not solve the growing issues around corporate land-grabs in Orissa.

India: Authorities must halt unnecessary and excessive use of police force and civil militia attack on adivasi and peasant protestors in Orissa

Amnesty International Public Statement - AI Index: ASA 20/013/2010

17 May 2010

Amnesty International urges authorities in Orissa to immediately halt unnecessary and excessive use of force by police and private civil militias on adivasi (indigenous communities) and peasants protesting against the acquisition of their lands and habitats for steel projects respectively in Kalinganagar and Jagatsingpur.

Laxman Jamuda, a 50-year-old adivasi leader was killed and ten protestors including a few women were injured in police firing and nine others sustained injuries during clashes in Kalinganagar, on 12 May. Eyewitnesses informed Amnesty International that the action involved more than 1,000 police officials against about 300 adivasi protestors, some of whom armed with traditional weapons.

Eyewitnesses said a 200-strong civil militia supporting the takeover of the lands for the proposed Tata Steel plant forced its way into Chandia village where the protestors had gathered; the police went along with the civil militia allegedly backed by the ruling Biju Janata Dal in Orissa demolished some of the adivasi houses. During the resultant clash, the police fired on the protestors, killing Laxman Jamuda and several others sustained injuries.

Relatives of Laxman Jamuda have alleged that the Police have secretly cremated his body. A nephew of the deceased, taken by the police for the cremation, said that he was not shown the body.

At Balithutha in nearby Jagatsinghpur district, at least 20 persons sustained injuries on 16 May, three of them seriously, as police used teargas and batons to disperse about 1,000 peasant protestors including women against the takeover of their farmland and village common land for the construction of a steel plant by the South Korean Pohong Steel Company (POSCO).

Eyewitnesses in both places said several areas remained cordoned off during the police action, restricting the arrival of medical assistance for the injured. For the last five years, these protestors had disallowed the entry of officials into the area; the latest round of protests at Balithutha were going on for the last five months,

Amnesty International reminds the authorities that India is obliged, under international human rights law, to protect the right to life. International law places severe restrictions on the use of force by law enforcement officers. At the heart of these restrictions lies the state's duty to respect the right to life and freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Both these rights are provided in international human rights law and standards, including in treaties binding on India, and in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Under international law and standards, police may use force only when strictly necessary and only to the extent required for the performance of their duty and must, as far as possible, apply nonviolent means before resorting to the use of force. If force cannot be avoided, police officials must exercise restraint in such use and, act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate objective to be achieved.

In this context, Amnesty International urges the Government of Orissa to:

order its police to cease all unnecessary or excessive use of force against the protestors; force should only be used in accordance with international human rights law and standards;
ensure that private civil militia do not use force against protestors or break the law in any other way, and treat them like any other offenders if they do;
- provide immediate medical assistance to people who have suffered injuries in the violence as it appears that both these areas are currently cordoned off.
- order an impartial and independent inquiry into all reports of unnecessary or excessive use of police force and the violence in both places, promptly make the findings public;
- ensure that state officials, police personnel, and others who are suspected of being responsible for human rights violations are prosecuted, in proceedings which meet international standards of fairness;
- ensure that, while law and order should be maintained, those who are engaged in peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of assembly and speech are able to do so without fear of violence or harassment.

Background

For the last two months, Kalinganagar has been witnessing recurrent clashes between the state police and about 250 well-armed private civil militia supporting land acquisition on the one hand and the adivasis protesting against government acquisition of their lands and habitats for setting up a six million tonne capacity Tata Steel plant and a common road corridor. On 28 March, 30 adivasi protestors sustained bullet injuries as police and the civil militiamen fired upon a 250 strong group of protestors who pelted stones at them in a bid to prevent them from taking over the land meant for the common road corridor. See Amnesty International, India: Authorities must halt unnecessary and excessive use of police force and civil militia attack on adivasi protestors in Orissa, AI Index: ASA 20/008/2010, 1 April 2010

This violence has occurred, even as relatives of the 13 victims of the police firing against adivasi protestors on 2 January 2006 are still awaiting justice. A judicial inquiry ordered by the Orissa government into the deaths in the 2006 police firing remains inconclusive.

 


 

Protests to prolong Posco wait

Times of India

19 May 2010

THE final forest clearance for the South Korean steel-maker Posco's integrated steel plant and captive port project in Orissa may have to wait longer.

Protests and violence in Jagatsinghpur have cast a shadow on Orissa government's claim that settling forest rights was not a moot issue as there are no forest dwellers in the designated project area.

The environment and forest ministry had on April 15 asked the state government to furnish English translations of the proceedings of the settlement of rights on which this claim is based. The Orissa government is yet to furnish it. This could mean that the environment ministry may have to revisit the approval for diversion of forest land it gave the project in December 2009.

In a communication to the environment ministry on March 16, the state government has claimed that there were no tribals, either cultivating or residing, in the forest area which forms part of the land designated for the Posco project. It also said that no other traditional forest dweller has cultivated forest land for three generations or the last 75 years.

This letter is based on the report of the Jagatsinghpur collector, which was filed on February 23, 2010. The collector's report states that three palli or gram sabhas (public hearings) were conducted in the project area. It also states that "no claim for settlement of rights from tribals and traditional forest dwellers were received." The state forest and environment ministry sent the collector's report and copies of the requisite "certificates" in Oriya to the Union ministry in March.

