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India: Statement on violent attack on anti-POSCO protestors on 14th December 2011 and its aftermath

26 December 2011

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

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:

  • An immediate judicial enquiry into the attacks on 14th December 2011.
  • Withdrawal of the all newly-filed and previous false cases against
    villagers and PPSS activists.

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