Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Protest Against Continued State Repression on Anti-POSCO People's Struggle in Odisha

Odisha Bhawan, 1 Niti Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, 11 am, 24th March, 2013

People's Struggle Against Corporate - State Nexus Long Live!

Over the last eight years, the people of Dhinkia, Patna, Gobindapur, Nuagaon and Gadkujang villages in Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha have been resisting the corporate aggression and environmental destruction by the multinational steel giant POSCO and brutal state repression by the Odisha government. The central government has been a silent onlooker and an active facilitator of this blatant resource grabbing by POSCO and human rights violations by the Odisha state government. Over the last eight years, the people of the villages have been subjected to forcible land acquisition, loss of livelihoods, brutal attacks by the police and company-sponsored goondas, thousands of false cases and arbitrary arrests, and a virtual state of siege which has prevented most of them from leaving the villages for work or even for basic necessities such as medical treatment and education. Incidents have happened in which a person taking his sick child to the hospital has been arrested on the way, and the child abandoned on the wayside. Women, who have been in the forefront of the resistance, have been especially targeted, with even elderly women being beaten up mercilessly and arrested by the police. Four people have been killed in bombing incidents by goondas, three of them, Narahari Sahoo, Tarun Mandal and Manas Jena in March of this year. Among these, Tarun Mandal's brother, Dula Mandal, was killed in another bombing incident earlier. Recently, Abhay Sahoo, the leader of the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti spearheading the movement was arrested arbitrarily by the police and charged under multiple false cases.

In the face of this corporate land grab and state-sponsored terrorism, the people of these villages have been heroically resisting by various democratic means, by holding dharnas, demonstrations, picketing and rallies. In the heat of the summer in 2011, children of the villages lay down in the hot sand to stop the police and state administration from demolishing the betel vine plantations and acquiring the land. Women have bravely faced police lathis and boots and teargas and rubber bullets. The activists of PPSS have faced imprisonment and loss of all their sources of livelihood. But the people of the villages have remained steadfast, and the anti-POSCO movement has been a source of inspiration and courage to all peoples' movements in India. It has also been able to rally a large cross-section of political and mass organizations and individuals who have stood in solidarity with the valiant struggle of the people against corporate land grab and displacement.

However, the peoples' struggle against POSCO is at a critical juncture now. Although, the POSCO project does not have any legal standing now, as the MoU between the company and the Odisha government has expired, and the environmental clearance for the project is under suspension, over the past few months the Odisha government has reached new levels of aggression in the attempt to acquire land in the area and destroy the betel vine plantations. Since February of this year, the police have entered Gobindapur village after dispersing the protesting villagers by a brutal lathicharge, and made a permanent camp in the village. They are conducting raids every day, and many of the cadres of the movement have been forced to leave the village and take refuge in Dhinkia. The administration is destroying betel vines and acquiring land every day, and have announced last week that from this week they will start to forcibly acquire land. They are also creating dissensions and internal trouble in the villages by propping up pro-POSCO groups. In this backdrop, the three activists were killed in the bomb blast and Abhay Sahoo was arrested. The administration is also attempting to build a wall between the Gobindapur and Dhinkia villages to isolate them and unleash greater torture upon the villagers.

In this critical situation it is required that all of us come together in solidarity with the struggling people resisting the corporate-state nexus between POSCO and the Odisha government that is destroying their lives and livelihoods. Let us join together to oppose this corporate aggression and state terrorism and demand:

  • Immediate withdrawal of all police forces from Gobindapur village
  • Stopping of all land acquisition and betel vine destruction for the illegal POSCO project
  • Cancellation of the resource-grabbing and environmentally destructive POSCO project
  • Release of all prisoners and the withdrawal of all false cases

New Socialist Initiative (NSI), Sanhati - Delhi, JNU Students' Union (JNUSU), POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity Delhi, All India Students' Association (AISA), Democratic Students Federation (DSF), Left Collective, KNS (Krantikari Naujawan Sabha), CPI-ML (RF), People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), New Materialist - JNU, Students for Resistance (SRF), Women Against Sexual Violence & State Repression (WSS), All India Platform for Labour Rights, INSAF, Democratic Students Union (DSU)


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