Perhaps not convinced that due diligence had been done, the environment ministry had on April 15 requested that the Orissa government provide an English translation of the entire settlement of rights proceedings under the Forest Rights Act. This the ministry had said this was essential for "better understanding and appraisal."

The Jagatsinghpur collector's report is being contested by activists as villages such as Dinkhia have not allowed government officials to step into their village for the last five years, so it is unlikely that the district collector would have been allowed to hold a public hearing. Further, two villages including Dhinkhia did hold a gram sabha in the first week of February, where the Posco project was rejected.

Activists claim that the environment ministry has to shoulder some blame for the current situation. They argue that the December 2009 clearance was issued before settlement of rights under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, was completed. The ministry's update on the matter states: "On December 29th, 2009, taking into account the compliance report submitted by the state government, MoE&F gave final approval for diversion of 1253.225 hectares of forest land". This "final approval" was subject to the "fulfilment" of 15 "conditions" including the settlement of rights of the forest dwellers under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, and obtaining the consent of the forest dwellers to the diversion.

It is argued that December "final approval" runs contrary to the ministry's circular issued in July 2009, which stated: "State/UT governments, where process of settlement of rights under the Forest Rights Act is yet to begin, are required to enclose evidences supporting that settlement of rights under Forest Rights Act, 2006 will be initiated and completed before the final approval for the proposals."


Govt backs off but Posco agitation continues

Jajati Karan

CNN-IBN

21 May 2010

Jagatsinghpur, Orissa: After negotiating for almost five years on behalf of the South Korean steel giant Posco, the Orissa government has finally decided to do away with the three hundred acre of disputed private land which has been the epicenter of the anti-Posco agitation.

On Thursday, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said that his government would advice Posco not to take the private lands of the people.

"The collector of the district will negotiate with the affected persons about the package and the RDC will have discussions with those who have reservations about this project and I expect this to get finalised within few days," Patnaik said.

However, the agitators don't seem to be satisfied by the government's assurances.

The Posco site in Balithutha turned into a virtual battleground previous week as the clash between the police and the anti-Posco activists left dozens injured. It not only kicked up a political row in the state but also led to the Naxals stepping in and calling for a bandh in five states.

The anti-Posco agitation is actively fuelled by Left leaders and NGOs who have lent the agitators courage to take on the police.

"If the government wants to build Posco by killing us, we are ready to die. But, would not give our land to Posco," says fifty-five-year-old Bharat Chandra who was injured during Saturday's clash.

Despite suffering injuries, he continues to attend protest meetings.

It is estimated that 4004 acres of land, which Posco requires for its steel plant, will displace people from 3 panchayats.

Dhinkia continues to remain the bastion of anti-Posco agitation because the inhabitants of that area fear that if their land is taken away, they would lose their livelihood.

Beetle farmers like Ranjan Mohanty earn Rs 10,000 per month by selling beetle leaves. Mohanty fears that if Posco takes away his land, the compensation he would get would be less than Rs 2 lakh.

"If I take Rs 2 lakh compensation given by Posco then that money will get spent in one or two years. If I loose my livelihood from my land then my family will soon starve," says Mohanty.

Even if the state government proposes not to acquire 300 acres of private land in Dhinkia, several farmers like Ranjan Mohanty will still lose their land.

Surprisingly though, not all villagers are against the Posco plant. Around 52 families of pro-Posco villagers, who have been driven away from their home by agitators, live in a transit camp run by the company Posco.

The situation at ground zero still remains volatile as both sides prepare for the next confrontation.

It now seems clear that the Orissa government is determined to establish mega industrial projects in the state. However, the question that remains to be answered is - how soon and at what cost?


Tribals vow to continue stir against steel plant

Prafulla Das

The Hindu Times

23 May 2010

They raise slogans against the alleged police repression on them for opposing acquisition of their land

Slogans such as ‘Tata Company Go Back' reverberated the air

Leaders of several opposition parties attend the memorial function

KALINGANAGAR: The cries of scores of hapless tribal women rented the air in this industrial area in Orissa's Jajpur district on Saturday as hundreds of villagers opposing displacement paid tributes to Laxman Jamuda who was killed in police firing on May 12.

Braving the heavy rains that played the spoilsport, the tribals opposing handing over of their land for establishment of a six million tonne capacity steel plant by Tata Steel, the tribals vowed to continue their agitation in the days to come. They stood silently near the stone pillars at Vir Bhoomi, the place where they had memorials of the men who had sacrificed their lives in their struggle to save their land and homes from being taken over for the proposed steel project since January, 2006. Laxman Jamuda's memorial was the 17th memorial. The remaining memorials included that of the 14 men and women who were killed in police firing on January 2, 2006 when the villagers clashed with the armed policemen to oppose work on the steel project.

Earlier, the tribal agitators came to Vir Bhoomi in a procession from their villages nearby. They raised slogans against the alleged police repression on them for opposing acquisition of their land for the steel project.

Slogans such as ‘Bikash Ke Naam Par Binash Nahin Chalega' and ‘Tata Company Go Back' reverberated the air as the tribals came under the banner of the Bisthapan Virodhi Janamanch to reiterate their opposition to displacement. Leaders of several opposition parties and various mass organisations and those opposing displacement in other parts of the State also attended the memorial function that was organised on the 11th day of Jamuda's killing during police action against those opposing displacement.

The parties which sent their representatives to express solidarity with the agitating villagers include the Bharatiya Janata Party, Communist Party of India (CPI), CPI (M-L) Liberation, and Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI).

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