Trouble still persists for Anti-Posco activists as arrest fear haunts them

Bhubaneswar: Odisha’s most protracted resistance movement against any industrial venture may have come to an end for all practical purpose with South Korean steelmakers calling it quits. But for those who had plunged into the anti-posco movement, trouble is far from over. Fear of ‘arrest’ and ‘languishing in jail’ hovers around them like Damocles sword.

The list of ‘wanted’ lawbreakers is still stuck in the panchayat offices and public places in Gadakujang, Nuagaon and Dhinkia gram panchayats, which were the nerve-centre of people’s resistance stir against the country’s largest foreign direct investment (FDI).

The people against whom arrest warrant are pending for breaking law when the agitation was at its peak are in catch-22 situation. Though all of them are visibly elated after local TV news channel splashed the scrapping of the project, unknown fear haunts them shrinking their new-found joy.

Over 1200 people who had taken part in the movement are wanted by police with arrest warrant executed against them. All of them are virtually living the life of ‘fugitive’.

Sword of arrest warrant continues to hinge on people whose protracted resistance movement which had forced the South Korean steel behemoth to beat a retreat. People no doubt broke law. But they are not criminals. All of the warrantees fought for a cause for larger interest of people living here. Thus it’s high time, the state government comes forward to initiate necessary legal formalities for the dropping of the pending cases in connection with anti-posco related agitation, remarked Abhaya Sahu, who spearheaded the agitation almost single-handedly against the South Korean steel magnate.

“Police are duty bound to execute pending warrants against those who are evading arrest. We find no difference in those who committed offence participating in posco resistance movement or committing in any other crimes”, Paradip, Additional Superintendent of Police, Gadadhar Pradhani.

“Many people were falsely implicated in criminal cases. The anti-posco agitation was mostly peaceful even when it was at its peak. Whenever violence had erupted, it was due to coercive poluce action. So resistance movement activists should not be treated as criminals. The government needs to do the needful so people could come out of the legal barriers unscathed. Many people are living like fugitives. Even I have a series of cases pending against me”, remarked an anti-posco activist Sisir Kumar Mahapatra over phone.

“Resistance movement was replete with violence triggered by people. The activist here breached law and committed crimes. The offences perpetrated by them included the attempt to murder, arson, rioting, criminal intimidation, beating up government officials while performing their official duty. These are all non-bailable offences. So they can not escape from long arm of law. The sole option left before them is either to surrender before the police or the court”, added Paradip, Additional Superintendent of Police, Pradhani.