Archive for June, 2011
Korean Civil Right Organizations’ Announcement to the Indian Government and Posco for the trial of forced land acquisition at the Orissa State Steelwork site
Our concerns have now become a reality. The Orissa State Government of India announced that the land acquisition process for the Posco project will be continued from the 18th of May. Posco is now at the center of the conflict over resource development, which is raising serious social issues in India. Not only has the Indian Government expressed concern over the Posco project, but international societies, including Amnesty International, have also expressed their concerns regarding the Posco Project. Posco and the Korean government seem to be the only ones oblivious to the seriousness of the situation.
From the beginning, the Posco Orissa Project was embroiled in controversy by threatening tribal rights and opening up the possibility of environmental violence. Since 2010, both the Saxena and Meena Gupta Committees have suggested to Posco to delay development in the area since the residents of relevant areas needed to be protected by the Forest Rights Act. Additionally, there appeared to be several problems, including an agreements gathering process in which the Posco project has seriously been suspected of fabricating its legal justification for the project.
Thousands of residents have protested for the last six years against Posco and the government to protect their livelihood from the project without due process. Furthermore, more than 100 injuries occured on May 15th 2011 due to the blind firing of rubber bullets by police forces during a cruel dispersement of protesters. After announcing the reports of the Government Investigation Committee last year, residents expected the project to be halted.
The Hon’ble Union Minister,
Ministry of Home Affairs,
North Block, Central Secretariat,
New Delhi – 110001.
Re: inquiry against me by the Ministry of Home Affairs through the CBI.
With due respect, I would like to bring your attention in a case of inquiry against me, which has been carried out by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), New Delhi through the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The Ministry had done the similar inquiry last year and I had given them all the required information despite that the same inquiry has been repeated to know whether I’m involved in any kind of anti-national activity and my association with the anti-national elements.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has initiated second round inquiry against me. An officer of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Mr. Nirmal Kumar Birua visited my resident in the afternoon at 3:15 PM on June 23, 2011 and asked me about the activities I’m involved with, the source of my income, my association with the organizations and mass movements, my work for Human Right, publications, reports, articles and so on. He also recorded about my family background including the background of my parents, brother and sisters, the present status of my family members and about my present residence and present status.
He told me that the Jharkhand Unit of the MHA has to send a bulletin in every evening and the Delhi office has been consistently asking to submit a report regarding my involvement in anti-National activities and association with anti-National elements. However, when I checked it I was shocked to know that there is no such unite of the MHA exists in Ranchi but the MHA does all kinds of inquiry in the state either through the Intelligence Bureau (IB) or the CBI. In fact, I have put everything in the public domain and I’m always available in Ranchi the capital city of Jharkhand and also appear in the media (print and electronic) very often. I have been raising the issues of human rights and social justice and the allegations of my involvement in anti-national activities and my association with the anti-national elements are baseless.
Sehat aur Samaj: Why this newsletter?
All of you will remember the ‘swine flu’ hysteria that gripped the entire world and India too just over a year ago. In those days it was a common sight to see people everywhere wearing masks on their faces. These were people who were worried about getting infected by the swine flu virus and trying to protect themselves.
I must confess I was very happy to see all these middle-class Indians hiding their faces.
To begin with the mask till not long ago was a sartorial accessory reserved exclusively for terrorists and other assorted demons. So when respectable people start wearing masks they can help counter stereotypes about what terrorists look like or are supposed to wear. Thanks to swine flu wearing a mask in broad daylight became respectable.
But the real reason why I was happy is my belief that it is a good idea for middle-class Indians to keep these masks on permanently, simply because they should be deeply ashamed of what is happening in their country.
The last time I checked in 2010, the numbers of Indians dying every year due to sudden assaults on their health by poverty, viruses, bacteria, parasites and badly driven motor vehicles were as follows:
- Under-nourishment kills around 25 lakh children annually
- Malaria – Over 900,000
- Air pollution – 527,700
- Tuberculosis – 400,000
- Road Accidents – Over 100,000
Just between these avoidable causes of death the overall figure translates into roughly 12000 Indians dying every day. I don’t know of any conflict anywhere in the world- in Africa, the Middle East or even in Pakistan or Kashmir where the daily toll of lives runs so high.
POSCO PRATIRODH SANGRAM SAMITI
Villages Dhinkia, Gadkujang, Nuagaon, District Jagatsinghpur, Orissa
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.
