PSPD in English Int. Solidarity 2010-05-28   739

[AHRC] INDIA/SOUTH KOREA: More than a hundred villagers including 50 women protesting peacefully injured in police firing and assault

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 However, no public health facilities were available in the villages to treat the injured until the police force was withdrawn on 20 May.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.

 

This article courtesy of http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2010/ .

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China-based group was founded in 1984.

 

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