2,000 Odisha Tribals Face Arrest After Govt Issues Warrants for Re-Occupying Land Earlier Granted to POSCO

Written by Sabrangindia Staff | Published on: November 10, 2017
The Odisha government through it’s administration has issued warrants against 2,500 villagers of the Paradip region of Odisha. These persons were earlier protesting the POSCO plant and since May 2017 have been agitating peacefully against the granting of fertile and cultivable lands to JSW steel. Of these 400 have already been arrested and 2,000 therefore now face the threat of arrest.

Posco
Image: Amir Rizvi / CJP

Since May 2017,the POSCO PratirodhSangramSamiti (PPSS) has demanded that the construction of a boundary wall that began Nuagaon area that month  must immediately be stopped. PPSS says that as of November 6, 2017, it has been fighting a long and hard legal battle to provide legal defence for 420 individuals who were involved in the struggle. Additionally, warrants have also been issued against 2500 people which includes 500 women. Of these, 400 individuals were arrested. The remaining 2000 face a constant threat of arrest.

Protesting villagers and betel cultivators from the Paradip region of Odisha formed themselves into the POSCO PratirodhSangharshSamiti (PPSS), in June 2005- after an MoU was signed between POSCO and Odisha state government.  After winning a hard fought battle against POSCO, the PPSS is now strongly resisting the handing over of 27, 000 acres of land in Odisha’sParadip area to JSW steel.

It was after a long and tedious struggle of more than a decade, that PPSS had managed to secure a victory in its struggle against the South Korean company POSCO earlier this year, in March. Due to its persistent and peaceful resistance, POSCO was forced to exit finally.

Despite the success of the struggle, recent media reports indicate that an unrelenting state has now joined hands with the JSW steel for a new project, in which JSW has demanded 4500 acres of land and it is likely to invest Rs. 50, 000   crores for the 10 mtpa steel plant and a 900 mw power plant. The company also pledged to make an investment of Rs. 2000 crore to set up a captive port in Odisha’s coast at JatadhariMuhan near Paradip.

While the PPSS has declared that they will continue their resistance against all such attempts to take over the forest land and also struggle for justice in the false and fabricated cases against their activists, we take you through the twelve year long journey of resistance led by the  PPSS.

Background of Harassment and Intimidation
 
  • Until end of December 2014, 350 criminal false and fabricated cases have been filed against members of the PoscoPratirodhSangramSamiti (PPSS)
  • In  2011, in Nuagaon and Gadakjunga Gram panchayat  ( proposed POSCO area), the government undertook an allegedly forceful land acquisition process for acquiring 2000 acre of forest land. 
  • In 2013, in Govindpur village of  Dhikia Gram panchayat, 700 acres of forest land was again allegedly forcefully acquired by the government.   Out of the 2700 acres of land, government handed over to POSCO multinational giant1000 acres of land.
  • The PPSS took the decision from 2014 onwards  to re-occupy the land falsely acquired by POSCO  and the government land. Villagers of Gadakujangpanchayat re-occupied the the land acquired by POSCO.
  • As a result, POSCO has filed cases against 30 people The cases are both criminal(invoking section 447, 426 of the IPC)  and civil cases(invoking the offence of encroachment)
  • Again in 2015, Villagers of Govindpur re-occupied the government land. As a result, the local government filed criminal and civil cases against 40 people.
  • Villagers of Nuagaon re-occupied the government land in 2015. The government has threatened to file cases against the people. At this point of time, there are apprehensions that the local government will again, more and more, file criminal and civil cases.
  • Though, the local people have constructed a fence across the boundary of reoccupied land, most local people not yet started the beetle vine cultivation due to this impeding threat from the government.
  • At this stage, the total criminal cases are 350 + 30 (criminal and civil cases) + 40 (criminal and civil cases) which totals as many as  420 cases.
  • To date, warrants have been issued against 2,500 people among which 500  are women. This actually means that those issued a warrant can be arrested at any time and false cases will then again be lodged against them.
  • Local lawyers from the PPSS state that over the past 11 years, approximately 400 from among the protesters have been arrested. Therefore, 2000 warrants have been pending, simply kept on ‘hold by government’ and the villagers against whom these have been issued face arrest.