KENDRAPADA: More than 250 international human rights organizations, comprising social workers, scientists, legal luminary activists, academics among others, have strongly criticized the Odisha government for using forces to acquire fertile lands and betel vines in the proposed Posco site in Jagatsinghpur district. They also wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday, urging him to stop land acquisition works in these areas.
In the letter, they also condemned the use of force against protesters, including women and children. They stated in their letter that the most recent wave of police violence between February 3 and 6 in Gobindapur village saw the men in uniform use the same pattern of abuse, threats, and intimidation by the government to forcibly acquire land for Posco’s steel processing plant.
“We wish to emphasize that these attacks are in clear violation of law, as well as established international human rights norms and standards. We were informed that a police force of 12 platoons, along with senior government officials and Posco representatives, entered Gobindapur village at 4 am on February 3. Reportedly, the police attacked a human barricade which had over 350 women. The indiscriminate use of force, which allegedly included lathicharge on women and children, injured over 50 people. Three women and one elderly man sustained serious injuries. Although the land acquisition process has temporarily been halted, we find the government’s continued efforts to forcibly acquire land for the Posco project to be incredibly troubling, especially in light of serious questions that have been raised regarding the legality of the project,” the letter said.
“The environmental clearance for Posco project was suspended in March 2012 by decree of the National Green Tribunal – a body established by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. In addition, the government of Odisha has refused to follow the procedures established by the Forest Rights Act, whose provisions require clearance of the project by local governance structures, known as Gram Sabhas, which have issued three resolutions rejecting any diversion of land for the Posco project. Further, the initial Memorandum of Understanding for the project, which expired in July 2010, has not been renewed,” the letter added.
Miloon Kothari, the former UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, and executive director, Housing and Land Rights Network, said, “The lack of transparency, accountability, and due process in acquiring land for Posco and moving ahead with the project is alarming. It is clear that the recent action in Gobindapur village is a result of the government’s insistence on promoting foreign direct investment, even though it violates the Constitution of India, international law, and the human rights of the villagers.”
The letter also urged the government to cease all measures aimed at the forcible displacement of residents, carry out an independent and impartial investigation into the illegal use of force by the police and a government official on the morning of February 3. it also asked for measures to provide compensation to the injured and those who incurred loss and damage of property besides loss of livelihood., , rescind the false charges filed against more than 230 individuals and several prominent leaders of the anti- Posco movement and uphold the rights of the affected communities established under the Forest Rights Act as well as the determination of the National Green Tribunal that raised serious environmental concerns relating to the Posco project.
Some bodies that signed the letter include, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development Asian Foundation for Human Rights and Development Asian Human Rights Commission Asian Institute for Human Rights Association, Association for Women’s Rights in Development, Mining Zone Peoples’ Solidarity Group, Alliance of South Asians Taking Action, Berkeley, CA Boston Mobilization, Boston, MA, Friends of South Asia, Santa Clara, Pesticide Action Network – North America (PANNA) and Oakland Institute Association for India’s Development Child Rights Information network Citizens for Justice.
[Source — Times of India]