June 13, 2010
Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister, Union of India
Shri Naveen Patnaik
Chief Minister, State of Odisha
We have written to you earlier on the issue of proposed POSCO plant in the State of Odisha. We are extremely concerned at using police force against its own people in the villages of Gobindpur and Dhinkia, Jagatsinghpur to force them to vacate their homes and lands setting up this plant in the name of “public interest”. How can this be the ‘public interest’ if people of the region has been opposed to this project for more than five years, since the day MoU was signed ? Some of us have visited the area in these years and seen the resistance and also the thriving natural resources and communities living with dignity.
There has already been violence in this area by the police against people including women and children protesting peacefully, and on June 3, 2011, 17 people were beaten up and arrested for resisting the destruction of their betel vines, the source of their livelihood. As on June 12, 2011, the whole area is tense with about more than 25 platoons of fully armed police menacingly present, making loudspeaker announcements every 15 minutes, ordering the people to vacate or in default face police action. The people are especially afraid that the police may attack at night, but they are determined to peacefully resist the land acquisition. Women and children have been forced to lie in this chilling heat facing the boots of your armoured police. Is this the great democracy we are celebrating ?
It need not be made more explicit that use or threat of police force by the Odisha State Government or the Union Government based on illegal environmental clearance from the Union Government is completely unconstitutional. By not taking all possible steps to prevent police action against peacefully demonstrating citizens, you are violating the Constitution of India which you have sworn to uphold when you took office. Similar action took place in Kalinganagar in 2006, when 14 people who were peacefully resisting destrcution of their homes were shot dead by Odisha police. The police violence against the resistance of people in other places like Kashipur (Odisha), and Nandigram and Singur (West Bengal), to name just three, to government acquisition of land in the “public interest” has severely eroded the faith of people all over the country in the democratic professions of both state and union governments. In fact, people’s perception is that governments, regardless of ideology, are complicit with the multi-national corporations that demand land and other primary resources at the cost of poor rural and tribal people.
The acquisition of forest land is in violation of the Forest Rights Act, a matter on which the two committees of MoEF have already clarified and asked settlement of rights of people living there.You possibly have very good reason to neglect such people-oriented, constitutionally and legally sound advice but whatever the reason, it is anti-people, undemocratic and in violation of the sacred oath of office that you have taken. In fact the reason is eminently suspect.
It is unutterably sad that Independent India, that too under the rule of a party that won independence from the British, is using colonial methods of grabbing land with the use of police force from poor but self-supporting rural people to benefit multi-national business corporations in spite of their peaceful resistance, and when their pending cases in the High Court are due to be heard shortly.It is amazing how you, in your positions of power, are completely divorced from the reality of the gross injustices and violation of constitutional and human rights being perpetrated by the organs of the State against the very people who have elevated you to those positions. We fail to understand that why is Odisha government in such a hurry when the MoU with POSCO is not even there, it lapsed and your government needs more time to renew it. What is the hurry ? Whose interests are you trying to promote ?
Dear PM, you must uphold the promises made by your government and party that there won’t be any forcible acquisitions against the wishes of people. This is the test case for your intervention.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is never too late to take a right decision and pass legally and constitutionally correct orders. In view of the foregoing, we take this opportunity to urgently urge you to immediately withdraw the police forces that threaten the people of Gobindpur and Dhinkia in jagatsingpur District of Odisha, and put halt to any forced land acquisition in the area for the POSCO project.
Medha Patkar, Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd), Prafulla Samantra, Sandeep Pandey, Gautam Bandopadhyay, Gabriele Dietrich, Anand Mazgaonkar, Faisal Khan, Sister Celia, Vimal Bhai, Mukta Srivastava, Suhas Kolhekar, Suniti S R, Rajendra Ravi, Bhupendera Singh Rawat, Ramakrishna Raju, Madhuresh Kumar