More than a hundred villagers protesting peacefully are injured by police assault in India & South Korea | Asia Pacific Greens

More than a hundred villagers protesting peacefully are injured by police assault in India & South Korea

Greetings from the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)!

I am writing to you to share our appeal for police attack on tribes protesting against POSCO (multinational Korean steel company) steel plant project which will clean forest and their land where thousands of tribes have been living in generations. 

The police fired indifferently at protests including women and elders using shotguns and firearms. Please support the villagers who have been struggling to protect their forest and land for years since 2005 and be noted that the government of Orissa infringes the Forest Act allowing the POSCO to occupy the forest. Please join the petition by sending letters to the government authorities in India and the POSCO in South Korea or report a separate appeal to support the tribes in Orissa. Please also be noted that for years, tribes in Orissa have been suffering from development projects or Foreign Direct Investment which you can find in TATA steel project, Vedanta mining project and POSCO steel project that includes steel plant, port and mining. 

Please refer to the appeal below and let us know if you needed further information.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that more than a hundred tribal villagers were injured in an incident in which the police opened fire and assaulted protestors in Orissa on 15 May. The police have reportedly fired upon the villagers who had gathered at the entrance of their village to prevent from being forcefully evicted by the government to clear space for a South Korean multinational company, POSCO. POSCO is planning to setup its factory in the tribal land including the villages of the protesters. It is reported that the riot police fired at the protesters using shotguns and other firearms. The villagers have been peacefully protesting in Balitutha, Orissa, since January 26, 2010. Two villagers are seriously injured in the firing. 


CASE NARRATIVE: 


Ms. Mounabati Das aged about 50, living in Dhinkia village, Jagatsingpur district, Orissa was injured by a rubber projectile on her leg, which the police fired to disperse the protesters on May 15 (Photo of Mounabati's injury can be seen here). According to her, when she fell down on the ground, the police dragged her by hair saying that it is the consequence of the resisting the government's wishes. 


Another villager, Mr. Bharat Bardhan was hit by rubber projectile and a shotgun pellet on his face (Photo of Bharat Bardhan's injured face can be seen here). It is feared that he may loose his eyesight from the injuries. A projectile that hit him broke his tooth and a blood vessel on his nose. A lead shotgun pellet is still embedded in his left cheek. Bharat’s wife Tikki Barhdan’s foot was fractured by a rubber projectile and another villager, Ms. Shantilata Mahapatra, was injured on her leg by a rubber projectile and shotgun pellet. Gujuri Mahanti, a 72-year-old woman was shot in the back and also hit at the back of her head by rubber projectile while trying to run away from the scene. 


According to the witnesses, it is alleged that about 50 women in three villages including Dhinkia, Gobindapur and Nuagaon in Jagatsingpur district were injured in the incident. However, no public health facilities were available in the villages to treat the injured until the police force was withdrawn on 20 May. In addition, it is alleged that the police took away five women in a vehicle and since then their whereabouts are not known. It is reported that the police arrested 11 persons. 


Since 26 January, hundreds of villagers have protested peacefully in Balitutha. Balitutha is the entry point to the villages, where the South Korean steel giant POSCO has proposed the construction of a steel plant. POSCO signed a MoU with the Government of Orissa as early as 2005. For details, please see a forwarded report available here


It is alleged that 25 platoons of police were displaced to disperse the villagers. On May 15, the District Magistrate issued a temporary emergency order in the area under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. The order prohibits gathering and protesting of the people and empowers the police to fire to disperse the crowd. 


The District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police ordered the protesters to disperse. The villagers refused and soon the police fired teargas shells into the crowd. The crowd resisted and soon the police opened fire at the crowd using rubber bullets and shot guns. It must be noted that shotguns are not allowed to be used by the police to disburse peaceful protests. It is alleged that the police later fired at the crowd using lead projectiles, which seriously injured two persons, Mr. Natha Swain (32 years old, Nuagaon village) and Mr. Ramesh Das (35 years old, Dhinkia village). In addition, police allegedly destroyed not only the facilities the protesters have built in the place but also the shops and huts in the vicinity. On May 20, the police was withdrawn from the area and on May 21, the Orissa government asked the government of South Korea not to take 300 acres of private land in Dhinkia village. 


