The Orissa government on Friday suspended land acquisition for the Posco steel plant project, citing bad weather, while hundreds of agitating villagers, including many women and children formed a human chain outside Gobindpur village in their attempt to resist the process.
Armed policemen, who were proceeding towards Gobindpur village, returned to their camps from Balitutha, the entry point to the Posco project area, after officials suspended the exercise for the day.
The agitators, however, were under the impression that the administration stopped the process in view of the people's resistance and the growing support for the anti-Posco movement.
The Sangram Samiti organised a public meeting at the place where the villagers had gathered to foil the administration's move to resume land acquisition after a break.
Many prominent social activists and two senior leaders of the State unit of the Nationalist Congress Party addressed the gathering, criticising the State government for using armed policemen to forcibly acquire land for the steel venture.
NCP opposes police picketing
The NCP leaders visited the area to oppose the heavy police presence in the locality even though their party had contested the last Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in alliance with the ruling Biju Janata Dal headed by Naveen Patnaik.
In a related development, former MLA of Erasama and a resident of Gobindpur, Bijay Nayak, too addressed the meeting and announced support to the agitation. Mr. Nayak, a Congress leader, hails from Gobindpur village.
Many of the speakers, including social activist Prafulla Samantara, demanded a high-level probe into the demolition of “fake” betel vineyards in the area. He alleged that the administration officials had siphoned off a huge amount of money by claiming to have demolished many betel vineyards.
They also refuted the administration's claim that many residents of Gobindpur had written to the authorities about their willingness to part with their land. The matter should be probed by the higher authorities, the speakers demanded.
President of Odisha Jana Sammilani Rabi Das demanded that the State government immediately withdraw police from the area and the Chief Minister visit the locality to talk to the agitating villagers who were not willing to hand over their land and livelihood sources to make space for the steel project.