Anti-Posco agitators protest leader’s arrest

October 13th, 2008 - 10:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Oct 13 (IANS) Hundreds of anti-Posco agitators Monday blocked roads and demonstrated for hours in Orissa’s Jagatsinghpur district in protest against the arrest of a leader Sunday, the police said here.While 500 people demonstrated in front of the block office at Erasama near here, about 300 people blocked a road at Kujanga, the police said.

The anti-Posco protesters later assembled at Dhinkia village and organised a public meeting, where they vowed to intensify their agitation against the $12-billion steel plant that South Korean giant Posco proposes to set up in the district near Paradeep, about 100 km from here.

The police arrested Abhaya Kumar Sahu, who is spearheading a movement against Posco Sunday evening. According to the police, there are over 20 criminal cases pending against him.

This is the first time that Sahu has been arrested after over three years of agitation against the Posco project that involves the largest foreign direct investment in India.

“Armed policemen had to be deployed in Dhinkia, Nuagan and Gadakujang areas, where Sahu has a large following,” assistant superintendent of police Kumarmani Meher told IANS over phone.

Sources said 500 policemen were deployed in the region.

The Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) have also reacted strongly and condemned the arrest. “He has been arrested on false charges” a CPI leader told IANS.

Tension prevailed in parts of the coastal district as Sahu’s party activists demanded his immediate release.

“We have demanded his immediate release. If he is not released, the administration will be held responsible for the consequences,” said Prasant Paikray, spokesperson for the protesters.

Posco, the world’s fourth largest steel maker, signed a deal with the state government in June 2005 to build a steel plant by 2016.

However, over 20,000 people from around 15 nearby villages have opposed the project, saying it would take away their homes and livelihood.

Posco says the plant would affect only 500 families but would create thousands of jobs.

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