URGENT PRESS RELEASE
09 June 2011
The Odisha police have called in heavy reinforcements and are moving into positions all evening around the villages of Dhinkia and Gobindpur in Jagatsinghpur District of Odisha state. These villages form the epicentre of over 6 years of successful peaceful resistance to the scandalous POSCO steel-mining-power-port project – the world’s largest. This project is being pushed through by Odisha and Indian Governments in blatant violation of fundamental rights and a variety of environmental and economic laws of India.
According to confirmed sources within the Odisha establishment, the attack on this peaceful resistance is more than likely early morning tomorrow, if the police do not unleash terror overnight. The resilient people of these villages including women, children, elders, youth and men are holding overnight vigils along the borders of their villages now and will stay so till the police withdraw.
An alarming aspect of such abuse of police powers is that over 26 platoons of police have been mobilised around these villages over the past two weeks. Such heavy police presence betrays the Odisha Government’s claims that the acquisition of land for the project is peaceful.
The current Senior Police Officer in charge of the operation is the former Superintendent of Police of Kalinganagar, who had ordered firing on villagers protesting the Tata Steel plant, killing many tribals and injuring scores more. Under this officer’s ruthless leadership, the Odisha police has effectively declared an emergency on the resisting villages, completely halting normal life over the past several weeks. It is more than likely now that a needless carnage will result because of the such strong arm tactics of the police.
On behalf of the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samithi (PPSS), this urgent release is being made requesting your earliest attention to this impending disaster. India could do well without another Kalinganagar, or Nandigram, and the role of the mass media is critical in preventing such an incident.
For more details about the ground situation, please contact:
Prashant Paikray, Spokesperson, PPSS: Cell: 09437571547 email@example.com
Ranjan Swain of PPSS: Cell: 09178643193
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
Respected 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 Dh inkia 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.
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.
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
Prof. 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, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)
Adv. Prashant Bhushan, Campaign for Judicial Accountability
Maj Gen S.G. Vombatkare (Retd), NAPM – Karnataka
Dr. Vandana Shiva, Navdanya
Prof. Kamal Chenoy, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Prof. Ilina Sen
Prof. K. Satchidanandan
Dr. K S Subramanian, IPS
Suhas Borkar, WGRAS
Prof. Anuradha Chenoy, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Dr. Manoranjan Mohanty, Council for Social Development
Dr. Walter Fernandes, North Eastern Social Research Centre
Dr. Mira Shiva (Public Health Expert)
Madhu Bhaduri (former diplomat)
Dr. Sandeep Pandey, National Alliance for People’s Movements
Thomas Kocherry, World Forum of Fisher People
Xavier Dias, Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee
Sumit Chakravarty, Mainstream
Ashish Kothari, Kalpavriksh
Dr. Bela Bhatia, Social Scientist
According to news reports, the Chhattisgarh home minister Nankiram Kanwar has threatened to ban PUCL and has accused it of supplying arms to Naxalites. He is also reported to be considering prohibiting Swami Agnivesh from entering the state. There were also other reports targeting the appointment of Dr. Binayak Sen to the Supreme Court panel on health care.
And these reports follow the arrest earlier last week of Ramesh Agrawal and Harihar Patel and Ramesh’s hospitalization in inhuman conditions. Today, the sessions court denied them bail.
It is important that we respond collectively against these attempts to malign PUCL and oppose the continuing harassment and detention of human rights workers in Chhattisgarh as well as other states.
We call upon individuals and organizations worldwide to endorse the following statement by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also encourage the wide publication of this statement.
In Defence of
People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Chhattisgarh
Free Ramesh Agrawal and Harihar Patel!
Free Kopa Kunjam and Sukhnath Oyame!
Stop harassing Swami Agnivesh, Binayak Sen!
Hands off PUCL!
Hands off Human Rights Workers!
Defend PUCL! Defend Human Rights Workers in Chhattisgarh!
Defend the Indian Constitution! Defend the Rule of Law!
It is with grave concern and utmost urgency that we write to protest the continuing threats to human rights workers in the state of Chhattisgarh. On Saturday, June 4, 2011, Dainik Bhaskar reported the state Home Minister Nankiram Kanwar’s public statement that the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) was supplying arms to the Naxalites and that the Minister was considering banning the organization.
PUCL is a Gandhian organization founded by Shri Jayaprakash Narayan to uphold and defend the Indian Constitution. PUCL has had an illustrious track record nationally and in Chhattisgarh of ensuring that the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Constitution are available to all the people of India. When elected and unelected public officials have usurped or attempted to usurp their powers, PUCL has often been among the few organizations that provide the only line of defense for many Indian citizens. Lacking access to normal judicial processes, it is to PUCL and other similar organizations that the poorest and the most marginalized often turn.
