To: Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister of India
New Delhi 110 001
Sub: Demand immediate action to halt attack on peaceful protesters of proposed POSCO project area
Dear Dr. Manmohan Singh
We condemn the outrageous and illegal attempt by the Odisha* government, with the connivance and support of the Centre, to attack and seize the land of the villagers affected by the proposed POSCO project. We understand that on June 3rd, 17 people - including five children - were arrested and beaten by the police because they refused to allow the destruction of their farms. We also understand that the administration has been announcing through loudspeakers that they will use force against anyone who does not submit to the takeover of their land within the next 24 hours. Thousands of people are peacefully protesting while 24 platoons of police have been deployed in the area, probably for use in a brute force attempt at taking the land of the villages of Dhinkia and Gobindpur TODAY - Monday, June 6th - or in the coming days. This is occurring even as court cases by the villagers are pending in the Orissa High Court and are due to be heard shortly.
Nonviolent demonstration in Orissa
This attack on the lives and livelihoods of thousands is doubly outrageous because it has been repeatedly shown, and accepted by three different official committees, that the takeover of this land is illegal and in violation of the Forest Rights Act. The Environment Ministry has violated the law and its own orders and stated as much when giving the clearance. We note that in February of this year the National Advisory Council had specifically asked you to ensure that the practice of handing over forest land to companies in gross violation of this "landmark law", as you yourself described it, should be halted and action taken against the officials responsible.
Further, the project is proceeding despite the fact that an official committee said it had "potentially disastrous impacts" on the environment that could "cause loss of life"; and after an independent study showed that it would lead to a net loss of employment, destitution and impoverishment of around 50,000 people while producing no benefits for the local economy. Indeed, there is such a pattern of illegality around this project that five prominent anti-corruption activists have recently called for an investigation into "criminal collusion" between government officials and the company.
The mineral wealth of Orissa
We call upon you to immediately ask the Odisha government to halt this illegal attack, to withdraw all clearances given in violation of law, and to take an impartial position in the court cases filed by the people. Failure to stop this attack will show that the UPA** government's much vaunted concern over issues of displacement, forest rights and "inclusive growth" is simply an eyewash.
Deep Joshi, PRADHAN and Member, National Advisory Council
Aruna Roy, Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti and Member, National Advisory Council
Kavita Srivastava, People's Union for Civil Liberties
Harsh Mander, Aman Biradari and Member, National Advisory Council
Dr. Madhav Gadgil, Ecological Scientist and Member, National Advisory Council
Arvind Kejriwal, Parivartan India and India Against Corruption
Dr. B.D. Sharma, Bharat Jan Andolan and former Commissioner for SC/STs, Government of India
Dr. Amit Bhaduri, Council for Social Development
Medha Patkar, National Alliance of People's Movements
Justice Rajinder Sachar, People's Union for Civil Liberties and former Chief Justice, Delhi High Court
Swami Agnivesh, World Council of Arya Samaj
Dr. Binayak Sen
Adv. Prashant Bhushan, Campaign for Judicial Accountability
Maj Gen S.G. Vombatkare (Retd), NAPM - Karnataka
Dr. Vandana Shiva, Navdanya
Dr. Kamal Chenoy, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Dr. Ilina Sen
Dr. K S Subramanian, IPS
Dr. Anuradha Chenoy, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Dr. Manoranjan Mohanty, Council for Social Development
Dr. Walter Fernandes, North Eastern Social Research Centre
Dr. Mira Shiva
Sandeep Pandey, National Alliance for People's Movements
Thomas Kocherry, National Fishworkers Forum
Dr. Xavier Dias, BIRSA, Jharkhand
Dr. Sumit Chakravarty, Mainstream
* Orissa was renamed into Odisha in 2010. The state has 42 million inhabitants and its capital is Bhubaneswar. Official language and mother tongue of 83% of its population is Oriya.
** The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is a ruling coalition of center-left political parties heading the government of India. The coalition is led by the Indian National Congress (INC), which is currently the single largest political party in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the parliament of India). The Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, and the Council of Ministers are drawn from members of the UPA. INC's President, Sonia Gandhi, serves as the Chairwoman of the UPA.