Withdraw cases against villagers, Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti: Civil society groups

Several civil society groups have alleged abuse of human rights and registration of false cases by State government agencies in order to curb resistance against the land acquisition for the proposed Posco steel plant in Odisha.

Highlighting instances of “biased and arbitrary” police action in the eight villages of Jagatsinghpur district affected by the plant, illustrated in the recently-released fact finding report, the Bangalore-based Alternative Law Forum and Delhi Forum have demanded withdrawal of all cases against the villagers and the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS).

Resistance by the villagers of the affected villages for thwarting the local administration’s attempts to acquire land started in 2006 after Odisha and the Pohang Iron and Steel Company (Posco) signed a Memorandum of Understanding on June 2005 for setting up a steel plant.

“The team was informed that between 2006-12 about 230 cases were filed against over 2,000 villagers resisting Posco. A large number of these cases have been filed by government officials during peaceful demonstrations by PPSS members,” said the report of the joint fact-finding team of the two forums which visited Dhinkia panchayat in the district over three days from December 22, 2012.

“The biased nature of police action becomes evident from their targeting of villagers resisting the Posco project on the one hand, and their refusal on the other hand to initiate any criminal action against hired goons perpetrating violence on the villagers,” added the fact finding report, demanding enquiry into the registration of “false” cases against the villagers.

The report mentioned that PPSS president Abhaya Sahoo was arrested on two occasions and has over 50 cases registered against him, including several cases where he was allegedly not present in the villages on the day of the alleged offences. It also highlighted how the State terminated the services of postmaster Babaji Charan Samantara and Dhinkia government school peon Kailash Chandra Biswas allegedly because they protested against the Posco project.

While releasing the report last week, Aam Aadmi Party leader and lawyer Prashant Bhushan talked about the Posco steel plant as a larger “loot” of the country by the government in nexus with the corporate.

“On the one hand you deprive the tribals, Dalits and the poor of their rights and lands, and on the other hand when they resist and protest peacefully you register false case against them and perpetrate violence through hired goons,” he said.

“The government says Maoists are a big problem. Who creates Maoists in the first place if not the policies of injustice?” he said while talking about the need for a joint movement by all civil society groups and people’s campaigns in order to stop the “loot of this country and its resources.”

  • 230 cases filed against over 2,000 villagers resisting Posco between 2006-12: Report

  • “State terminated services of a postmaster, peon allegedly because they protested against Posco”