Anti-Posco agitation leader arrested in Odisha

Anti-Posco agitation leader arrested in Odisha

Police on Saturday arrested Abhay Sahu, president of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, which is spearheading the villagers’ agitation against the South Korean major’s proposed steel plant in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district.

A team of Jagatsinghpur Police arrived at Biju Patnaik Airport here and took Sahu into custody in connection with some criminal cases pending against him. Sahu was about to board a flight to Chennai from where he was expected to leave for Coimbatore to attend a meeting. Soon after the arrest, Sahu was taken to Jagatsinghpur and was produced in a local court there. The court rejected his bail plea and sent him to 14-day judicial custody.

Sources in Jagatsinghpur district police said criminal cases were pending against Sahu and the major case was related to a bomb explosion in a Jagatsinghpur village in March in which three people died. The three, said to be anti-Posco activists, were killed while allegedly making “hand bombs”. The incident took place just days before the Jagatsinghpur district administration was to start a fresh round of land acquisition for the Posco project.

The local police, which had seized the bomb- making materials from the spot, alleged that the bombs were being made for use against the district officials and police engaged in land acquisition works. The PPSS had strongly denied the charge.

Interestingly, the Jagatsinghpur Police had not arrested Sahu though he was present in the district and had been leading the villagers’ protest against the ongoing land acquisition and demarcation for the multi-crore South Korean project.

However, sources in the Jagatsinghpur district administration insisted that the police had not been able to arrest Sahu as he had confined himself to a village in the Dhinkia-Govindpur area which is the epicentre of the anti-Posco agitation. He had always been surrounded by PPSS activists. The police were waiting for an opportunity and that came on Saturday, a Jagatsinghpur district official said.

The anti-Posco agitation has been peaceful. However, two days back, villagers had forcibly filled up trenches dug by the district administration in the acquired land for construction of boundary walls. Some observers opined that the district administration, annoyed by the protesters’ act, moved for Sahu’s arrest. The PPSS, nevertheless, has vowed to continue with the agitation despite the arrest of its leader.

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