Pradeep Pattanayak

Objecting to the alleged police’s brutality on the residents of Dhinkia Panchayat in Jagatsinghpur district on Monday, social activists, environmentalists and journalists on Tuesday approached the Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) seeking immediate restoration of normalcy.

They filed a petition wherein they have demanded immediate steps to facilitate the release of the people who have been arrested on false charges and bringing back normalcy to the village.

They alleged that the people of Dhinkia are facing hardships due to the police action. The situation has come to such a pass that the villagers are being asked to show their Aadhaar cards to go out and enter their village. For entangling the villagers in false cases, FIRs have been registered against them, they alleged.

“The people of Dhinkia had put up a vehement protest against POSCO and the company had to step back. Now the same people are opposing the project of Jindal Steel Works Limited (JSWL). Yesterday, the police had arrived at a Samiti member’s house to arrest him. They picked up his paternal uncle, aged 71, who is a paralysis patient and his 22-year-old daughter. They thrashed everyone who tried to come to their rescue. We requested the Commission to ensure human rights in the village. The Commission gave us a patient hearing and served a notice to the superintendent of police (SP), Jagatsinghpur, asking him to not harass the people and entangle them in false cases,” said Prafulla Samantara, an environmentalist.

Terming the police action against the people of Dhinkia as inhumane, senior journalist Rabi Das said the police have been raiding the village, break into houses, attacking the villagers causing injuries, implicating people in false cases and restricting them to their houses. “The villagers are not allowed to go out of the village. They are being asked to show their Aadhaar cards. The situation has come to such a pass that people injured in police attack are not able to visit hospitals. We have brought the attention of the Commission which has asked the police to submit a report on the issue. Our petition will be heard next month,” Das said.

Once an epicenter of resistance against land acquisition for POSCO’s mega steel plant, Dhinkia has been witnessing tensions since December 1 when the local administration officials who had gone to the village for demarcation of a revenue village had to return leaving their job mid way through. They couldn’t withstand the villagers’ protest.

The present tension has its genesis in the proposed JSWL project. The villagers have been opposing the bifurcation of the village, accusing the State government of playing a ‘divide and rule’ policy to pave way for industrialization in the area.

After tension erupted on Monday following protest by villagers against the delimitation process of the newly formed revenue village ‘Mahala’, the atmosphere in the area still remains tense.

“Yesterday police came in seven Bolero vans and picked up the Samiti member and his daughter. They also caned his paralytic uncle. They did not even spare the passerby who asked them the reason for dragging the father-daughter duo out of their house,” alleged a villager. 

In addition to the existing police deployment, four additional platoons have been stationed in the area to maintain law and order.

Meanwhile, the villagers are learnt to have convened a meeting in the village to decide their future course of action against the government move.