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Police crack down on anti-Posco agitators,20 injured

Police fired teargas shells and rubber bullets to disperse them,injuring at least 20 people.

More than 20 people in Orissa’s coastal Jagatsinghpur district were injured after thousands of armed police fired rubber bullets and lobbed tearges shells to disperse about 1000 villagers who had blocked a road protesting the setting up of 12 million tonne greenfield steel mill by South Korean steelmaker Posco in the area.

Since last four months,people of 6 villages under the banner of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti,an anti-Posco body opposing the project had blocked the road at Balitutha,the key entrance point to these villages. People in these 6 villages in 3 grampanchayats inside the proposed project area have dug their heels in since last 4 years refusing to negotiate with the State government or Posco.

As the Jagatsinghpur district administration aided by 25 platoons of armed police moved to clear the road this morning a clash ensued among the police and the villagers. According to the leaders of the Posco Pratiodh Sangram Samiti,police first fired teargas shells and set on fire the tent under which the protestors were sitting on dharna and then chased the people away from the dharna site at Balitutha. “More than 100 villagers were injured. Even the police resorted to blank firing . Ours is a democratic mass resistance. It would go on,” said Prasahant Paikray,spokesperson of PPSS.

However,police claimed the villagers first hurled about 100 crude bombs at them. “We then retaliated by lobbing teargas shells and firing rubber bullets. Five of our men have been injured,” Jagatsinghpur SP Devdutt Singh told The Indian Express. “We wanted to clear the road as it was inconveniencing other people in the area. In a democracy everyone have the right to protest. But obstructing the road is inhuman. We have been successful in clearing off the road,” he said.

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Since morning,the district administration imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC as part of Orissa government’s efforts to begin forest survey and land acquisition at the plant site.

Early this morning,the police arrested CPI MP from Jagatsinghpur Bibhu Prasad Tarai was when he was trying to enter the proposed steel plant site of Posco ahead of a rally to protest the project. CPI has planned a rally to be addressed by senior party leader A B Bardhan on May 19.

Police said the MP was was arrested as a preventive measure to avoid any law and order problem. Similarly,Congress leaders Umesh Swain and Jayanta Biswal were also arrested. Tterming his arrest as “undemocratic”,Tarai said he was proceeding to learn about people’s problem area which falls under his constituency,Jagatsinghpur.

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PPSS leaders said the activists had drawn a “laxman rekha (boundary)” at Balitutha to prevent police and government officials from entering into the area as the locals were against setting up of any industry which would displace them and snatch away their source of livelihood.

Ever since the Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the company and the state in June 2005,the project has seen intense opposition from villagers of three panchayats—Dinkia,Nuagaon,and Gadkujang—who stand to loose their livelihood,land and homesteads if the project goes through.

Meanwhile,CPI has called a bandh in the area protesting the arrest of its MP.

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First published on: 15-05-2010 at 10:16:30 am
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