The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that on September 26, hundreds of people hired by a construction company attacked villagers protesting against the construction of a coastal road, allegedly to facilitate the POSCO project. Sticks, stones and hand-bombs were hurled upon the protesters, resulting in 12 injuries, two of them serious. The police allegedly received a prior notice of the attack and were nearby, but did not come to the spot for intervention. Instead, the Inspector in Charge of the Kujang police station humiliated two women who came to file a complaint at the police station, and tried to remove the names of the key perpetrators: the owner of the construction company and the leader of the hired attackers. This was one protest amongst many that have been occurring against the POSCO project in Orissa, which will gravely affect people’s livelihood, food security and the environment.
At 8:30 am on September 26, 2011, hundreds of people allegedly sent by Paradeep Paribahan, an Indian company exporting iron ore fines and contracting the coastal road construction for POSCO, attacked the villagers of Govindpur. Under Dhinkia Gram Panchayat, Jagatsinghpur district, Govindpur is one of eight villages to be affected by the Korean Pohang Steel Company (POSCO) project, composed of a steel plant, mines, and captive port.
Two villagers, Mr. Suresh Chandra Das (50-years-old) and Mr. Ranjan Swain (35-years-old) were seriously injured together with another 10 persons who also suffered injuries in the attack. Six of these are women. The injured persons fear being arrested if they go to obtain medical treatment, as the police have already filed false cases against them over previous protests. One TV reporter was also reportedly seriously injured.
Hundreds of people led by Mr. Bapi Circle, known as a mafia leader from the ruling party Biju Janata Dal (BJD) came in 10 trucks and other vehicles and hurled stones and hand-bombs upon the villagers peacefully protesting against the road construction near Dhinkia village. The villagers tried to chase them away with wooden sticks. It is alleged that the police were informed in advance of the attack upon the villagers, and were not far from the protest place, but did not come to prevent the violence.
The villagers have been peacefully protesting against the eight kilometer-long coastal road construction between Dhinkia village of Dhinkia Gram Pachayat and Noliasahi village of Gadakujang Gram Panchayat since August 2011. On August 19, the government laid the foundation for the road construction. On the following day, workers attempted to initiate the construction, which was stopped by the protesters. It is alleged that the coastal road being constructed aims to enter the villages being blocked by anti-POSCO protesters.
On September 27, Ms. Satyabati Swain (65 years), one of the injured women, together with another villager Ms. Anita Sharma (35 years) went to file a First Information Report (FIR) at the Kujang Police Station. Mr. Gupteswar Bhoi, Inspector in Charge (IIC) humiliated both women using filthy language. He further detained Ms. Satyabati Swain based on the charge of unlawful assembly in 2008. She was produced in court the following day, where she was denied bail and placed in custody for a day. The IIC registered Ms. Anita Sharma’s complaint, but allegedly tried to remove the names of the main perpetrators, Mr. Pravat Nandi, the owner of Paradeep Paribahan and Mr. Bapi Circle.
On September 9, 2011, the Orissa High Court ruled that the court shall not intervene in the acquisition of forest land by the state for the POSCO project, but the status quo of the private land — Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadkujang Panchayats of Jagatsingpur district — would be maintained. In other words, the court expressed its lack of concern for the detriment of forest land, which consists of 90 percent of the total land (3566.32 acres) required by the POSCO project.
Furthermore, despite the fact that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the state and POSCO has not been renewed since it expired in 2010, the district administration started cutting trees in the area for the steel plant. Human rights activists filed a writ petition stating that 50,000 trees have been cut by the administration, and the official website says that more than 500,000 trees would be cut down for the proposed steel plant.
The government has been misusing the police force to paralyze the peaceful protests of the villagers who will be forcibly displaced or are concerned about the environmental destruction by the POSCO project. There has been no dialogue with the communities opposed to the project; the Indian government has been merely communicating with the Korean government and the POSCO to launch the project.
The international society on the Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights also supports the protester,
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