Democracy at Gunpoint – A Report on the Repression of Anti-Posco Movement as of 5th December 2007

This report, and many other resources on Posco, are available from the Environmental Protection Group, Orissa

Message from Rajendra Sadangi, Convenor, Loka Pakhya

Respected Friends,

The situation in Dhinkia, Jagatsinghpur in Orissa has reached a flash point. Any thing can happen at any time. Please go through the attachjed report titled” Democracy at Gun Point”.Circulate this report as widely as possible both through e-mail, through posting in appropriate websites and through printing and photocopying. We request you to put as much pressure as is possible from your side to ensure that the police will be withdrawn and normalcy can be returned.

It is heartening to learn that Friends from Maharastra, representing the Mahamumbai Shetkari Sangharsha Samiti leading the struggle against Relinace company’s Raigadh SEZ project and Lokshashan have responded to our appeal and they have circulated our report widely and are collecting relief for Dhinkia people. We are expressing our deep felt thanks to Justice Kolse Patil, Data Patil, Vilash Sonawane, and their friends in Maharastra and other states. We are hearing that one team from Janahastakhep would be visiting the area around 10th december and one team from Bhubaneswar-Cuttack would be visiting on 8th december. May we request all of you and through you all other who will get this report to whatever is possible at this very serious times in the lives of people of Dhinkia, Gadakujanga and Niuagaon.

Thank you.

Rajendra Sadangi
Convenor, Loka Pakhya
2510(J), kedragouri Area, Bhubaneswar- 751 002
Ph. 09337112265

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Summary of situation:

Brute Police Force Being Used to Silence All Opposition To Posco in Dhinkia, Gadakujanga and Nuagaon of Jagatsinhpur District of Orissa.

Police Has Encircled Dhinkia, 16 Platoons Deployed. Reinforcements are in the Offing. Nandigram Style of Operations may begin any moment.

Fact finding Teams and others proceeding to Express Solidarity are Not allowed to enter Dhinkia

Situation in Dhinkia has Reached a Flash Point.

Govt. is Fully Prepared for Yet Another Massacre.

Yet, the Govt. is Asking the People to Come For Discussion

This is Democracy at Gun Point

Need for Public Pressure for Immediate Withdrawal of Police Force and the Goons from the Area

Need For Immediate Relief Operations

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Detailed Report:

Govt. of Orissa’s Moves:

The Naveen Pattnaik Govt., a coalition Govt. of BJD (Biju Janata Dal-the Senior partner in the Alliance of which Naveen Pattnaik is the President) and BJP about 15 days back declared that construction of the proposed Posco steel plant project shall start on April 1, 2008 (the Orissa’s foundation Day). However, the chief Minister, Shri Naveen Pattnaik was quick to add that we will discuss with the people and then go ahead with the project. In order to meet this target the State Govt. seems to have taken lessons from the West Bengal Govt. and the CPI(M) party. The Orissa Government in the interest of the company, by using force, by cajoling and by luring with some money has been able to convert some of the villagers as pro-Posco people and has decided to make all efforts to create rift amongst fellow villagers. All this is being done to break the peoples’ movement against the Posco project and enter into the area, which they have not been able to do for the last 30 months. The whole operation was organized in the in the same way as was employed by the CPI(M)Govt. in West Bengal in Nandigram. The goons in the evening of 29th November 2007 threw bombs at the protesters’ tent at Balitutha, where the protesters were sitting on a 24 hour vigil for the last 2 months. The vigil was meant to not allow the Police, Posco and Prashasan (Administration) to enter their villages. This was the peoples’ way of protesting the proposed acquisition of their 4004 Acres of land for establishment of a Steel Plant and a private sea port in the river mouth of Jatadhari. The proposed port is proposed to come up at a distance of less than 7 kilometers from the major port of Paradeep. The goons hurled bombs at the protesters, burnt down their tent and chased the protesters into their villages. All this happened when some 300 armed goons along with the so-called pro-Posco people tried to disturb the Dharna by the protesters. About 1000 strong group of were successful in pushing these armed goons two times before another gang of 500 goons armed with bombs and deadly weapons attacked the protesters from behind. Finally the Govt. has been able to successfully create entry passage for Posco company to the proposed steel plant area by using the local goons of BJD and the company keeping the police behind.

