Writers, Artists, Human Rights Activists and Well-known Personalities. Demand Protection of Human Rights and Livelihood of the Local Villagers of Dhinkia, Odisha
The South Korean Company POSCO backed out from Odisha due to a long struggle of the local communities. However, the Odisha state Government is allowing Jindal to take over the lands and livelihood of the same local villagers. The struggle for the protection of local resources, livelihood, human rights and environment is going on.
The state Government has unleashed severe repressive methods on the activists and local villagers, instead of solving the problems of people. The Jindal-POSCO Pratirodh Committee, which is spearheading the struggle of the local communities against such severe repression has demanded to release all prisoners immediately and withdrawal of Jindhal, the company which is taking over their lands.
In this context, many writers, artists, human rights activists, academicians, organisations and many well known personalities have demanded withdrawal of Jindhal, protection of the lands and environment of the local villagers and release of the activist prisoners from jail, through a petition to the President of India. They have appealed to the civil society to widen this campaign by circulating the petition and endorsing the same.
The petition can be endorsed through the following link: https://www.change.org/IStandWithDhinkia
We also appeal to you to forward this petition to your contacts and networks in social media requesting for further endorsements.
Hon’ble Draupadi Murmu,
President of India.
We, the following human rights activists, artists, writers, people’s movements, academicians, cultural personalities, and social organizations, would like to bring to your kind notice the oppression let loose by the Government of Odisha on the people of Dhinkia of Odisha since the last 17 years. This is by holding the sword of displacement almost continually over their heads, by harassing them for protesting, by denying them right to peaceful existence and untroubled perusal of their lives which any govt. is duty bound to ensure to citizens. The Odisha Govt. is blatantly violating their democratic and human rights, including making large scale arrests. There is incarceration of local activists in jail on trumped up charges, restrictions on the right of village people to peacefully protest against their threatened displacement while allowing free movement of and threats to local people by goons of companies. The following are a few key points which are elaborated with the facts.
In 2005, the South Korean steel-making company POSCO was allowed by the State Govt. (BJD) & Central Government (UPA) – despite the unwillingness of the villagers of Dhinkia and nearby locality – to establish its project by taking over their lands. The local cultivation is betel vines, which ensured prosperity and contentment to the local peasantry and big revenue to the Govt. by export of the leaves.The State Government is still run by Mr. Naveen Pattnaik, leader of the ruling party the BJD, which was ruling the state at that time also. The Odisha state Government deployed its state agencies to grab the land forcefully from the native villagers.To safeguard their ages long possession (of more than 100 years) over the lands and traditional livelihood, the villagers started protesting against the proposed project in masses under the banner of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS).
The State Government being intolerant & furious due to the peaceful yet strong protest against the proposed project, misused its law enforcement agencies against its own people by framing false charges and thus registering more than 200 FIRs which are still pending against hundreds of villagers of Dhinkia for the anti POSCO movement. The conspiracy of the administration, Company & its goons and police brutality then, resulted in the loss of 5 precious lives from Dhinkia Panchayat. Even in the aftermath, the local people remained deeply traumatized, leading even to suicides.
Meanwhile, in the forcibly acquired areas, betel vines, fish ponds, paddy fields were destroyed and other traditional livelihoods were lost. However the protest lasted more than 8 years and ultimately POSCO backed out. People hoped this would bring back long awaited harmony in that area.
But again the State Government (BJD) allowed another project from a company named Jindal Steel Works (JSW). This time, in 2019, there was even more aggression against the unwillingness of the local people. With the same approach by the state Government led by the same Chief Minister Mr. Naveen Pattnaik, there was forceful acquisition of land using state agencies. However this time the approach of the police was very rough and they didn’t spare even women, children and the elderly. The worst police action, which the entire world witnessed, was on 14th January 2022. It was broadcast and published in all forms of news all over the world. The visuals were so disturbing that it baffled the entire country.
Moreover the Governments, both the State (BJD) and the Central (BJP/NDA), ignored the anomalies in the Report provided by JSW to the Environmental Ministry and the Ministry approved the Environmental Clearance ignoring those anomalies. In the process of acquiring the land, so far almost 100 police cases have been registered since 2020, 50-60 people arrested and few released later on bail, though the leader of the Jindal-POSCO Pratirodh Committee (JPPC) Mr. Debendra Swain has been kept in prison since Jan. 14th 2022 along with some other protestors. The protest and its movement have been subjected to police brutality and inhuman torture by Government agencies. Dhinkia village and other nearby villages have already been severely affected due to effects of rapid industrialization in Paradip by either establishment of new industries or upgradation of the existing industries. These effects have already caused loss of lives and livelihoods of people of nearby villages due to exposure to natural disasters caused by environmental & climate degradation and injustice.
Needless to say that the present invasion of Jindal on the resources of the local communities is also a blatant violation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), since this law recognizes the rights of the local communities and other forest dwellers.
