As Orissa on Wednesday made failed attempts to acquire land for the Posco steel plant in Jagatsinghpur district, five political parties announced that they would begin an indefinite dharna opposing the Naveen Patnaik government's attempts to suppress democratic resistance by villagers who oppose establishment of the project in their locality.

The dharna would be staged on Mahatma Gandhi Marg here from Thursday. It would be preceded by a procession demanding immediate withdrawal of the armed police from the area selected for the plant in the Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadakujang gram panchayats.

The decision to stage the dharna was taken at a joint meeting here of leaders of the Communist Party of India, the CPI(Marxist), the Forward Bloc, the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal. They condemned the government's attempts to forcibly acquire land by deploying a large number of armed police personnel in and around the area selected for the steel mill.

Expressing their support for the villagers who have been on a dharna outside Gobindpur village since June 2, the leaders criticised the government's declaration that the protest was illegal. They also justified the participation of children in the resistance.

A large number of women and children have been participating in the dharna and human barricade to block the entry of government officials and police into Gobindpur and Dhinkia villages to acquire land.

The authorities have not been successful in clearing the blockade as children were in the forefront of the barricade.

The police, however, did not confront the villagers on dharna on Wednesday as they had done on Monday.

The police accompanied administration officials who tried to acquire land by felling trees in the area near the villages where there was some support for the project in the past. But the action was strongly opposed by the villagers, forcing the authorities to stop work. Also there was no work on construction of a boundary wall on the land acquired earlier, thanks to resistance from the people.

In another development, the main opposition, the Congress, announced that if the party returned to power it would bring in special legislation to return all land that was being forcibly acquired for Posco.