ADDITIONAL COMMENT: 


The police firing at the villagers peacefully protesting proves that the state government of Orissa fails to protect, respect and fulfil the right to development which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of benefits according to the UN Declaration on the right to development


Since the Orissa government and the POSCO signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2005, despite several petitions, letters and objections sent to the government, the government as well as the POSCO have allegedly failed to entertain the positive participation of the villagers who should be, in fact, the main actors as well as the actual beneficiaries of the development. Given the fact that more than 70% of the population of Orissa are living Below the Poverty Line (BPL) and lack basic infrastructure and public facilities such as public medical institutions, public education facilities, and nutrition food for the children, the process for development should be conducted with the participation of the villagers and in an atmosphere of proper communication with the government, POSCO and the villagers. 


The use of force by the law enforcement agencies against the peaceful protesters was avoidable, as the Article 3 of Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials recommends limits in using forces and firearms. The Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials further suggests that "the law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against persons except in self-defense or defense of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury, to prevent the perpetration of a particularly serious crime involving grave threat to life, to arrest a person presenting such a danger and resisting their authority, or to prevent his or her escape, and only when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve these objectives. In any event, intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life." 


In addition to this, the Principle recommends to "ensure that assistance and medical aid are rendered to any injured or affected persons at the earliest possible moment", which the law enforcement agency in this case ignored. 


The Economic and Social Council, in its resolution 1986/10, section IX, of 21 May 1986, invited Member States to pay particular attention in the implementation of the Code to the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials, and the General Assembly, in its resolution 41/149 of 4 December 1986, inter alia, welcomed this recommendation made by the Council. India ratified both of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in 1979. 


SUGGESTED ACTION: 


Please write to the authorities listed below calling for intervention. The AHRC has written to the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development, and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. 

To support this appeal please click here: 


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SAMPLE LETTER: 


Dear __________, 

INDIA: Call for respecting freedom of expression as well as participation to development of the tribal villagers instead of use of force by police in Orissa 


Name of victim: 
1. Natha Swain, male, 32 years old, Nuagaon village 
2. Ramesh Das, male, 35 years old, Dhinkia village 
3. Mounabati Das, female, in her fifties, Dhinkia village 
4. Bharat Bardhan, male, Dhinkia village 
5. Tikki Barhdan, female, Dhinkia village 
6. Shantilata Mahapatra, female, Dhinkia village 
7. Gujuri Mahanti, female, Dhinkia village 
8. Other villagers injured by force of police 
Name of the alleged perpetrators: 25 platoons of police or about 1500 police officers 
Date of incident: May 15 2010 
Place of incident: Balitutha village, Jagatsingpur district, Orissa, India 


I am writing to you to express my deep concern about an incident in which the police opened fire at peaceful protestors from Balitutha village, Jagatsingpur District in Orissa state. The incident happened on 15 May, leaving at least 100 tribal villagers injured. 


I am informed that the villagers from Dhinkia, Gobindapur and Nuagaon in Jagatsingpur district have been peacefully protesting in Balitutha village since 26 January 2010. I am aware that the villagers have been opposing the setting up of the POSCO steel plant that will require the villagers to vacate the place and a large extent of deforestation of the forest the villagers have depended on for generations. 


According to the information I have received 25 platoons of police or around 1200 police officers were dispersed to the area a few days before the firing incident. I am further informed that the police used tear gas, rubber projectiles and shotguns to fire at the protesters. According to the witness as well as photos and videos published, around 50 of the injured are women.. 


I am further informed that two villagers, Mr. Natha Swain (32 years old, Nuagaon village) and Mr. Ramesh Das (35 years old, Dhinkia village) were seriously injured by metal projectiles from the firing. I have seen the photos of women injured in the incident, including that of Ms. Mounabati Das, Ms. Tikki Barhdan, Ms. Shantilata Mahapatra, Ms. Gujuri Mahanti and Mr. Bharat Bardhan. 


