E. Tendayi Achiume,
Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, Xenophobia and related intolerance, UN Re- Testimony at the civil society expert consultation by Prasant Paikray from India (Odisha)
Dear E. Tendayi,
I Prasant Paikray, the Spokesperson of Anti Jindal Anti POSCO Movement from Odisha, India do make the following submissions humbly for your understanding and intervention:
- That, it is already known to the world that the peace loving people of Dhinkia area, who have been practitioners of a sustainable green economy, have been forced to confront with multinational mining and steel giants for the last 17 years . The provincial State of Odisha and the State of India have been supporting these powerful companies by relaxing established rules and acts and by suspending rights given under the constitution of India.
- First, it was the South Korean POSCO and after its departure now it is Jindal South West (JSW) who have stolen the peace of the region by making gross violations of human rights and by promoting environmental racism.
- It may be recalled that in 2005 South Korean steel-making company POSCO was allowed by the State and the Central Government to establish an integrated steel plant despite the opposition of the unwilling villagers of Dhinkia and nearby villages. The State Government led by Mr.Ø Naveen Pattnaik ( who continues to rule the state) did not want to discuss with people on their grievances . Rather force was applied to by engaging police and paramilitary agencies to grab the land.
- This led to formation of a resistance committee by the villagers to protect their land livelihoods which they have been practicing for more than 100 years. As a consequence forum for resistance was established in the name of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) which was then supported by national and International organizations who could understand the realities surrounding village life in the area.
- The State Government without making any efforts to discuss with the organizers resorted to intimidation of sane voices of resistance in the area. False cases leading to arrests was the technique the state used against protesters. More than 200 fabricated cases are there in the name of the villagers and they selectively target the victims now, when he or she raises voice against JSW project. These cases are still there in the courts and villagers find it difficult to renew their struggle with full vigour against a more powerful Jindal group.
- This didn’t end here, police brutality led to loss of 5 precious lives from the protesting villagers. It caused trauma among people leading to suicides by few girls and elderly people. The police force mercilessly demolished betel vines, fish ponds, paddy fields and all other traditional livelihood systems. The repression continued for 8 long years but could not suppress the movement.
- Ultimately, POSCO had to leave and people started taking breath and slowly their lost green economy was getting revived. People of Dhinkia area expressed their deep gratitude to all national and international solidarity groups for standing firmly with them in all the years of struggle against POSCO.
- But their peace and happiness was proved to be short lived. The State Government allowed another project from an IndianØ company named Jindal South West (JSW) with greater potential to damage people’s lives and livelihood in 2019. It came as a terrible shock to the people who had just started taking respite when Government of Odisha without discussing anything with the villagers declared launching of the JSW project in their area. The process of forcible land acquisition, demo lotion of betel vines and crushing of dissent started at a lightning speed. Villagers were not even allowed time to peacefully organize themselves to face the power of the state. Police this time it were more brutal and insensitive. They didn’t even spare the women, children and elderly, the action of which the entire world witnessed on 14th Jan 2022. It has come on all media platforms and OTTs.
- Moreover the Governments- both State and the Central, approved theØ Environment Clearance to the proposed project despite the intellectuals, experts in the field and civic communities pointing out various anomalies in the report provided by JSW to the Environmental Ministry of the Central Government.
- The villagers who raised the issue had to face false cases framed by the police. About 100 cases registered by now and about 60 villagers are there in the jail for no crime committed by them. Their only crime appears to be their opposition to use of brutal force to take away their land and livelihood.
- Debendra Swain, the leader of the movement has been kept in prison since Jan 14th of 2022 along with 7 more protestors. The police are framing new cases against Debendra even when he is in the jail. People are living in a state of fear as they can’t openly move around anywhere near their viallge; they can’t even come to their village.
- It may be noted that this place belongs to the Paradeep and Jagatsinghpur industrial area which has already exhausted its carrying capacity to accommodate more uindustries and that t it is situated in a know ecologically fragile zone with serious climate issues.
It may be recalled here that the green economy in practice in Dhinkia area helps around 5000 people from Schedule Caste/ Dalit communities and Minorities who have been victims of social discrimination in India for decades. Now their own elected government has unleashed a reign of terror on them and there is no one to come to their support.
I may humbly request that the fight of Dhinkia villagers to save their Land, Lives and Livelihood may please be brought to the notice of United Nations and other International communities and together they should put pressure on the Indian Government to
- Withdraw the proposed JSW project at Dhinkia and bring back normalcy.
- Withdraw the police forces deployed at and around Dhinkia village and allow people to live a normal life.
- Stop police brutality against the villagers of Dhinkia targeting specific protestors.
- Initiate strict action against the police officials involved in police brutality that caused physical and mental trauma to 100 of villagers including children, women and elders.
- Cancellation of Forest Clearance to JSW and return the Forest land to villagers as per concerned Act and Law.
- Cancellation of Environmental Clearance granted in favor of the proposed project proponent in an ecologically fragile zone.
- Squash all the false and fabricated cases registered against the villages starting from POSCO to JSW which could be roughly around 300.
- And release all the protesters including their leader Debendra Swain from prison.
With Best Regards
Prasant Paikray, Spokes Person, Anti Jindal Anti POSCO Movement *******Copy to FIAN International for their Reference*******