Police spreading false propaganda on bomb blast, say activists

As uneasy calm prevailed after the death of three anti-POSCO project activists in a bomb explosion in Patna village on Saturday, the Jagatsinghpur district administration resumed acquiring land on Sunday for the South Korean major’s mega steel plant. The betel vines of three persons were torn down at Gobindpur without any resistance — many residents had fled the villages fearing police action — and Rs. 10.45 lakh was paid in compensation. “We have destroyed three vineyards. Land acquisition will be carried out on a bigger scale in the coming days,” Superintendent of Police Satyabrata Bhoi said.

The administration said one person was also seriously injured in Saturday’s explosion.

But the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, which has been spearheading the movement against land acquisition, has urged all political parties and rights organisations to carry out an independent investigation, charging the police with spreading a false propaganda over the deaths. “The police claim that three persons lost their lives while preparing bombs is rubbish. In the past eight years of our struggle, we have never taken up arms. In fact, bombs were hurled at the three activists, who were in hiding for fear of police action. As heavy police deployment was made prior to the resumption of land acquisition, project supporters got excited and executed the fatal attack,” PPSS president Abhaya Sahoo said.

“The incident will not stop us from carrying forward our movement. We will intensify it, though the government machinery and hired criminals are being used to pin us down,” he said.

As many as 12 police platoons were deployed in the area. Last month, the Odisha government destroyed 20 betel vineyards. Observers said the government was under tremendous pressure to complete the acquisition of 2,700 acres for the POSCO India Private Limited to set up the eight million tonne-a-year plant, which was announced seven years ago.