Local Admn.’s Moves:

The local administration is acting in close collaboration with the Ersama MLA Damodar Rout who is aspiring to become a minister in the State Govt. The goonda force has been jointly mobilized by Damodar Rout and the Posco company officials located at Kujanga, under the supervision of the district collector. The whole development is monitored by Priyabrata Pattnaik, a notorious IAS officer whose action of applying for mining contract for the officers’ club named ‘Bhubaneswar Club’ was recently exposed, is the nodal officer the Govt. for the Posco project. Incidentally the present Collector, Mr. Pramod Kumar Meherda was the collector in Rayagada district, where he had unleashed a reign of repression to silence the Kashipur Movement, which has been going on for the last 13 years against the proposed Utkal Alumina bauxite mining and Alumina plant of the Birlas. Damodar Rout has expressed recently that 95% of the local people are interested in the Posco plant and only a handful of vested interest people are opposing and these opposers have no stake in the land of the area. He said that out of 4004 Acres of land to be acquired by the POSCO only about 500 Acres are private land and the rest 3500 Acres is Govt. land where the people have been growing betel leaves, however, the beetle leaves farming is no more profitable and people are actually leaving the profession. By all these statements Damodar Rout is trying to create a favourable public opinion for the Posco project. It is understood that Damodar Rout has promised to distribute Rs.15 lakhs per family, apart from their usual compensation amount and other benefits, who will support the Posco project.

The District collector entered the area on 3rd December and 4th December and has created the required administrative environment for the entry of the Police into the area. He has clarified on 4th December that until the people want there is no question of establishment of the Posco project. Both the Collector and SP have opined that maintaining law and order in the area and establishment of the Posco plant are two separate things and therefore no one should link the police mobilization with establishment of the plant. The collector has asked the people of the three Gram Panchayats (Dhinkia, Gadakujanga and Nuagaon) to come forward to resolve the issue with discussions. If the peole of Dhinkia do not want the plant then that area can be excluded from the map of the plant and the plant can be established.

Police Moves:

After the goons of BJD and Posco drove the agitators from Balitutha in the evening of 29th November 2007, within a period of one hour the police entered Nuagaon village, erected road blockade at Balitutha and establishing a camp at the same site where the protesters were sitting for the last 2 months, barricaded the road and the police establishing check point near Trilochanpur, with two platoons staying in a camp in the Trilochanpur school. It is understood that 16 platoons of armed police have been stationed in the area including 3 women platoons and have occupied all the schools and public places of the area. The Chief Minister has announced that if required more armed police personnel will be positioned so as to maintain peace in the area. On 4th December the Police has requisitioned 5 more platoons. Late in the night of 4th December 144 has been clamped 2 kilometers around Balitutha.

Posco’s Moves:

It is reliably learnt that the Posco officials are putting pressure on the administration to start survey of some 500 Acres of Non-Forest Govt. land which they claim have been handed over to them. It is learnt that a senior officer of Utkal Alumina who was instrumental in bribing some local persons in Kashipur and crop up a pro-Utkal Alumina group has joined the Posco’s Kujang office as its chief and is engaged along with Damodar Rout in doing the same thing here in Erasama.

Situation in Dhinkia GP:

The morale of the villagers is very high and they are willing to face the police at any moment. They are expressing their difficulty in facing the goons who are coming armed with country made bombs, bows and arrows, other traditional weapons. They are keeping night vigil on the boundary of the village and are preparing themselves to face the ensuing Nandigram style combined assault by the Armed Goons and Police. In one of the villages of Dhinkia GP i.e. Gobindpur 3 platoons have entered in the morning of 4th December and have been reinforced with another 2 platoons by the evening. Gobindpur is the adjacent village to Patana the border village of Dhinkia GP. The people of Dhinkia putting behind all personal hardships are ready for a decisive fight. The people expect that the first occasion for a decisive fight may come in the shape of entry of survey team along with goons and Police. Grocery shops are not functioning properly for the lack of materials, as merchants supplying goods to Dhinkia are facing hardships from the goons and the police. The injured are suffering without treatment.

On 5th December Shri B.D. Sharma, the retired IAS officer and a vocal Anti-Displacement activist and his team of consisting of seven others had to return back from Trilochanpur because of threats from goons in the presence of the Police. This is the first such incident, although for the last 5 days the police stationed at Trilochanpur has been acting in a manner to dissuade people to express solidarity with the struggling people of Dhinkia.

