Wednesday, April 02, 2008

POSCO has been ousted

POSCO has been ousted declare thousands of villagers at Balitutha
2nd April 2008

Yesterday people from various parts of the state joined thousands of villagers of Dhinkia, Gada Kujang and Nuagaa to hold the Bikalp Samabesh at Balitutha where the adminstration had imposed Sec 144 for weeks and gave a clear signal to the the state Government that the majority of the people in the area were still opposed to the much hyped POSCO project. Earlier in the morning about three hundred people, mostly farmers, coming from sponge iron affected areas of Jharsuguda were detained by the police. At the same time more than one thousand people from Sukinda, Berhampur, Kalahandi, Jharkhand and other parts of the state and country reached the area and broke all police barricades to take out a massive and formidable rally upto Balitutha where they joined thousands of villagers of Dhinkia, Gada Kujang and Nuagaa who have been protesting against the porposed POSCO project for more than two years now under the banner of POSCO PRATIRODH SANGRAM SAMITI.

The rally then decimated all bamboo barricades put up by the police who tried to intimidate the five thousand plus strong assembly by pointing their machine guns at them, enraging the people, especially the women who then chased away the police to make way for the Bikalp Samabesh. At that point it seemed as if a Kalinga Nagar like disaster was inevitable but good sense prevailed over the administration and the police stepped back and maintained distance. As a symbolic protest against the heinous crude bomb attack by goons at women protesters at Balitutha on Nov 29 last year when their tents were set on fire, the people dismantled one of the police tents to spread it for the leaders to sit upon. The Samabesh was attended by leaders of the Left parties and many activists, all of whom gave fiery speeches and boosted the morale of the villagers who have been facing severe state and mafia repression for many months now.

Abhay Sahoo of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti warned the administration and police not to step the line as people had reclaimed their freedom in a democratic manner despite all attempts by the state to contain it by force. He said that the ruling Govt.'s attempts to merge POSCO foundation day with Utkal Divas (Orissa Formation Day) had been foiled and 'the motherland's birthday had retained its sanctity'. He then announced that the disobedience of Sec 144 and the successful Bikalp Samabesh was a clear indication that 'POSCO had been ousted'. He warned that if the state continued with pursuing the POSCO project in the area then 'the agitation would increase by many folds'.

Other speakers spoke briefly but strongly against the state's anti-people measures in implementing the POSCO project. They also criticised the project itself to be not viable and would spell the end of life and livelihood for thousands in the region. Those who had come from Jharkhand and other states confirmed that the whole nation was supporting the cause of the villagers of Ersama block who were opposed to the POSCO project. Support from Korea was also extended to the protest in the form of letters from the Korean Human Rights Commission and the Korean Steel Workers Union who condemned the state repression and also exposed POSCO misdeeds in Korea where it functioned in a similar manner using muscle power and greasing palms when required.

The meeting was also well attended by various sections of the press including some foreign journalists. The Samaj, a leading newspaper of Orissa has reported today that a team of women Maoists had sneaked into the area the night before referring to a team of media persons from New Delhi. The Times of India also indicated at a biased stance on the issue by terming the protest meet 'A Damp squib on All Fools Day' in the headlines completely undermining the symbolism of Orissa's people defying state terror at the behest of a foreign company on Orissa Formation Day. It must be noted that POSCO had taken journalists from all these publications on a foreign tour and such biased reporting has become a regular feature with them. For instance many leading dailies have slowly manipulated facts to present the bomb attack on Nov 29 to be carried out by pro-POSCO villagers and not goons. Nevertheless, people continue to fight for their life, livelihood, land and liberty.
Surya Shankar Dash
Independent Media

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