“There was heavy fog when we found the police reaching Batatikira. They beat me up and other men, women and children,” said Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti member Manorama Khatua, referring to a lathi charge on agitating villagers on Sunday, when land acquisition for the Posco steel project resumed here.
Since January 14, hundreds of villagers had been agitating peacefully, forming a human chain, at Batatikira against further acquisition of land. On Sunday, demolition of vineyards and felling of trees here were stopped after hundreds came out to oppose the administration’s move to acquire more land. However, a senior administration official claimed that 80 per cent of the residents of Gobindpur supported land acquisition. During the day, 12 betel vines belonging to those who had given their consent for land acquisition were destroyed and they were paid compensation by cheque, the official said. The Collector and Jagatsinghpur Superintendent of Police were present at the spot. Samiti leader Abhay Sahu countered the administration’s claim saying that actually 80 per cent of the people were against handing over their land.
Millions of betel leaves were crushed as the vineyards came crashing down under tractors. Many growers who oppose the land acquisition drive stood mute, even as a few villagers accepted the compensation. Administration officials, who came back from Gobindpur after the Sangram Samiti demanded immediate withdrawal of police from the area, told The Hindu that land acquisition will continue.