| Workers demolish betel vines during land acquisition drive at the proposed Posco site at Gobindpur village in Jagatsinghpur on Tuesday. (PTI) |
Bhubaneswar/Paradip, Feb. 5: Tension ran high in Gobindpur and its adjoining sites as anti-Posco protesters clashed with police deployed in the area to maintain law and order.
Though no one was injured, the protesters snatched away batons and safety gear of the policemen providing security cover to government officials engaged in acquiring land for Posco’s controversy-ridden steel project. Today, they demolished 17 betel vineyards acquiring about five acres for which compensation had been paid to the owners.
While the police condemned violence by the protesters and use of children as human shield, Abhay Sahu, president of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, the outfit spearheading the anti-project movement, sat on a dharna, describing land acquisition as undemocratic.
“Peaceful people are being forced to turn into law breakers,” the leader said.
Senior BJP leader Ashok Sahu today led a 22-member team to the area to express solidarity with the protesters.
In Bhubaneswar, the Congress submitted a memorandum to governor M.C. Bhandare, condemning police action in the Posco area and demanding relocation of the Rs 52,000-crore project of the South Korean company.
“We hold the state government and its chief minister responsible for it and demand immediate end to such uncivilised police action. We also demand that the construction site of the steel plant be shifted to another place, which is lying vacant and not very far from the project site,” the memorandum said.
The Congress protest is significant as the party-led UPA government at the Centre is extending support to the project.
The trouble at the site began around 1.30pm. The protesters not only snatched away police batons, but also forced teachers in the nearby government-run schools to vacate the premises. Later, children were brought to the agitation site and used as shields against the police. The mob retreated only after the administration promised to withdraw armed police from the village.
“The land acquisition exercise was smooth till afternoon. We have received reports of the anti-Posco outfit using hooligans to instigate disturbances in the area. Those, who attacked the police, were outsiders. It is indeed unfortunate that the protesters have resorted to using children as human shield,” said Jagatsinghpur collector Satya Kumar Mallick.
Jagatsinghpur superintendent of police Satyabrata Bhoi said: “The police acted with utmost restraint. They did not retaliate despite provocation.”
On the other hand, Samiti chief Sahu threatened to continue his dharna till the police force was withdrawn from the area. “This protest will continue till the police are out of the area. We will not tolerate use of force against peaceful people,” he said.