I am informed that no medical facilities were made available in the villages to provide prompt and essential treatment to the injured until the police was withdrawn on 20 May and that a doctor who went into the villages to treat the seriously injured left on the same day. 


Furthermore it is alleged that the police took five women away in a vehicle and since then their whereabouts are not known. I have also learned that the police destroyed not only the facilities setup by the protesters but also shops and houses in the vicinity. 


I am aware that prior to the firing the District Magistrate declared a temporary emergency in the locality under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. The District Collector and the Superintendent of Police who were present at the scene demanded that the protesters disperse, prior to the firing which the protesters refused. It is reported that on May 20, the police was withdrawn from the area. 


I am raising the question as to how much effort the government, as well as POSCO, have make to communicate with the villagers who should be the main actors and the beneficiaries of the proposed development project. According to the UN Declaration on Right to Development of which India is a state party, development aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of benefits. I am told that despite several petitions and letters sent to the government, the government did not properly respond to the villagers or tried to establish communication with them. 


I am also aware that the use of force and firearms by the law enforcement agencies is limited according to the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials. The Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials require that "the law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against persons except in self-defense or defense of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury, to prevent the perpetration of a particularly serious crime involving grave threat to life, to arrest a person presenting such a danger and resisting their authority, or to prevent his or her escape, and only when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve these objectives. In any event, intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life." 


In addition to this, the Principle recommends to "ensure that assistance and medical aid is rendered to any injured or affected persons at the earliest possible moment", which the law enforcement agency in this case ignored. 


I therefore, urge you to ensure the villagers' right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression and further participation to the development. I am of the opinion that the government and POSCO should create proper and open communication channels with the villagers instead of using force which may lead to serious injury to the villagers as well as the police. In addition, if there are villagers who are allegedly arrested by the police, they should be immediately released. 


I look forward to your prompt and positive response to the case. 

Yours sincerely, 


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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO: 


1. Mr. P Chidambaram 
Union Minister of Home Affairs 
Ministry of Home Affairs, 104-107 North Block 
New Delhi 110 001 
INDIA 
Fax: +91 11 23094221 
Email: [email protected] 


2. Justice K. G. Balakrishnan 
Chief Justice of India 
Tilak Marg, New Delhi 110 011 
INDIA 
Fax: +91 11 23381508 


3. Mr. Naveen Patnaik 
Chief Minister 
Through the office of the Principal Secretary 
Home Department, Government of Orissa 
Bhubaneswar, Orissa 
INDIA 
Email: [email protected] 
Fax: +91 674 25351006 


4. Upendra Prasad Singh 
Commissioner-cum Secretary 
Department of Agriculture 
Orissa, INDIA 
Fax: +91 674 2393 948 
E-mail: [email protected] 

5. Mr. Bikram Keshari Arukh 
Minister 
Ministry of Rural Development 
Bhubaneswar, Orissa 
INDIA 
Fax: +91 674 2536 641 
E-mail: [email protected] 


6. Director General of Police 
Government of Orissa 
Bhubaneswar, Orissa 
INDIA 
Fax: +91 671 2304033 

7. Mr. Narayana Chandra Tena 
Collector 
Jagatsingpur district 
Government of Orissa 
INDIA 
E-mail: [email protected] 

8. Justice Govind Prasad Mathur 
Chairperson 
National Human Rights Commission 
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg 
New Delhi 110001 
INDIA 
Fax + 91 11 2338 4863 
E-mail: [email protected] 

9. Maurice Kujur 
Vice-Chairperson 
National Commission for Scheduled Tribes 
6th Floor, ‘B’ Wing, Loknayak Bhawan, 
Khan Market, New Delhi – 110003 
INDIA 
Tel: +91 11 2456 7474 

10. 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: [email protected]

Thank you. 


Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission ([email protected]