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INDIA: Immediately stop the brutal police assault on peaceful protesters opposing POSCO project in Odisha

February 3, 2013

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION -- URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-015-2013

3 February 2013
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INDIA: Immediately stop the brutal police assault on peaceful protesters opposing POSCO project in Odisha

ISSUES: Impunity; right to life; right to liberty; legislation; prosecution system; democracy; caste-based discrimination; threats and intimidation; violence against women
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti about brutal police assault on villagers who were peacefully protesting against forcible acquisition of their lands. The 12 platoon strong mobilisation that culminated in the assault started around midnight and the police finally entered the village around 4 in the morning and assaulted everyone, not sparing even the small children. The action, apart from being brutal, is also inexplicable as the state has no reason to hurriedly acquire the lands when the National Green Tribunal has already suspended the environment clearance to the proposed POSCO project. This was one protest amongst many that have been occurring against the POSCO project in Orissa, which will gravely affect people’s livelihood, food security and the environment.

CASE NARRATIVE:

A 12 platoon strong police force forcibly entered the Govindpur and Dhinkia villages of Jagatsingpur district in Odihsa and brutally assaulted the peaceful protesters who are opposing POSCO project in their area by making a human chain. The police did not spare even the elderly and the women and reportedly swung small children into air.

The police started entering the area around midnight and the massive swelling in their ranks was noticed by the villagers at around 2am early in the morning of today, 03 February 2013. The villagers then alerted others and rushed to the dharna (sit in) and human chain site. The police started their attack at around 4 am targeting the women and children who were standing in the frontlines of the human chain, thinking that their presence would make the police act a little humanely at least.

This, however, did not deter the police force, an all male one, and attacked the women injuring many of them. The numbers are yet to be known. Even more brutally, they reportedly swung little children accompanying their mothers in air. They then arrested several villagers and whisked then away to some unknown location. The assault, however, did not deter the villagers and many more of them have reached the protest site amidst growing tension. The situation has turned almost into a warlike one. The police have started breaking down the betel vines and cutting trees. The unarmed villagers are presently facing a 12 platoon strong police force armed to teeth.

The assault is completely inexplicable as the state should be in no hurry to acquire the land when the the National Green Tribunal has already suspended the environment clearance to the proposed POSCO project in our area.

The attack is just another addition to many such attacks on the protesters including the ones carried out by the hired goons of the private company. The state government has consistently failed to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of those affected by the POSCO project. Instead, it has continuously sided with those violating the rights. It is our firm belief that no development project should be launched without respecting human rights. This is one of the basic principles and duties of a state party to various international human rights laws, which India is.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write a letter to the concerned government agencies to express your concern about the Police assault on peacefully protesting villagers and ask them to immediately stop the assault. You may also demand strict action against those responsible for this attack.

Please note that the Asian Human Rights Commission has written letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women calling for her urgent intervention in this case. 

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ______,

INDIA: Immediately stop the brutal police assault on peaceful protesters opposing POSCO project in Odisha

Victims: Inhabitants of Govindpur and Dhinkia villages of Jagatsingpur district in Odihsa
Alleged perpetrators: Police of Jagatsingpur district
Date of incident: 3 February 2013 (Still ongoing)
Place of incident: Govindpur and Dhinkia villages of Jagatsingpur district in Odihsa

I am writing to you with grave concern regarding the ongoing brutal police assault on the villagers peacefully protesting against the POSCO project. As you might be aware of, a 12 platoon strong police force forcibly entered the Govindpur and Dhinkia villages of Jagatsingpur district in Odihsa and brutally assaulted the peaceful protesters who are opposing the project in their area by making a human chain. The police did not spare even the elderly and the women and reportedly swung small children into air.

The police started entering the area around midnight and the massive swelling in their ranks was noticed by the villagers at around 2am early in the morning of today, 03 February 2013. The villagers then alerted others and rushed to the dharna (sit in) and human chain site. The police started their attack at around 4 am targeting the women and children who were standing in the frontlines of the human chain, thinking that their presence would make the police act a little humanely at least.

This, however, did not deter the police force, an all male one, and attacked the women injuring many of them. The numbers are yet to be known. Even more brutally, they reportedly swung little children accompanying their mothers in air. They then arrested several villagers and whisked then away to some unknown location. The assault, however, did not deter the villagers and many more of them have reached the protest site amidst growing tension. The situation has turned almost into a warlike one. The police have started breaking down the betel vines and cutting trees. The unarmed villagers are presently facing a 12 platoon strong police force armed to teeth.

The assault is completely inexplicable as the state should be in no hurry to acquire the land when the the National Green Tribunal has already suspended the environment clearance to the proposed POSCO project in our area.

The attack is just another addition to many such attacks on the protesters including the ones carried out by the hired goons of the private company. The state government has consistently failed to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of those affected by the POSCO project. Instead, it has continuously sided with those violating the rights. It is our firm belief that no development project should be launched without respecting human rights. This is one of the basic principles and duties of a state party to various international human rights laws, which India is.

I therefore urge you to,

1. Ensure that the police assault is stopped immediately and the force is returned to barracks,
2. Ensure an impartial investigation is conducted into the case and those responsible for the attack are prosecuted,
3. Ensure medical and other facilities to the injured villagers,
4. Ensure that those who have lost their trees or other sources of livelihood are compensated,
5. Ensure that the human rights of protesters are respected and protected.
6. Ensure that the villagers’ right to participate in decision making for the POSCO project, as well as their right to land, natural resources and food.

Sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minster
Government of India
Room No. 148 B, South block, New Delhi
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 230116857; 23015603
Email: manmohan@sansad.nic.in

2. Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi 110001
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 2338 4863
E-mail: chairnhrc@nic.in

3. Chairperson
National Commission for Women
4, Deen Dayal Upadhayaya Marg
New Delhi-110 002
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 23236154
Email: complaintcell-ncw@nic.in

4. Naveen Patnaik
Chief Minister, Odisha
Through the office of the Principal Secretary
Home Department, Government of Orissa
Naveen Nivas, Aerodrome Road
Bhubaneswar, Odhisha
INDIA
Fax: +91 6742535100
E-mail: cmo@ori.nic.in

5. Shri B K Patnaik
Chief Secretary
Orissa Secretariat
Bhubaneshwar – 751001
Odhisha
INDIA
Fax: +91 674-2536660 / +91 674 2536660
E-mail: csori@ori.nic.in

6. S.K. Mallick
District Collector
Jagatsinghpur
Odhisha
INDIA
Fax: +91 6724220299
Email: dmjsp@ori.nic.in

7. POSCO
Department of Ethics Management
892, Daechi-dong, Gangnam-gu
Seoul, 135-284
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Tel: +82 3457 1484
Fax: +82 2 3457 6261
E-mail: ethics@posco.co.kr


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
AHRC-UAC-015-2013
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.