This is particularly true in the case of Chhattisgarh, where, in the name of fighting the Maoists, the state machinery, including the police, has created for itself a documented history of acting with impunity, engaging in violence on a massive scale against defenceless people. In December 2005, the state unit of PUCL in Chhattisgarh, under the leadership of Binayak Sen, along with several other human rights organizations, investigated and documented the atrocities – burning down entire villages, murder, rape, mutilation – committed by Salwa Judum, a vigilante force financed, armed and supported by the state. Petitions filed by Prof. Nandini Sundar and others and by Himanshu Kumar of the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA) have led the Supreme Court to order the state government to disband Salwa Judum and rehabilitate the displaced villagers. The state government has largely ignored these orders. Interestingly, immediately after PUCL conducted its investigation in 2005, the then Director General of Police O. P. Rathode declared to the press, Hum PUCL ko dekh lenge (we will take care of PUCL).
Ramesh Agarwal, an environmental advocate and partner of the Access Initiative (TAI), was arrested in the early hours on May 28. According to multiple reports, Agarwal’s human and civil rights have been reportedly violated by police and jail officials, and TAI remains concerned for his health, safety and wellbeing.
Agarwal has long been an environmental and social advocate. He has highlighted many violations of India’s environmental laws arising from industrial non-compliance and pollution. Employing the legal tools and institutions available to him, he has obtained valuable information through numerous Right to Information (RTI) Act applications, raised concerns about faulty environmental impact assessments, and exposed fraud and corruption in environmental decision-making, particularly at public hearings. In particular, he has drawn the attention of the authorities to illegal industrial construction without the requisite environmental safeguards and permits. He has taken his complaints, often with success, to state and central level authorities and ministries in the Raigarh district of Chhattisgarh. He has also petitioned and filed applications before the National Environmental Appellate Authority (NEAA), courts, and other regulatory bodies. (See attached note from TAI India lead partner LIFE)
Agarwal was arrested on a police complaint filed in June 2010, by Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL). JSPL claims Agarwal defamed and intimidated the company by speaking out against the company’s proposed expansion in the Raigarh district at a public hearing in May 2010. These are issues that a court will likely decide on evidence based on a trial. Public hearings are legal venues allowing citizens to express their concerns about proposed developments and projects. Agarwal’s arrest, based on alleged statements he made within the context of such a legal forum and on matters of concern to him, threatens his civil rights.
Dismissed workers taken back
Factory owners buckle under pressure – Locked out mills to start from June 3
New Delhi, June 2. Workers in Gorakhpur achieved a major victory in their struggle when the factory owners agreed to start the two locked out mills from June 3 and take back the dismissed workers. 12 of the 18 workers will join work immediately and the remaining 6 will be taken back after a domestic enquiry. The workers also forced the owners to accept that no one from the management will be in the enquiry committee; it will have two members from the office staff and one workers’ nominee.
The decision was taken at negotiations held till late night at the district magistrate’s residence. The two owners of the VN Dyers and Processors yarn mill and textile mill, the district magistrate and deputy labour commissioner and seven workers’ representatives were present at the meeting.
These two mills in the Bargadwa area of Gorakhpur were illegally locked out since April 10. Around 500 workers work in both of these mills owned by the Ajitsaria family having an annual turnover of more than 150 crores. 18 workers of these two mills were dismissed by the owners. The workers were agitating for reinstatement of their colleagues and restarting the factories.
Their movement took a new turn when around 1500 workers from several factories in Bargadwa and GIDA industrial areas went to take part in a May Day rally called by the Workers’ Charter Movement in Delhi. Almost all the local industrialists were trying to prevent the workers from joining this rally and even the divisional commissioner threatened the workers’ leaders that they will not be spared if they continue to “instigate” the workers.
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted bail to alleged Maoist sympathiser Piyush Guha wondering whether a call for a revolution to reform society could be treated as an offence.
“A large number of material and news come to us. Similarly, such material come to you and this person also. If that is his ideology and he says revolution is the only way to reform society, can we say that is an offence?” a vacation bench of justices G S Singhvi and C K Prasad said.
The court made the remarks after senior counsel U U Lalit, appearing for the Chhattisgarh government, opposed Guha’s bail application on the ground that he was an active sympathiser of Maoists and there was a big amount of material and pamphlets to link him to the banned organization.