Splashed across the headlines and TV channels across India are the people of the proposed POSCO project area and their heroic fight to stop this illegal project from grabbing our lands. The bravery of the children and women of our villages - lying down in front of a thousand armed police poised to destroy their lives and homes - has captured the nation's attention. Even after official committees found the project to be illegal, independent studies destroyed all claims of its supposed "benefits", and criminal complaints were filed against their officials, both Central and State governments shamelessly supported this project. But the courage of our children stopped them in their tracks.
The State government has broken every law and lied at every step to benefit POSCO. It deployed a thousand armed police and declared that it did not want to use force. Why then were the police deployed? It laid siege to thousands of people for two days, in the burning sun, threatening them with bullets, tear gas and lathi charges. The police finally had to withdraw in disgrace, after shamefully sneaking behind our backs to demolish a few betel vines. Today we are re-erecting those sheds and those families will cultivate again.
The Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh today issued an appeal to the Orissa government to respect "democracy and dialogue" and refrain from coercion in taking over land. But "democracy and dialogue" are provided for in the law, and specifically in the Forest Rights Act, which says that the forest land cannot be taken without the consent of the community and without recognition of their rights. And it was Jairam Ramesh's Ministry who gave the land to POSCO without complying with any of this, in direct violation of the law - leave alone of "democracy and dialogue." So what is the meaning of pious statements now? If Mr. Jairam Ramesh and the Central government believe in democracy and dialogue, let him withdraw his illegal clearance.
No doubt, various vile tactics, threats, rumours and sneak attacks will be staged to demoralise the people. But our spirit will not be broken. We know that we fight for justice. Our children know this too, unlike those who so callously accuse us of using them as "human shields." This fight is for justice and democracy, but it is also for our children's future. We do not want to see them reduced to starvation and destitution, living from hand to mouth on daily wages, deprived of their entire future and livelihood by a criminal state. They fight with us because the injustice of POSCO's land grab can be seen even by a ten year old, and it is these ten year olds who have shown the nation what courage really means. We reiterate: neither we nor our children will give up our forests, our water or our lands.
Here is a message from the protesters:
You may know that the Jagatsinghpur district administration has temporarily halted forceful land acquisition for POSCO project (for local festival and holidays). The government will restart the process from 17th June 2011. We are planning to intensify stir to protest forcible land acquisition at Gobindpur village.
The officials illegally demolished betelvines at Gobindpur village. Our people are now rebuilding it. Despite a halt in land acquisition, we are continuing with our protest.
Attaching herewith the photographs for your information and wider circulations.