MAC: Mines and Communities

India: POSCO land acquisition halted by naked protest threat

Published by MAC on 2013-03-11
Source: Statements, Newzfirst (2013-03-07)

On March 2nd 2013, three adherents of the longstanding local peoples' movement in resistance to India's huge POSCO project, were killed and another seriously injured, in what - according to other villagers - was an attack by "pro-Posco" thugs. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=565aksMHUAA

A few days later, the district administration temporarily halted the forcible land acquisition process after receiving a "naked protest threat" from the women of Gobindpur village.

For earlier MAC article, see: India: An Oppressive State violates its own rules for POSCO

POSCO land acquisition halted following naked protest threat

Newzfirst

7 March 2013

Bhubaneswar - The district administration of Jagatsingpur in Odisha on Thursday temporarily halted the forcible land acquisition process for POSCO steel project after receiving a naked protest threat from the women of Gobindpur village in Jagatsingpur district.

"On receiving information about the naked protest by village women, the district administration has stopped the land acquisition process today," Prashant Paikray, spokesperson of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), told Newzfirst.

Distressed over Odisha Government's forcible land acquisition process, women from Gobindpur village had announced on Wednesday that they would stage a naked demonstration before the Police force, and demand complete stoppage to the forcible land acquisition.

"If Government continues with the land acquisition process, our village women will also continue with the naked protest," Paikray added.

Villagers of Jagatsingpur district have been protesting against the land acquisition for POSCO's $12 billion steel plant since many years. The proposed steel plant, which will produce 12 million tonnes per annum, is the largest foreign investment in India.


Urgent Appeal From Different South Korean Trade Unions and Human Rights Organisations

5 March 2013

No more death for Odisha people who are opposed to POSCO project!

On the evening of March 2nd - a Saturday - four villagers died and two were injured from bombs which exploded at their home. They were from a village that is against a project of the steel-making company, POSCO. Those who are opposed to the POSCO project assert that the bomb were used as an attack by supporters of the project against the protestors, whereas police have said that the anti-POSCO villagers were probably making bombs to target the police and some accidentally exploded.

We, the Korean civil society, express our deep condolence for the families of the victims as well as the Odisha villagers who are concerned about future cases of potential violence. We emphasize that there should be no further victims caused by the conflict over the POSCO project which has been continuous for the last seven years.

The conflict has been taking place continuously since 2005, when POSCO and the Odisha state government signed an agreement on a 12 million tonne-a-year-plant that includes a steel plant, a port and other infrastructures. In particular, it remains questionable whether villagers of the project area gave their free, prior,

and informed consent, and it was made of their own volition and prior to the project starting. Environmental concerns over the impact the plant will have are also legitimate and in need of attention.

Anti-POSCO villagers have been suffering greatly due to the project. They have been protesting against POSCO, and as a result, have been blocked by the police and live in fear of when the police might come to destroy their homes and land. They are unable to devote themselves to their living. Up until now, five have been killed, including the four mentioned above, and the injuries have been countless.

POSCO's stand on the position is that there should not be any issues as the project has been put forward in a legitimate way. However, there is no doubt that POSCO is by passing the rights of indigenous peoples and sustainable development - a hot issue in the international community - as it continues to push forward a project that primarily serves the company's agenda. Because of this, four more have died, and the Korean government as well as POSCO should not ignore this matter or handle it in a dismissive way as they have been doing so far.

First, we urge POSCO to take responsibility and accountability for this matter. Even though POSCO was not directly involved in all these instances of violence and breaches of human rights made against villagers up until now, at the end of the day, it is, as POSCO asserts, a project of POSCO, by POSCO and for POSCO, and therefore the company's name will inevitably be brought up whenever these kinds of conflicts happen. It is only reasonable for a company, from the moment it plans and launches a project for development, to take responsibility for the project. And so, we strongly urge POSCO to take responsibility for the effects caused by its project and take the necessary step to end the conflict before it confronts a more serious situation which will attract attention from the rest of the world. If POSCO still continues to blame the Odisha state government and anti-POSCO villagers as they have done so far, it will have to bear a different level of pressure and condemnation than before.

We ask for the Korean government to take responsibility also, for it is not true that a business project of a private company is unrelated to the government. After all, it is commonly known that the Korean government has made an intervention on the appointing of the POSCO CEO since the National Pension Corp is a major shareholder of the company. The Korean President has even asked the Indian government for speedy propulsion to help launch this mega project.

