A national-level fact-finding team consisting of civil liberties and democratic organisations and individuals visited Govindapur and Dhinkia villages of Jagatsinghpur District on the 9th of March, 2013. The objective of the visit was to assess the situation in the wake of escalated violence since the land acquisition process resumed in the area on the 4th of February 2013. The stationing of armed police platoons in the proposed POSCO project affected areas and finally the recent incident of the bomb explosion that left three killed and had one person severely injured prompted us to visit the area and share our findings with a larger audience and appeal to the Odisha government and local administration. During the visit, the team had a detailed discussion with the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) leader Abhay Sahu and other members, the personnel of Orissa State Armed Police and the State Police stationed at Gobindapur, leader of Gobindpur pro POSCO group Ranjan Bardhan, dalit landless labourers, a group of people in Nuagaon led by Tamil Pradhan (husband of the Sarpanch) and the local youth. The following day, on the 10th of March 2013, the team also visited Laxman Pramanik in the SCB Medical College Hospital, Cuttack. We informed the District Collector and Superintendent of Police about our visit and sought an appointment but they told us that they were out of the district and thus not available to meet us.
The incident of March 2nd, 2013: Discussions with members of the PPSS and families of the deceased clearly indicate that the four people namely Nabin Mandal (30), Narahari Sahu (52), Manas Jena (32) and Lakhman Parmanik (46) were sitting at their usual meeting place after leaving a nearby betel vine in Patana village. A powerful blast occurred that killed three people and left Lakhman Parmanik severely injured. Another person named Ramesh Raut had left the spot just a minute before to buy a paan.
Within hours of the incident SP Jagatsinghpur Sri Satyabrata Bhoi announced through the local and national media that the blast occurred while the deceased were making a bomb, even before any police personnel had visited the site or done any investigation. According to Lakhman Parmanik in the hospital, bomb/s was/were thrown at them. He strongly refuted the accusation by the police that they were making bombs, adding “What gain will I make by lying when I am on the verge of death.” It was reported to be a powerful blast as its impact was felt and heard by most of the villagers as they recalled in discussions with the team. None of the police personnel reached the spot until nearly 15 hours after the incident. This is clear dereliction of duty given the fact that two platoons are stationed within a distance of a few minutes from the area. Even before the police came and took charge of the dead bodies, land acquisition started on the morning of 3rd of March 2013.
The Role of the Police: One, the police neither reached the area nor sent any help for taking Laxman Parmanik immediately to the hospital, despite PPSS informing the police immediately after the incident. Secondly, the police arrived only on the morning of 3rd of March at the scene of the incident and took charge of the dead bodies. Thirdly, families of the two deceased shared that the police arrived on the midnight of the 3rd of March, and asked them to sign a written statement stating that the victims died in the process of making the bomb which they refused to do. Fourth, when Kusumbati Sahu, sister-in-law of the deceased Narahari Sahu went to register an FIR at the thana of Abhoychandranpur on the evening of 3rd of March, the police refused to accept the FIR, scolded her that she has been sent by Abhay Sahu although they themselves were making the bomb and had come to lodge an FIR. She had to leave without registering the FIR. However it should be noted that the only FIR that was accepted by the Abhaychandranpur thana on 4th of March was lodged by Ranjan Bardhan against the 3 deceased, the injured Lakhman Pramanik, Abhay Sahu, Surendra Das and five others of the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti.
Our observations of the Current Situation:
Following the March 2nd bomb blast the already existing tension in the villages have been greatly escalated. The villagers are unable to move freely and are in constant fear of harassment and arrest by the police. Since 4th February when the land acquisition process was resumed accompanied by a severe police lathicharge on the villagers, outbreaks of violence have become more frequent. In Govindpur village, 2 platoons of police have been deployed, which has greatly contributed to the escalated tension in the villages. At least 105 betel vines have been destroyed in Govindpur village in the process of land acquisition. There was a lathicharge on 7th March on villagers demanding the removal of the police camp, in which 41 villagers including 35 women and children were injured.
This situation has also gravely affected the lives and livelihoods of the villagers. The situation of dalit landless labourers is very grave. Over 150 families depend on betel vines located on approximately 1 acre of land. They are keen and clear that the plant is most undesirable since it is the only source of livelihood. Two persons shared how they have got no compensation after sale of land. Most others said how there are no provisions for compensations for the landless in the acquisition process. In fact, Laxman Pramanik, who has been gravely injured in the bomb blast is also a landless labourer, the sole breadwinner of a family of eight persons, depending on the same. In short, the livelihood activities and mobility of the entire community is under threat. Any access to health care or medical treatment, however critical, is difficult to obtain as most of the community is under threat of arrest.
In view of our discussions with all the affected persons, and the clear attempt of the police to blame the deceased persons in a premeditated manner, we demand
- A high level judicial enquiry into the bomb blast incident resulting in the death of three persons and injury to one person, to ascertain the truth of the matter.
- The immediate withdrawal of the police camp from Gobindpur village as it is contributing to escalating tensions in the area.
- The cessation of the land acquisition process forthwith in the Dhinkia panchayat area including Gobindpur village.
- Compensation on humanitarian grounds to the families of the deceased who were killed in the bomb blast and proper medical help for the injured person.
Team Consisted of:
Meher Engineer, Former Director, Bose Institute, Kolkata
Sumit Chakravartty, Editor, Mainstream Weekly, Delhi
Dr Manoranjan Mohanty, Retd Professor, Delhi University
Pramodini Pradhan, PUCL Odisha
Saroj Mohanty, PUCL, Odisha
Ranjana Padhi, PUDR, Delhi
Dr Kamal Chaubey, PUDR, Delhi
Sanjeev Kumar, Delhi Forum, Delhi
Mathew Jacob, HRLN, Delhi
Partho Roy, Sanhati
Gyan Ranjan Swain, Ravenshaw University
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