Groups Urge NHRC to Intervene to Prevent Further Human Rights Violations
Over 30 people gathered outside the Indian Consulate in New York City on Friday March 15th to protest the murder of three village leaders – Narahari Sahu, Tarun Mandal and Manas Jena – in Gobindpur village of Jagatsinghpur district, Orissa in a bomb attack on March 2nd. A fourth leader – Lakshman Mandal continues to battle for his life in a Cuttack hospital. The demonstration was called to both “protest the governments continued participation in ongoing violence in the POSCO villages and to honor these brave men who have given up their lives trying to protect the land” said Neil Agarwal, a protest coordinator from the South Asia Solidarity Initiative, a New York based advocacy organization. A delegation from the protesters also handed in a letter to the National Human Rights Commission to Consulate staff. The letter signed by Mining Zone Peoples Solidarity Group and the South Asia Solidarity Initiative urges the NHRC to intervene and stop the “ongoing use of state and extralegal violence” in the POSCO villages.
Chanting slogans of “POSCO, Must Go” and “Narahari Sahu Amar Rahega” (Narahari Sahu, You Will Not Be Forgotten), the demonstrators joined their voices to those of the national level Fact-Finding team that had visited the villages immediately after the bomb attack, demanding an immediate judicial probe and challenging the government version of the story that the bomb exploded accidentally when the three deceased were building a crude bomb. “In a village that is swarming with police ever since February 4th when forcible land acquisition began why would three people clearly associated with the resistance sit in the open in broad daylight and make bombs?” asked Anu Mandavalli of MZPSG, a research and advocacy collective based in the US that has been working on the POSCO issue for over three years now. “Narahari Sahu was a part time school teacher whom the children of the village loved. Lakshman Mandal is a landless agricultural worker. Are they likely candidates for bomb making?” she added, underscoring the suggestion that the government and POSCO have been using goon squads to attack the village for the last four years.
MZPSG has been leading an international campaign in alliance with several European and US based NGOs for divestment of all investments in POSCO by four pension funds – the Norwegian Pension Fund, the Dutch Pension Plan, the California State Employees Pension Scheme and TIAA-CREF. The groups have been seeking divestment as POSCO’s conduct in India violates the ethical guidelines for investment as outlined by all four funds.