Democracies Don’t Strip Their Women, India Does #Indiashame #womensday


| by Avinash Pandey*

 
( March 8, 2013, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka Guardian) The decision of going naked in protest to the oppression committed on them by POSCO and its supporters must not had come easily to the women of Govindpur village of Jagatsingpur district in Odisha. It cannot come easily to women of anywhere in country, however, much distressed they are. It is a country, after all, that still abides by essentially feudal codes of honour hinged, primarily, on their bodies and punishing those who stray with extreme, and extrajudicial, measures like honour killing with the law enforces looking away.
But then, this is exactly what the women of this POSCO-infested village (to borrow from the mainstream media that refers to all such areas as ‘infested’ by this or that dissenting group) have been forced into. The desperation betraying the decision is unmistakable. It can startle even those who deal with such stories of despair day in and day out. Last time one had seen such a protest taking place was in Manipur in July 2004. The situation, however, was a little different in that case. Manipur has always been a ‘disturbed’ area for the Indian state and condemned, therefore, to be reined in by brute force. Brute force in military parlance, in turn, has always included sexual assault as a weapon of shaming and controlling the enemy.
Elderly women of Manipur were aghast at that and decided for going that protest in sheer desperation. They were a people who had completely lost their faith in the nation that claimed to be their own but acted as an occupying force. It did never treat them, or their menfolk, as its own. Its security forces assaulted the men and raped the women at will and the state legitimised such dreadful practices by allowing the Assam Rifles deployed in Manipur to provide condoms as an integral part of the travel kit, to be used while on patrol duty. Having had enough of this, Manipuri women went to the headquarters of the Assam Rifles, disrobed and flung a banner reading “INDIAN ARMY RAPE US”.
Odisha is thousands of kilometers away from Manipur. It is not a ‘disturbed’ area with the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, a colonial relic very dear to Indian state, in force. Its women are not that alien to Indian state as Manipuri women are to it, despite all its claims on the contrary. Yet, the desperation and the progressive loss of any faith of the citizenry in the state are same. This is what explains the disarmingly simple and yet dangerous message that seeps out of the statement issued by the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS). “Left with no other option, women from the village have decided to get naked before the Policemen tomorrow” is all that it says. The pain and agony it would take to first decide for holding such a protest and then announcing it to the public is something lost on the state and the moral guardians it deploys to keep the pretension of being a democracy on.
     The message that the state is not ready to listen to peaceful voices of dissent is loud and clear. It has abandoned the citizenry for the reasons best known to it and had decided to side with the private interests even at the expense of rule of law. It has shifted the boundaries and pushed the citizens to the extremes. It is no more a struggle for justice that had become a distant dream, but a struggle for survival that starts with being heard and noticed.
The women have reached the decision because the state has abandoned them for POSCO, the multinational company that has been violating all their rights with impunity. They have reached the decision after getting many of their near and dear ones killed by the hired goons of the company. They have reached the decision for the state government sending in an armed-to-teeth police force for cracking down on the peaceful protesters and forcibly acquire the lands even when the environmental clearance that is mandatory for such projects stand cancelled by the statutory authorities.
The immediate provocation comes from the stubborn refusal of the police to lodge a formal First Information Report (FIR), a constitutional right of the people, against the perpetrators of a bomb attack on the nonviolent protesters that killed several of them. Despite unambiguous indications that the attack was carried out by the hired goons of POSCO, the police have obstinately maintained that the deceased were involved in bomb-making and perished when it exploded prematurely, all this without even a pretense of investigation.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the anti-POSCO movement has faced such violence or police apathy. On one hand, it has been a victim of ruthlessly violent attacks on its activists purportedly carried out at the behest of POSCO and on the other a systematic victimisation by the state by filing fabricated cases against them as exposed by a fact finding report titled “Captive Democracy”.
The message that the state is not ready to listen to peaceful voices of dissent is loud and clear. It has abandoned the citizenry for the reasons best known to it and had decided to side with the private interests even at the expense of rule of law. It has shifted the boundaries and pushed the citizens to the extremes. It is no more a struggle for justice that had become a distant dream, but a struggle for survival that starts with being heard and noticed. It is a struggle for asserting one’s existence against those who want to erase the poor and the downtrodden from nation’s conscience. It is, therefore, a struggle for reclaiming the citizenship in a democracy that is going truant.
The signs are not good for such struggles. The wretchedness hitherto reserved for those living on the peripheries of the nation has been slowly, but consistently, moving inwards. The country has already stripped thousands of its women naked underlining what Ms. Arundhati Roy calls a ‘rape culture’. It has looked away when the non-state actors, so to say, have done the same with other set of victims hounded along the fault lines of caste, kinship and religion. It had yet not reached a stage where its women have to get naked in front of the police, supposed to be law enforcers, unlike its atrocious armed forces for their legitimate rights. It would better not let that happen.

