The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shun-force plea from Amnesty

Bhubaneswar, April 12: Orissa should avoid forced evictions of farmers in Jagatsinghpur for the Posco project and instead consult them on displacement, an Amnesty International press release today said.

The human rights watchdog’s concern came in the wake of escalating tension between the farmers opposed to Posco and the state government after the latter moved hundreds of armed police into the area to force into the Dhinkia, Gadakujanga and Nugaon gram panchayats.

Amnesty said it was deeply concerned over reports that farmers in Jagatsinghpur may be evicted at the hands of the 12 platoons of police, who are waiting at Kujang and Paradip police stations before the eventual onslaught.

There is palpable tension in the gram panchayats after activists of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti dug up the Balitutha-Dhinkia saline embankment road last night to prevent the entry of police. “It’s a symbolic protest. Our villagers will fight against the police till the last drop of blood,” said Samiti president Abhay Sahu over phone from Dhinkia.

At Jagatsinghpur, hectic activities continued with district magistrate Pramod Meherda and SP Y.K. Jethwa discussing several plans to remove the bamboo barricades at the entrance of the gram panchayats. Jethwa said the anti-Posco activists had cut off the road fearing police arrest. “We are chalking out alternative strategies,” he said.

Amnesty International urged the state that lessons should be learnt from the unfortunate episodes of violence, which recently unfolded at Kalingar Nagar and Nandigram in neighbouring Bengal.

The organisation also reminded the government of Principle 9 of the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.

“Law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against persons except in self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury, to prevent the perpetration of a particular serious crime involving great threat to life, to arrest a person presenting such a danger and resisting their authority...,” it said.

A delegation of CPI leaders, which visited the affected areas, also joined the wave of condemnation.

Posco, though, held out hopes of a truce and said it hoped the stand-off would be resolved in a peaceful manner. Company spokesperson Shashanka Patnaik told The Telegraph that it was open to land acquisition in areas less volatile than Dhinkia, Gadakujanga and Nugaon.

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