Cops pull out after gherao at Posco site

BHUBANESWAR: The state government on Thursday withdrew two platoons of armed police force camping on the outskirts of Govindpur village in the proposed Posco steel plant site after local villagers, including women and children, gheraoed them and insisted to pack up forthwith.

The men in uniform quickly returned to the main transit camp, about half a km away. The Jagatsinghpur district administration on Thursday had declared a day’s rest for the nearly 14 platoons of police forces currently deployed in the area to quell the agitating villagers opposed to the land acquisition work by the state government for the private company.

The villagers went to the police camp in a long procession led by CPI central leader D Raja after attending a public meeting addressed by him and host of other leaders. The policemen had put up the camps close to Govindpur village, where the government, earlier this week, began acquiring lands by flattening betel vines, a key source of livelihood of the villagers.

Abhaya Sahoo, a leader of Posco Pratirodha Sangram Samiti (PPSS) who has been on an indefinite dharna outside the Govindpur village for the last five days seeking withdrawal of police and disbanding of land acquisition work, said social activist Swami Agnivesh would join the agitation on Friday.

Sources said the state government, sensing the growing protests, might not resume land acquisition work on Friday as announced earlier. “There is no question of withdrawing the police force from the area. Since we want to acquire land in a peaceful manner, police have been asked to maintain utmost restraint,” Jagatsinghpur district collector Satya Kumar Mallik said. When asked whether land acquisition work would resume on Friday, the collector said, “We have kept a close watch on the situation”.

CPI leader D Raja said the agitation against land acquisition would continue. “We are at a loss why the state government is hell bent on acquiring land for the company against the wishes of people. The government should take the people into confidence before taking their land. People in the area have been fighting against the project for the last seven years. The chief minister has never visited the area and spoken to the villagers. He should understand the pulse of the people,” Raja said, who had reached the site on Thursday evening and spent the night in the village.

[Source — Times of India]

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