The Korean government needs to take the constant conflict caused by the 12 billion US dollar project seriously. It has been a year since a number of children lying down on the ground in a scorching hot summer to show their opposition to the POSCO project were reported to the world. And yet the Korean government agency related to the project has continued to request the Indian government to help gear up the project. This is in spite of civil societies including India, Norway, the Netherlands and Korea having recently submitted a complaint against POSCO and some stakeholders of POSCO in accordance with the OECD guidelines, and voicing expectations of having the Korean government investigate the complaint. It is a good opportunity for the new government of President Park to show their attitude in regards to respecting human rights and sustainable environment before the international community.

There should be no more people dying or being injured due to the POSCO project or any other project of a Korean corporation. Anti-POSCO villagers have not demanded more monetary compensation as POSCO says, but are simply trying to protect the land they have inherited from their ancestors. If land acquisition is forcibly carried out with violence against the villagers who will never leave their land until they die, a bigger, more tragic situation will be sure to take place. And so, before that happens, the government and POSCO should handle the current situation properly and positively.

We, the Korean civil society, will put all our efforts into making POSCO and the Korean government address this matter thoroughly and sincerely.

1. Advocates for Public Interests Law

2. Corporate For All

3. Energy & Climate Policy Institute

4. GongGam, Human Rights Law Foundation

5. Korean Confederation of Trade Unions

6. Korean Federation for Environmental Movement

7. Korean House for International Solidarity

8. Korean Lawyers for Public Interest and Human Rights

9. National Association of Professors for Democratic Society

10. People's Solidarity for Social Progress

Contact: Mr. Hyun Phil Na
Deputy Executive Director, Korean House for International Solidarity
Tel: +82-2-736-5808


State is Sponsoring and Promoting Violence not the PPSS

Punish the Criminals Halt Land Acquisition- NAPM

Joint statement

3 March 2013

New Delhi: In the continuing saga of state violence and oppression, when nearly 6 platoons of police were present in the area for starting the forceful land acquisition procedure, bombs were hurled at around 6:30 pm on a meeting room of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, at Patna Village, Dhinkia, Jagatsinghpur, killing Manas Jena - Age 32 died on the spot. Two others Nabanu Mandal - 35 and Narahari Sahoo - 52 succumbed to their injuries, since police didn't respond to their call for ambulances on time. Mr. Laxman Paramanik was critically injured and is undergoing treatment at the moment.

This act of terror is extremely condemnable and will not deter the spirit of resistance. It is also unfortunate that rather than taking action against the company sponsored goons, who have attacked in past too, the district administration has been spreading canards that the people died while making bombs. The history of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti shows that the movement has been non-violent and peaceful even when the the state forces and goons have attacked them with ferocity on many occasions latest being on February 3rd.

It need to be mentioned that the movement has faced several instances of state repression, document in a recently release fact finding report titled, "Captive Democracy". The report says that "230 cases had been filed implicating about 1500- 2000 villagers resisting POSCO between 2006 and 2012. Most of the complaints have left the number of accused open-ended, which allows the police to implicate any person in any case, despite not being specifically named therein. A large number of these cases have been filed by government officials during times of peaceful demonstrations by the members of the PPSS."

Shri Abhaya Sahoo, the President of the PPSS was arrested on two occasions and has over 50 cases registered against him, including cases when he wasn't present in the villages on the day of the alleged offence. Manorama Kathua, President Women's Wing of the PPSS, aged about 29 years has several cases filed against her and has been unable to apply for bail due to financial constraints and has not left the village in 6-7 years. These are just few instances of arbitrary actions of the police and the impacts of the same.

Hence, it is unfortunate that the state is again trying to criminalise the movement and forcefully acquire the land. The sacrifices made by the activists to save their land and right to earn a dignified living must be respected. The actions of Orissa government is in complete violation of democratic norms and principles of justice. As of now the environmental clearance given by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on January 31, 2011 stands suspended by the order of National Green Tribunal (NGT) dt March 30 2012. The project does not even have a memorandum of understanding with the state government now, with one signed on July 22, 2005 having lapsed. So what is the basis on which the state is acquiring land for the project ?

The nation needs an answer for this continued brutality and loss of life and livelihood and constant harassment and complete disruption of normal life. People's movements from across the country stand in solidarity with the struggle of villagers of Jagatsinghpur and condemn this barbaric action of the state government and company sponsored goons.

Signed:

Medha Patkar, Dr. Sunilam, Prafulla Samantra, Arundhati Dhuru, Sandeep Pandey, P Chennaiah, Ramakrishna Raju, Sister Celia, Suniti S R, Gabriele Dietrich, Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd), Anand Mazgaonkar, Gautam Bandopadhyay, Vimal Bhai, Mukta Srivastava, Suhas Kolhekar, Rajendra Ravi, Bhupender Singh Rawat, Seela Mahapatra, Madhuresh Kumar

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