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Attempt to arrest anti-displacement Odisha activist in early hours decried

The memorial of a killed villager is seen in the outskirts of Patana village in Jagatsingpur district, Odisha. File   | Photo Credit: Biswaranjan Rout

Activists expressed concern over attempts by the Odisha police to arrest an anti-displacement campaigner from a coastal village in Jagatsinghpur district, which is bracing for cyclone Jawad, on Saturday.

Police teams in the early hours of Saturday knocked on the doors of Debendra Swain, an elected member to a panchayati raj institution who is spearheading a movement against Odisha’s largest greenfield steel project proposed in the vicinity of his village, Dhinkia.

“Police came to arrest me from my Dhinkia home around 3.30 a.m. When we did not open the door, they tried to break it open. This was when all our fellow villagers woke up and confronted the police,” Mr. Swain said.

The JSW Utkal Steel Limited, led by industrialist Sajjan Jindal, has proposed to establish a 13.2 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) capacity steel plant at an estimated investment of around ₹55,000 crore on land that was previously acquired for a steel project by South Korean steel major POSCO.

The POSCO project had to be shelved due to local resistance. Dhinkia was the epicentre of the anti-displacement movement at the time.

A couple of days ago, the Jagatsinghpur district administration, with help of the police, tried to recognise Patna and Mahala, which are hamlets of Dhinkia, as separate revenue villages. After the boundary demarcation, villagers uprooted the concrete poles.

Mr. Swain alleged that the administration was trying to dilute the anti-displacement movement by dividing Dhinkia village.

The police teams had to return following stiff resistance from villagers. “I am shocked to know that police forces forcefully entered Dhinkia in the wee hours to arrest Debendra Swain, the activist leading a democratic struggle against the JSW Utkal Steel project,” said Prafulla Samantara, environmental activist and winner of the Goldman Prize for his work.

“It’s a ploy to terrorise villagers during an emergency situation in the wake of a cyclone,” Mr. Samantara said.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 1:38:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/attempt-to-arrest-anti-displacement-odisha-activist-in-early-hours-decried/article37839327.ece

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