Sahoo arrest triggers tension at Posco site

BHUBANESWAR/KENDRAPADA: Tension gripped the proposed Posco steel project site in Jagatsinghpur district on Saturday as supporters of arrested anti-land acquisition leader Abhay Sahoo vowed to step up resistance to the country’s biggest foreign direct investment.

Sahoo, who was arrested near Erasama on Friday evening, was remanded to judicial custody at Choudwar circle jail, about 50 km from Bhubaneswar, after his bail petition was rejected in the judicial magistrate first class court in Kujang, Jagatsinghpur.

SP (Jagatsinghpur) S Debadutt Singh said Sahoo, who is president of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), an organization spearheading the anti-Posco movement since 2005, was forwarded in connection with two cases: one, for allegedly tampering evidence in a dowry death case and two, for allegedly committing atrocity against certain scheduled caste people by assaulting them and imposing fine on them for not supporting his cause.

Talking to media persons from inside a police van, Sahoo criticized the police for “foisting about 24 false cases” against him. “The anti-land acquisition movement will not be weakened after my arrest. Villagers are hell bent not to give an inch of their land to Posco,” he said.

Police sources said over 40 cases, including some in which chargesheets were filed, have been slapped against Sahoo since the anti-Posco movement began six years ago. Sahoo has secured bail on a majority of cases. Police had earlier arrested him in October, 2008, and he spent nearly 14 months behind the bars.

Condemning Sahoo’s arrest, PPSS spokesperson Prashant Paikary said, “This is part of a state government game plan to suppress the anti-Posco movement by hook or by crook.” He added, “The government’s impression that our protest will be weakened by his arrest will be proved incorrect. Our peaceful protest will get stronger than ever before.”

In the project area, hundreds of villagers blocked the main road at Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadakujang by constructing six wooden gates and dug up the road from Kujang to Dhinkia to prevent police and government officials from entering the area.

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