MAC: Mines and Communities

India: Vicious attack against POSCO opponents triggers urgent demands

Published by MAC on 2011-12-27
Source: POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS)

Last week we reported that a private force of 500 men had descended on a non-violent demonstration against the POSCO project in India's state of Orissa.

Several protestors were injured and one man (apparently from the "goon squad") died.

For recent MAC coverage, see: India: POSCO opponents suffer vicious armed attack

The attack was widely condemned by left wing politicians in Orissa, but according to PPSS - the peoples' organisation formed by local villagers - further action is about to be taken by the state government against the movement's leadership.

Following an investigation on 22 December, a group of Indian civil society organisations has called for an immediate judicial enquiry into the attacks of 14th December 2011.

It is also demanding the withdrawal of all newly-filed and previous false cases against the  villagers and PPSS activists.

Resistance continues

According to PPSS, resistance continues at another part of the POSCO site, where villagers, including children and women, have been protesting against forceful land acquisition for POSCO for several months. See: Peoples' struggles against POSCO broaden in India - and beyond

Says PPSS: "We are guarding at different gates round-the-clock to prevent the arrest of our people and other leaders.

"Our villagers are in strong determination to fight till the POSCO withdraws its project."

Update from POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) as on 20th December 2011

POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS)

20 December 2011

As you are already aware, though our protesting villagers are yet come out of the shocking incidents of 14th December 2011 when our peaceful protesters were physically assaulted by the private militia under the leadership of a don called Bapi Sarkel who has been given a contract to do some work for IDCO/POSCO, the woes and worries of the struggle is not coming to an end.

The critically injured persons are still struggling for survival in the absence of any  government or non-government medical help as there is a strong fear that they will be arrested the moment they are seen in public. The reason being- in the process of assaulting us with bombs and other weapons, they killed one of their own men. This was how they created a ground to arrest all the leaders and active supporters of PPSS in this pretext by implicating them in the "murder" case. If you may kindly recall this was how they also arrested our leader Mr. Abhay Sahu.

The Naveen Pattnaik government continues to be inhuman, undemocratic, unethical and cruel in his approach to promote rapid industrialization in the state. Now the private militia has taken place of the police and attempting to intimidate and crush us. Needless to say that the private militia has all the backing of the police and district administration who apparently have got clear instructions from the Chief Minister to go ahead.

Following the incidence, our honourable MLAs, cutting across party line, strongly protested the involvement of private army who unleashed violence on the unarmed villagers in the floor of the Odisha Assembly. The media also covered the matter in great detail and there was public outrage.

Due to the pressure from public, MLAs and the media, the government has transferred the mastermind Priyabrata Patnaik from Managing Director of IDCO to a position of insignificance. But it is said the person replacing him is more clever and more efficient in advancing the corporate agenda.

In response to the uproar in the state Assembly, Chief Minister Naveen Pattnaik made a statement on the floor of the assembly that the police and the civil administration were not informed about the road construction. If this is true, then he should accept his inefficiency (as he is holding the Home Ministry with him) and resign. In reality, however, the Police and administration at the district and state level were fully supportive of the nasty design of the Contractor Bapi Sarkel and his goons.

Bapi Sarkel has kept people from Thailand as his bodyguards. They carry arms with them. Who has allowed these foreigners to carry arms in Indian soil? And ironically, the  contractor has been provided with a Special Protection Officer by then district police! Demands of the MLAs to arrest Bapi Sarkel has falenl in deaf year of the government. On the other day, the police raided his residence and office and told the media that they did not get him or any incriminating documents. This is amazing that police does not get a person who was openly speaking in front of private TV channels and blaming the MLAs. We demand the immediate arrest of such a person who is using his goons to attack us.

We believe that the raid on Bapi Sarkel's house was drama enacted to launch a series of arrests of the our leaders and supporters who have been falsely implicated in the killing of the goon who had come to attack our people but died as a result of their own bombing on December 14.

Instead of taking action against the contractor and the police officials supporting him, the administration has clamped false case of murder against former legislator and CPI leader Narayan Reddy, who is now helping the movement on the request of PPSS and our arrested leader Abhay Sahuji. We have come to know that, as part of the larger design to crush our movement, the government is planning to arrest our people like Mr. Prashant Paikary, Spokesperson of PPSS, our leader like Mr. Ram Krushan Panda, National council Member, Communist Party of India (CPI), Mr. Bapi ( son of Abhaya Sahoo) and others.

On 19th December 2011, the leaders of five parties, Communist Party of India (CPI), CPI (Marxist), Forward Bloc, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Samajwadi Party submitted a memorandum to the Honourable Governor registering protest against the project related work in the proposed POSCO plant area in the absence of a Memorandum of  Understanding (MoU).

Amidst this chaos, POSCO officials have quietly opened a project site office at Dadhibamanpada in Nuagaon Panchayat.

Our villagers including children and women are continuing our protest at Balitikira, bordering Govindpur village, to protest against the forceful land acquisition for POSCO. We are guarding at different gates round-the-clock to prevent the arrest of our people and  other leaders. Our villagers are in strong determination to fight till the POSCO withdraws its project.

Our friends will constantly update you with any further developments.

Please continue to demand the withdrawal of the project and all cases registered against our people.

Sisir Mohapatra
Secretary, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS)
Mobile no.-09437571547

Statement from representatives of various organizations on the violent attack on anti-POSCO protestors on 14th December 2011 and its aftermath

24 December 2011

We, the undersigned, visited Gobindpur, Dhinkia and Patna villages of Jagatsinhpur district of Orissa, on 22nd December, where the villagers are peacefully resisting the proposed POSCO steel plant for the last six years in order to protect their lands and livelihoods from complete destruction.