Situation in Nuagaon GP:

After the incident on 29th November the people of Nuagaon had resolved not to allow the police and Posco to enter their village. However, the Collector entered the village on 3rd December and was successful is making administrative arrangements for the stationing of police force in Nuagaon. Accordingly 2 platoons have ben stationed in Nuagaon. The people of Noliasahi, the fisher folk village are facing hardships from the so-called pro-Posco people. They remain cut off from other areas of struggle. The police is likely to enter Nolia sahi any time today. The struggling forces of Nolia sahi remain intact and are preparing their course of action in the changed circumstances.

Situation in Gadakujanga GP:

The people of Gadakujanga had also resolved not allow the police and Posco to enter their villages. But after the entry of the collector on 3rd and 4th the police has entered on 4th December. However, the struggling forces remains active.

Political Responses Against The Govt’s Moves:

A team of leaders from CPI, CPI(ML) Liberation, NCP, etc. with two sitting MLAs visited Dhinkia on 30th November 2007. On 30th November 2007 some 25 organizations constituting of CPI(ML), CPI(ML) Liberation, CPI(ML) New Democracy, SUCI, CPI, Bistapan Birodhi Janmanch, Sukinda, Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, Dhinkia, Prakrutika Sampad Surakhya Parishad, Kashipur, Vedanta Viswavidalaya Birodhi sangharsa Samiti, Puri, Anti-Mittal Movement, Patna(Keonjhar), Gandhamardan Surakhya Andolan, Lower Sutkel Anti-Dam Movement, Paschim orissa Krshak sangathan Samannaya samiti( Leading the Hirakud Water Movement), Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti( Anti-Vedanta Movement of Kalahandi),Basti Surakhya Manch, Bhubaneswar, Lok Mukti Sanghathan, Jharsuguda, Loka Shakti Abhijan(Orissa), Jatadhari Banchao Andolan, Ersama( Movement against POSCO’s Drawing of Water from Jobra Barage from a distance of 100 KM and POSCO’s private port at the Mouth of Jatadhari) and Loka Pakhya. These organizations came from across the state and represent the mass movements and political forces opposed to displacement, SEZs and Anti-people Indstrialisation. Jointly they staged a day long Mahadharna in front of the state assembly where more than 1500 persons participated and declared that the struggle against Posco is their own struggle and they shall take the message across the state.

The demands of the Mahadharna were:

i. The Govt. should cancel the Posco project altogether.

ii. The Govt. to scrap SEZ policy and the 2005 Act.

iii. The anti-people Industrialization policy to be scraped and a pro-people industrialization policy be immediately implemented.

iv. Stop land grabbing in the name of Industry and projects.

v. The Govt. to lift the police force from the area and stop police repression on the mass movements.

In the evening all the above mentioned organizations met to decide a joint strategy to highlight the issue and build pressure on the Govt. to accept the demands. On the decision of the meeting as referred above an eight member team on behalf of the Mass Movements struggling against displacement, SEZs and Anti-People Industrialization and the pro-people political forces supporting such movements visited Dhinkia on 1st December 2007 and spent the whole day discussing with the leadership and activists of the Anti-Posco Movement and the agitating people.

It has been decided by these forces to organize protest programmes across the state in their respective areas on 12th December 2007. Further it has been decided that all these forces will join in a major all Orissa protest programme at the call of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, the date of which shall be decided later on.

The CPI has decided to organize protest programmes across the state from 5th December.

Several organizations have expressed their protest in different ways. The protest programme/statements which have come to our knowledge are indicated below:

On 30th November the CPI organized a road blockade from three hours at Rajmahal Square, an important square in the heart of Bhubaneswar.

On 2nd December the Vedanta Viswavidyalaya Birodhi Sangharsha Samiti organized a protest programme near Nuanai on the Puri-Konark marine drive for 5 hours.

On 4th December the Kujanga committee of CPI gheraoed the tehsil office at Kujanga demanding immediate withdrawal of the police from the struggle area.

On 4th December the Congress party has issued a joint statement saying that unless the four issues are shorted out the Posco project should not be allowed. The Congress party has questioned the allotment of fertile land to the company and opined thatin view of the supreme court judgment and Central govt. policy the same can not be handed over to them. The party questioned the allotment of water to the company from Jobra barrage and has opined that water meant for farmers can not be given to the company. Further the party has said that the Posco has no valid ground to establish a private sea port so near Paradeep. The party has also questioned the allocation of captive mines to Posco as according them it is not consistent with national mining policy.

