Arrest fear grips Posco activists

The fear of arrest is haunting anti-Posco activists who had forced the company to put its steel plant project on hold.

By Manoj Kar
  • Published 14.06.16

Paradip, June 13: The fear of arrest is haunting anti-Posco activists who had forced the company to put its steel plant project on hold. 

Police are waiting to execute warrants against more than 1,200 activists for having indulged in violence during the movement against the South Korean steel major. 

Paradip additional superintendent of police Madhabananda Sahu described it as part of the police drive to execute pending warrants.

“The law is bound to take its course against those who violated it,” he said. Notices mentioning the names of absconders have been put up at public places and gram panchayat buildings at Dhinkia, Gadakujang and Nuagaon, the three panchayats that constitute the project area. 

The activists, on the other hand, feel that they should not be treated like criminals. 

“We are not criminals, but are now forced to live like fugitives. We did not commit any crime. We had only broken the law because it was a question of our livelihood,” said anti-Posco activist Sisir Kumar Mahapatra.

“I am a woman and was leading the women’s brigade of the resistance movement. As many as 16 criminal cases have been registered against me and I cannot move about freely,” said a native of Gobindpur village, Manorama Khatua.

“The police are bound to act following the law of the land. During the course of resistance movement, people here disobeyed law and committed crimes. The offences perpetrated by them included attempt to murder, arson, rioting, criminal intimidation, beating up government officials who were trying to perform their official duty. These are all non-bailable offences and they cannot escape. The only option they have is to either surrender before the police or the court,” said Sahu.

Over 1,200 non-bailable warrants are pending for execution at Gadakujang, Nuagaon and Dhinkia gram panchayats that come under the proposed Posco project area. Of these, about 500 arrest warrants are against women campaigners, he said. The villagers fearing arrest did not go to vote during the 2014 Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

“If the government desires, it is well within its right to urge the court to consider dropping charges of petty offences on humanitarian grounds. However, people involved in cognisable and non-bailable offences would have to face trial,” said rights activist Umesh Chandra Singh.

In 2005, Posco had signed an MoU for setting up a Rs 52,000-crore steel plant. Due to stiff resistance from local villagers, the company had to bring down land requirement from 4,004 acres to 2,700 acres in the first phase. The land acquisition process had come to an end on July 4 in 2013. On May 28, 2013, National Green Tribunal had stalled the tree-cutting work at the project site. Since then, there has been no progress in the project.