PUDR unequivocally condemns the undemocratic ways of the Odisha government in trying to further corporate interests under the rhetoric of development, subjecting the locals to repression, displacement and a threat to survival. The arrest of Abhay Sahu, leader of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) from Bhubaneshwar airport on 11th May in connection with a bomb blast case at Posco’s proposed steel plant site in Jagatsinghpur district is symptomatic of the same attempt of the government trying to eliminate all voices of opposition.
Since February 2012 government of Orissa with the approval of the Central Government has been forcibly evicting people and acquiring land for the POSCO project.The use of police and paramilitary forces has become a norm nad it is adangerous practice in a democracy. PUDR has earlier demanded the withdrawal of forces from the place and adoption of democratic process for the acquisition of land. It has been clearly opined by experts that this project will lead to impoverishment on the area. Contrary to that, the Government has flaunted it as the biggest FDI in India and the PMO has taken keen interest in forcing this project on the locals despite their unrelenting opposition to it. Abhay Sahu was arrested earlier and has obtained bail from the High Court of Orissa. Arresting him this time, when he is leading the movement in opposition to the project, is but an attempt to criminalise dissent.
Instead of being on the hot trail of Abhay Sahu, the Government of Odisha should focus on an investigation into the bomb explosion and booking the culprits for the same.
PUDR is also deeply concerned and appalled at the brazen way in which the government of Odisha is trying to push the dam project on the lower Suktel river as well as the mining of the Niyamgiri hills by Vedanta. At both these places the government has used undue force against unarmed citizens to satisfy corporate interests. Foisting false cases against citizens with limited means and suppression of dissent has become a common practice by the BJD-led government in Odisha after the death of Biju Pattanaik.
PUDR demands the unconditional release of Abhay Sahu. The undemocratic land acquisition in Odisha must be stopped immediately and the police and para-military forces must be withdrawn from the area. We urge the government to take the democratic path to acknowledge and accommodate dissent.
Asish Gupta and D Manjit