 

Bombing in POSCO Area:When we don’t question #humanrights #stateterror


It is not even a month old when armed police force invaded Govindapur
to forcibly acquire land for POSCO. Since February 3, 2013 this area
has been turned in to an armed police camp. Excepting pro-posco goons
no one can enter the village and no one can get out.Police patrolling
continues for 24 hours. Even cats and dogs can’t enter without police
approval. Suddenly there was a bomb attack in the village in the
evening of March 2, 2013. Police were informed immediately. They did
not respond for 15 hours. But within an hour they could call media to
inform them that it was an accident involving bomb making.No media
person questioned the SP how could he know it without reaching the
spot. 3 important leaders of the anti-posco agitation died on the
spot. Two would have survived had they received medical help. One was
taken to the hospital by people themselves. One of them had filed a
FIR against a very powerful Idco officer who had attacked villagers on
February 3, 2013. Our team was among the few people to reach the spot
within hours.The images will make any one think and raise questions.
When we don’t question, truth is crushed and untruth prevails.

 

PPSS leader Abhay Sahu’s fast entered the fourth day: Call to Join the peaceful struggle at Govindpur, Jagatsinghpur, Odisha


 

Support for the anti-POSCO resistance:

* Korean Civil and Labour organisations condemn State violence on anti-POSCO villagers
<http://miningzone.org/archives/1924>

* Support Letter by French Civil Society to Anti-Posco Movement
<http://http//miningzone.org/archives/1838>

* An Open Letter from concerned citizens to the Chief Minister of Odisha
<http://miningzone.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Open-Letter-to-the-Odisha-CM-Feb-2013.pdf>

* Letter of Concern from Global Forest Coalition at the barbaric action of police proposed POSCO project area in Jagatsingpur district of Orissa
<http://miningzone.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/GFC-Letter-solidarity-India-POSCO.pdf>

PPSS leader Abhay Sahu’s fast entered the fourth day: Call to Join the peaceful struggle at Govindpur, Jagatsinghpur, Odisha

 

Dear Friends,

As you may be aware our leader Mr. Abhaya Sahoo had to take the extreme step of sitting on hunger strike till the time withdrawal of armed police force from our area is completed. His fast has been going on at Patna Hat village since the morning of 5th February 2013 though he is not in good health.

While thanking you all for the support and solidarity you have been extending to the movement which certainly keeps our hope alive even when forcible displacement and despair knocks at our door, we do also appeal you on behalf our agitating villagers to please come and join us physically at the site of the Dharana in Govindapur and Patana Hat. You may be a leader/activist of a political party or a social movement or a progressive intellectual, a media person, does [not] matter where you belong to – please come and join us in the peaceful demonstration at Govindpur against the government’s coercive action to forcibly dislodge us from our land and livelihoods.

We have already informed you about the happenings on 3rd February dawn when police force forcefully entered Govindapur village and blocked the area from all sides and started beating our villagers mercilessly. Our women are complaining about torture and sexual atrocities in the hands of the police. [The police] did also pull down trees and betel vines, the major sources of our livelihood.

On 6th of February 2013, the district administration of Odisha was forced to halt the operation at around noon when hundreds of women and children formed a human barricade and told the police : ‘Kill us first before you proceed further,”.

A large number of activists from CPI, CPM, CPI ML, Liberation, Forward Bloc, Samajwadi Party, RJD and members from different social movements also participated in the demonstration. The supporters and activists of opposition Congress and BJP also joined the gherao agitation lead by Com Raja. It seems that the government would resume land acquisition work today.

Social activist Swami Agnivesh was scheduled to visit Gobindpur village today to express solidarity with our villagers.

We don’t understand the Odisha government’s determination to go ahead with the forceful land acquisition process for the steel plant despite the fact that Posco does not have an environmental clearance for the project. The environmental clearance given by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on January 31, 2011 was suspended by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on March 30 of 2012.

Posco does not even have a memorandum of understanding with the state government now. The one it had signed on July 22, 2005 lapsed on July 21, 2010 and no fresh MoU has been signed so far. So what is the basis on which the state is acquiring land for the project?

Even the palli sabha meeting of Govindpur, and the gram sabha meeting of Dhinkia panchayat on 18 October, 2012, more than 2000 residents unanimously voted against diversion of land for Posco’s project under provisions of the Forest Rights Act 2006. The ongoing land acquisition is a blatant violation of the Forest Rights Act as the rights over forest lands in our area are not being recognized and vested and consent of the Palli Sabhas has not been obtained by the State government.

There is a clear indication that the government is acting at the behest of  and for the benefit of the private company and is in a hurry to begin work even when the new land acquisition bill is being considered by the Parliament, which mandates consent of nearly 70% people in a village before acquiring their land for any project. The project is also facing court cases relating to allotment of iron ore mines and water as well.

We have been questioning the project’s potential to generate jobs for the people and the net benefit the country will get after sacrificing land, water and doling out concessions to the foreign company. The government is completely silent on its part to discuss the issues involving the project.

At this juncture, once again, we earnestly appeal you to join us and express your solidarity with villagers of Govindpur.

Attaching herewith the photographs for your information.

Kindly circulate widely.

Hoping for solidarity,

Prashant Paikary
Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti
Mobile no-09437571547
E-Mail – prashantpaikary@gmail.com

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