On 4th December itself the NCP organised a convention at Jagatsinghpur and expressed its support for the Anti-Posco movement. The leaders questioned the Govt’s move to handover fertile agricultural lands to Posco and Vedanta.

Status of the Movement:

The Anti-Posco Movement instead of getting weakened after what happened on 29th November 2007 is expected to get further strengthened. As it appears very clearly, the people of Dhinkia, putting behind all personal hardships, are ready for a decisive struggle ahead. They are of the opinion that the fight has actually begun now. They are now remembering the pledge they had taken after visiting Kalinganagar police firing. They had said then that in Kalinganagar the police took away 13 lives, we are prepared to lay down 1300 lives to protect our lands and livelihoods. The people of Dhinkia realize the time for supreme sacrifice has come.

Overall Situation:

The statements of the Collector of Jagatsinghpur on 4th December are clear indication that the administration is keen to divert public attention and prepare ground for the entry of Posco to initiate survey work in the presence of police force. It is a case of garnering support of the people at Gun Point. This is the way the Govt. is trying to manufacturing support for the project. So far they were trying to do that through use of fore, money and other conspiratory tactics. Now they will get the consent of the people by shear presence of brute police force. All this is being done in the name of maintaining peace and law and order in the area. So far the Government did not give any importance to the views of the people and has been insisting on the project. If the Government is interested to discuss with the people and carry forward with the project only with peoples’ consent the Government should first declare unambiguously that it will consider the peoples’ views and share its reasoning and organize a proper informed debate/consultation. Only after the mutual agreement on the part of both sides i.e. the people and the company any step can be taken. Now the Government is talking of having discussion with the people after it has gheraoed the agitating village of Dhinkia by armed police on all sides. The talk of excluding Dhinkia from the project area is aimed at creating confusion and division amongst the protesters. The Govt. knows very well that the proposed project is a port based project and without Dhinkia the port can not come up and the bulk of the land identified is in Dhinkia. This is not Kashipur where the Utkal almina project has been given a go ahead excluding the main protesting village of Kucheipadar. Without Dhinkia the Posco project is null and void. The Government knows this very well. However, it is using all possible means to go ahead with the project. Besides, what is the meaning of the consent of the people of Nuagaon and Gadakujanga when the police has entered their villages. The stopping of people from expressing solidarity with the struggling people of Dhinkia is yet another form of repression and putting the people under hardships. This is the way Naveen Pattnaik government is practicing Democracy at Gun Point.

In this fight on the one side stand the struggling people of the area who want to protect their sustainable ‘Betel leaf- Paddy farming – Fishing economy’ for themselves and their future generations and on the other side stand the combined force that includes the Posco company that is eager to make lakhs of crores of rupees as profits, Naveen Pattnaik, his ministerial colleagues and senior bureaucrats who have received hundreds of crores of rupees as kickback and expect futher windfall, local BJD MLA Damodar Rout who is expecting a ministerial berth (it is said that he was axed from the ministry long time back when he was canvassing for ESSAR company and was then opposing Posco) and crores of rupees as kickback and the Goons employed by all these people for a hefty sum as wages. These anti-people forces are eager to sacrifice the country’s interests and are engaged in the act of allowing a portion of the country to go into the hands of the foreign forces. The Police and the administration instead of protecting the agitating people is preparing itself to work as rear guard action force in the interest of Posco and all the above mentioned anti-people forces. In the immediate future the situation in Dhinkia, Gadakujanga and Nuagaon, in every possibility, may become explosive and for this the Government and Posco shall be held responsible. Things are changing fast and any thing may happen any time.

Our Demands:

All the pro-people political forces and mass movements of Orissa demand that:

(1) The Government should immediately withdraw the police force from the area

(2) The BJD and Posco should withdraw its Goons from the area

Suggestion for Action:

We appeal to all pro-people political forces, mass movements, democratic and Human Rights organizations and activists, patriots, intellectuals, artists of Orissa and the country as a whole to immediately rush food, other necessary articles of use and medical care as relief service to the people struggling under the leadership of the ” Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti” and visit the area to give strength to the fighting people and put pressure on the Government to accept our demands.