| Protest pitch rising high
Bhubaneswar, July 2: Hundreds of villagers, said to be supporters of the South Korean steel major Posco’s proposed greenfield project, disrupted traffic on a national highway here demanding arrest of those opposing the mega project and allegedly creating unrest in the area.
The villagers of Dhinikia, Nuagaon and Gadakujnag panchayats blocked the Cuttack-Paradip state highway and Chandikhole-Paradip national highway five at Bhutmundei for over four hours from 11am, later withdrawing after senior district officials held discussions with them.
Over 700 trucks and 60-70 passenger buses were stranded on the national highway.
Jagatsinghpur SP Y.K. Jethwa said 42 families of Dhinikia and Patna villages — near the proposed site of Posco steel project — sat on the road protesting the social ostracism by anti-Posco activists.
The villagers have apparently taken shelter at Bhutmundei primary school on Chandikhole–Paradip highway for the last 12 days.
Jethwa said the villagers even stopped ambulances and school buses and raised a five-point charter of demands including arrest of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti president Abhay Sahu.
They told the police that anti-Posco activists assaulted them and seriously injured a person during the observance of “black week” by anti-Posco activists last month.
They also said that those supporting the project were threatened to vacate the village.
The women who had left their betel vines, houses and paddy fields to spend the last 12 days in a dilapidated school in Bhutmundei, told the police how they were being forced to live like beggars.
The children recounted how they were being threatened from going to school if they did not join the anti-Posco protests.
Jethwa said the villagers lifted the blockade after being told to take their grievances to the higher officials in Bhubaneswar. “They were asked to meet the chief minister at Bhubaneswar,” he added.
Jagatsinghpur district collector P.K. Meherda said: “We have assured them of full security in villages.”
“Police inaction has encouraged the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti to target supporters of the steel project,” said Chandan Mohanty, a villager.
Meanwhile, Sahu blamed the administration for the escalation of tension in the area.
“While receiving complaints from the project supporters, the police did not entertain FIRs filed by the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti members,” he alleged.