In this context, we appeal to you to intervene so that the protests of Dhinkia villagers to save their Land, Lives & Livelihoods are considered legitimate and to ensure that the Governments (both Union & State) act immediately. We therefore request you to take the following steps immediately for the welfare of the local people, environment and precious human rights of the local villagers.
- Cancel the proposed JSW project at Dhinkia.
- Stop police brutality against the villagers of Dhinkia and targeting of the protestors by all means.
- Cancel the Forest Clearance given to JSW and return the Forest land to villagers as per Law.
- Cancel the Environmental Clearance granted in favor of the proposed project.
- Settle the forest rights of the people in an unbiased manner without hostile environment as per Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006.
- Provide the legitimate land records to the landless people of Dhinkia.
- Take strict action against the police officials involved in police brutalities that caused physical & mental trauma to thousands of villagers including children, women and elders.
- Quash all the false & fabricated cases registered against the villagers starting from protests against POSCO to JSW which are roughly around 300.
- Release all the protesters including their leader Mr. Debendra Swain from prison.
List of Initial Signatories:
- Anand Patwardhan, Film Maker
- K. Satchidanandan Poet, Writer, Former Secretary, Kendra Sahitya Akademi
- Lalit Vachani, Filmmaker, University of Göttingen
- Mani Shankar Aiyar, Former Cabinet Minister
- Binoy Viswam, Former Forest Minister, Government of Kerala
- Advocate Ansar Indori, NCHRO, New Delhi
- Annie Raja, General Secretart, National Federation of Indian Women
- Madhumita Dutta, Assistant Professor, Ohio State University, USA
- Dr. Sandeep Pandey, General Secretary, Socialist Party (India)
- Prof. Anjali Monteiro (Retd.), Film Maker, Researcher, Educator
- Prof. K.P. Jayashankar (Retd.), Film Maker, Researcher, Educator
- Kavita Srivastava, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)
13, Sunlam, President, Madhya Pradesh Kisan Sangarsh Samiti (MPKSS)
- Malini Subramaniam, Independent Journalist
15, Maj Gen Dr. Sudhir Vombadkare, (Retd)
- Dr. Ram Puniyani, National Solidarity Forum
- Dr.Gabriele Dietrich, Pennurimai Iyakkam,T.N. and NAPM
- Leo Saldanha, Environment Support Group
- Susmit Bose, Musician
- Dr. John Dayal, Journalist, Author & Researcher
- Meena Menon, Journalist
- Bijaya k Panda, National Convenor, Bharat Jan Andolan
- Advocate Ansar Indori (National Secratary,NCHRO)
- Binu Mathew, Editor, Countercurrents.org
- 26, Amudhan RP, Film Maker
- 27, P. Baburaj, Film Maker
- Antonella Visintin, Member of Oikotree movement and Glam commission of the Protestant Federation
- Meera Sanghamitra, NAPM
- National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)
- Vijayan M.J, Delhi Solidarity Group
- William Stanley, Oikotree Movement
- Brinelle Dsouza, Academic and Activist
- Rev. Dr. Susan E. Davies, United States of America
- 35, Pervin Jehangir
- Prafulla Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Recipient of Goldman Environmental Prize for Asia, Bhubaneswar
- Srikanta Mohanty, Secretary CPIML, Odisha State Committee
- Ashish Kothari, Kalpavriksh, Pune
- Dr Walter Fernandes, Director, North Eastern Social Research Centre
- Sailen Bhattacharya, General Secretary, ECL COLLIERY SHRAMIK UNION
- Shamsul Islam, Author
- Central Executive Committee, AIKMS
- Dr.Suhas Kolhekar,(Maharashtra), National Alliance of People’s Movements
- Prakash C. Jha, Independent Researcher
- K.Padma, Advocate, Visakhapatnam, Andhrapradesh
- Tara Murali, Architect, Chennai
- Dr. PM Tony, Director, Social Research and Training Centre, ATC, Namkum, Ranchi
- Justice Coalition of Religious – West India
- Jan Swasthya Abhiyan – Mumbai
- Aruna Rodrigues, Sunray Harvesters
- Pradip Pradhan, Convenor RTI Odisha State Committee
- Arundhati Dhuru, National Alliance of People’s Movements
- Sathish Reginald Samuel, Secretary, ECODAWM
- Ranjan Solomon
- Sadananda Sahu, Advocate and Trade Union Leader, Raurkela, Odisha
- Dr. B Karthik Navayan, Advocate, High Court for the state of Telangana
- Lelin Kumar, Writer and Journalist of Janabadi News Weekly .
- Manu, Researcher
- Shalini Gera, Advocate, High Court of Chhattisgarh
- Sonu P. Yadav
- Nadita Narain, Delhi University
- Nisha Biswas, Kolkata
- Madhuri,Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan
- Pradip Sahu,CSD , Odisha
- Biswapriya Kanungo,Adv Odisha
- K.P. Sasi, Film Maker, Writer, Cartoonist
- Antony Raju, Bangalore
- Neelima Sharma (Theatre)