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Demand the Release of PPSS Leader Abhay Sahu

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INVITATION TO A CONVENTION TO

EXPRESS SOLIDARITY WITH THE ANTI-POSCO MOVEMENT IN ORISSA

IN THE CONTEXT OF INCREASING STATE REPRESSION OF PEACEFUL RESISTANCES

AND

DEMAND RELEASE OF PPSS LEADER ABHAYA SAHU

Date: 24 October 2008

Time: 2.30 p.m. – 5.30 p.m.

Venue: Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi

Speakers:

·       Prashant Paikray, PPSS, Orissa, A B Bardhan, Communist Party of India, Rajendra Sachchar, Former Judge, B D Sharma, Bharat Jan Andolan, K B Saxena, Ex- Bureaucrat and Intellectual, Usha Ramanathan, Supreme Court Lawyer, Kanchi Kohli, Environmental Activist, Prashant Bhushan, Activist and Lawyer, N Bhattacharya, Academic, Aparna Sarin, CPI – ML (New Democracy), D.Bandopadhyaya, Former Land Reforms Commissioner, West Bengal, Representative from PUDR, And Others

Conveners

Manoranjan Mohanty, Sumit Chakravorty, B D Sharma, Ashok Agarwal, Ravi Hemadri,  Usha Ramanathan

The malafide arrest of the president of the PPSS (POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti), Abhay Sahu, on 12 October 2008 is the latest attempt by the Orissa government to undermine the anti-POSCO agitation.  It once again brings to public attention the fact that our governments have become brazen in their partiality to corporate interests, and are increasingly free in their use of repression, intimidation and worse, to silence people’s democratic voices. Abhay Sahu, who has been at the helm of a people’s struggle against the take-over of their lands for the benefit of South Korean MNC, POSCO, was picked up by the Orissa police near Pattamundai in Jagtsingpur district in the evening on 12 October 2008 while returning from a medical check-up. He is a diabetic and his blood sugar level was pretty high at that time. Given the Orissa government’s utter failure to prevent/ contain the ongoing communal violence in that state, it seems likely that Shri Sahu’s arrest is part of a desperate attempt to divert public attention from its abject surrender to lawless communal forces in the state.  The design underlying Abhay Sahu’s arrest is also evidenced by the fact that almost immediately after his arrest police and administration have launched a malicious media campaign against him.

Wanton grabbing of the most valuable resource of the Indian people, their lands, in the name of ‘development’ and ‘industrial growth’ has been in the limelight for several years now. Millions of people in Singur, Kalinganagar, Kashipur, Niyamgiri, Nandigram, Jagatsinghpur, and scores of other places have been fighting pitched battles to protect their lives and livelihoods from this predation.  For the past three years, the people of Dhinkia, Gobindpur, and Nuagaon panchayats in Kujang Tehsil of Jagatsinghpur District in Orissa, under the banner of the PPSS, have also been relentlessly resisting the take-over of their resources for the establishment of a 12-million-tonne mega steel plant by POSCO, the second largest steel-making company of the world. The project, being touted as the largest ever FDI in the history of India, with an investment of 51,000-crore rupees, will have large-scale, irreversible socio-economic and environmental impacts not only on the areas under the threat of immediate acquisition but over vast numbers of the state’s people, and huge tracts of its forests and other lands. POSCO’s assertion that its project will lead to the creation of 45,000 jobs, directly or indirectly, is meaningless in the face of the fact that the proposed steel plant, port, and mines will directly dispossess many lakh people, apart from having very deleterious effects on the lives of many millions more. Further, an examination of the MoU signed by the Naveen Pattnaik government with POSCO establishes the fact that the government has agreed to transfer lakhs of crores worth resources for almost no returns to the state exchequer.

As in other places, in order to achieve these unacceptable and illegal objects, the state government and administration, hand-in-glove with POSCO, has embarked upon a series of deliberate provocations to create a situation of violence; so as to justify the use of police and paramilitary forces against the resistors. The residents of the three panchayats have been forced to erect protective barricades and live behind them since February 2006. This area has witnessed repeated episodes of intense violence by the police and POSCO-hired goons – such as in February, April, September, and November 2007 – when protestors, including women and elderly people, carrying out peaceful rallies were attacked. After the November-2007 attack, a 500-strong armed militia encircled the villages of Dhinkia, Nuagaon, and Gadakujang and restricted the mobility of the local people.

Despite the repression unleashed on them, the local people foiled the ambitious plans of the state administration and POSCO for laying the foundation stone for the project on 1 April 2008. A mass rally was held on that day by the local people, joined by various people’s movements and political activists from across the state. The PPSS succeeded in reclaiming the area after breaking police barricades. The villagers and their supporters have not lost heart even after the recent Supreme Court orders granting POSCO blanket permissions for mining and establishment of its project. The PPSS has stood its ground, refusing to part with their land and soil.

While arresting Abhay Sahu the police have acted in complete disregard of his fragile health condition.  He was given any medical help for several days after being arrested. That Abhay Sahu’s only crime is to have motivated and inspired people to resist the illegal deprivation of their lands and livelihoods is obvious.  Yet, we are informed that they (police) have registered as many as 25 criminal cases against him.  On the other hand no action has been taken against those responsible for several violent attacks on the residents of the three panchayats.  It is obvious that these false charges are going to be used by the state government to keep Abhay Sahu in continued illegal detention, in order to silence him and to intimidate those opposed to the project.

Undemocratic measures taken by the state to crush peoples’ peaceful resistance needs to be strongly condemned, and it is time for all of us to strengthen the collective resistance against such repression. We call upon you to join us in this and contribute to the process of resisting forceful acquisition of lands and natural resources in the name of ‘development’ (that has become synonymous of ‘devastation’) and uphold people’s right to dissent and peaceful resistance in defence of their lives and livelihoods.

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Written by janjagriti

October 21, 2008 at 11:59 pm

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