Odisha : The proposed steel plant site of JSW in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district on Friday ( 14 January, 2022) turned into a battlefield as villagers clashed with the police over demolition of betel vines. The incident occurred near Dhinkia village, which happens to be the epicenter of the peoples’ movement against the setting up of a steel plant by Posco a decade ago.
The South Korean global steel giant POSCO was forced to withdraw from Odisha in 2017, after witnessing years of intense protests from the villagers. After POSCO’s exit, the Odisha state government handed over the land acquired for the project to JSW for its proposed integrated steel plant. This has forced the villagers to once again organize themselves and resist this renewed attempt to snatch their land, lives and livelihoods.
A delegation of the SANJUKTA KISAN MORCHA – ODISHA went to the area on 6 January to offer solidarity and investigate into the situation and events. In a press meet held on 7 January SKM-Odisha said:
The people of Dhinkia have risen in strong protest against Jindal Steel Works and for the protection of their land, lives and livelihoods. There is heavy police repression and coercion being carried out for land acquisition which is becoming brutal and inhuman with the passing of each day. All constitutional rights and human rights of the people are under attack as they stand up to protect their land and livelihood. Betel vine plots of the villagers are getting broken and destroyed, which is their main cash crop. There is an atmosphere of terror and intimidation created by the administration where it seems like even more betel vine plots will be destroyed.
A SKM-Odisha delegation has also met the state Governor on 4th January and appealed that peace and normalcy be restored in the Dhinkia region by withdrawing all police forces from the area.
On Friday, clashes erupted when villagers in Dhinkia marched to prevent their beetle vines from forceful destruction by the police. Hundreds of police personnel pulled down the bamboo barricades constructed by the villagers at entry points to the village, forcefully entered the village, brutally lathi-charged the protestors, injuring several villagers including children and women.
Debendra Swain, a former Panchayat Samiti member, who was spearheading the agitation against JSW’s proposed project, was arrested along with Narendra Mohanty , following the clash. Earlier attempts by the police to arrest Swain were thwarted by the women protestors who had gheraoed the police and prevented them from taking away Swain. The villagers, apprehending police action, have erected bamboo gates at three entry points to the village, to prevent the entry of police.
“We were prevented from going to our betel vines by the police. When the villagers said that they must go to the betel vines, the police resorted to lathi charge without any provocation,” Swain said before being taken to police custody. He claimed that 40 people were injured in police action. Eight of them were children in the age group of 9 to 11 years, and 11 were above 60 years. Swain alleged that even the injured persons were not taken to the hospital by the police.
Prafulla Samantara, a renowned activist from Odisha, condemning the police action, said, “This is corporate crime in the interest of Sajjan Jindal’s JSW project after POSCO quit. Let the human rights organisations, civil society, political parties tell the CMO Odisha Naveen Patnaik to stop this barbaric police attack on villagers and protect their right to life”.
#SamyuktaKisanMorcha–#Odisha has condemned the brutal police repression on the struggling people of Dhinkia against forcible land acquisition for Jindal(JSW). It has demanded an investigation by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) under the direct supervision of the High Court, on the incident, and unconditional release of arrested people, and immediate action against the police authorities who ordered the lathi-charge. Members of the Steering Committee of the United Kisan Morcha will visit the Dhinkia area on January 15 to take stock of the situation.