Our visit was in the aftermath of the incidents of 14th December 2011, during which the peaceful protest against the construction of the coastal road connecting Paradip port to the proposed site of the POSCO steel plant, was viciously and unexpectedly attacked with country-made bombs by hired goons of the local contractor Bapi Circle, who is a known criminal with many pending cases in Odisha. In the process, many protesting villagers, including elderly women, were badly injured.

One of the men hired by Bapi Circle was also killed by being accidentally hit with a bomb thrown by his own associates. After this heinous incident, the state government has slapped false charges of murder (Sec 302 of the Indian Penal Code) against 11 key activists of the Posco Protirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), including some who were not even present at the time of the attack. Charges have also been brought against "150 other" unnamed villagers.

Since our visit, Narayan Reddy from CPI who has been supporting the struggle has been arrested on 23rd December under false charges.

This is in continuation with the atrocious practice of slapping false cases against PPSS activists and supporters that has been going on for the last six years, and which now number in the thousands. Fearing arrests, people are unable to leave the villages and access much required medical care and engage in regular economic activities which has taken a terrible toll on their lives and livelihoods.

It should be mentioned in this context that the building of the coastal road was initiated in a completely illegal manner, with no MoU currently existing between POSCO and the Odisha government; irregularities in awarding the benami contract to Paradip Paribahan, which is allegedly controlled by Bapi Circle, is widely known.

It is shocking that the contractor could go ahead with building the coastal road and engineer the attack by hired goons, allegedly with active government support, when these illegalities are well known.

This is again in line with the entire trajectory of the POSCO project, which has been mired in all sorts of illegal actions over the past six years. Three separate government-appointed committees that investigated various aspects of the POSCO project found that the state and central governments are robbing people's land in violation of the Forest Rights Act; an official enquiry found that the environmental clearance process was 'farcical'; and independent economists have established that there is no benefit from this project to the State or the Indian economy.

We, on our visit, witnessed the direct effects of the state's high-handedness and its complicity in the physical and economic violence being perpetrated against the legitimate struggle of the people against the POSCO project. We demand:

Signed by:

Madhumita Dutta, Asit Das, POSCO Protirodh Solidarity

Partho Sarothi Ray, Sudipto Muhuri, Siddhartha Mitra, Sanhati

Sirisha Naidu, Mining Zone Peoples Solidarity Group

Lakshmi Premkumar, Delhi Forum

Pramodini Pradhan, Peoples' Union for Civil Liberties-Odisha

Update from POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) as on 26th December 2011

POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS)

26 December 2011

On 23rd December 2011, the government arrested CPI leader and former legislator, Mr. Narayan Reddy, who is supporting our movement, at Japa Square in Erasama area of Jagatsinghpur district. Mr. Reddy was taken to Kujang police station and then produced before a local court which remanded him to judicial custody for two weeks.

After the 14th incident, the government has adopted all dirty means to sabotage our democratic movement. The government has slapped false charges of murder against our 11 activists along with 150 unnamed villagers.

On 23rd December, the Panchayati raj department issued a gazette notification on three-tire panchayat elections to be held in the state. The Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Raghunath Mohanty declared in the State Assembly, on behalf of Panchayatiraj Minister Maheswar Mohanty that "Elections will not be held in the Dhinkia as the situation is not favourable". Mohanty said that in a special statement in the house that the five-year term of Gram Panchayat members and sarpanches, panchayat samiti members and chairmen and Zilla Parishad members is going to completed by March 2012.

We strongly condemn the dirty tricks played by the state establishment. Firstly, they have illegally suspended the elected Sarapanch of Dhinkia village, Secondly, they declared the Palli Sabha (Village Council) is illegal but didn't convene the fresh Palli sabha to listen the people's voice and thirdly, they are not holding any election in our villages. Here lies the dishonesty. This exposes the real intention of the government to curtail the genuine people's voices at panchayat level. Because the government knows clearly that once our people have their elected Sarapanch, they will claim rights over forest land by holding Palli Sabha. This will again create hindrance for the government to hand over our land to the proposed POSCO steel plant. This is the clear case of throttling the genuine people's voices. Their effort is to undermine the legitimacy of people for the land and resources under forest rights. In other words, people's effort for self determination and self  governance are completely disregarded.

The latest news is Mr. Bapi Sharkel , the local contractor and the mafia who is the architect of 14th December incident of attacking our people with his goons, was arrested due to constant pressure from opposition parties . He was kept in a hotel initially and later
shifted to the Kujang jail. We learnt that deliberately the police has not filed section 302 of the Indian Penal Code i.e. charges of murder in his name. In the legislative assembly, opposition members were demanding the chief minister of Odisha to provide the details of the cases against the Bapi Sharkel. Instead of giving details, the legislative assembly was abruptly suspended before six days from its schedule. The government is using all unfair means to save the criminal even to the extent of adjourning the Assembly sine die in order to get away from the public scrutiny and accountability.

We learnt that the police are giving royal treatment to the Bapi Sharkel inside the jail. A television set has been provided to him in the jail by the police. All types of perks and facilities are being regularly provided to him. The police DIG (Central range) Mr. D.S. Kuttey, has a past record of having conducted the ruthless repression in Kalinga Nagar area of Jajpur district was given charge to crush our struggle. We are requesting our media friends to investigate in details.

We request your voice of protest against this undemocratic and unethical behavior of the state government of Odisha.

We are attaching herewith the statement from Statement from representatives of various organizations on the violent attack on anti-POSCO protestors on 14th December 2011 and its aftermath.

We shall inform you the ongoing development here.

In solidarity,

Prashant Paikary
Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti
Mobile no - 09437571547

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