India government must end illegal forced land acquisition and criminalisation of human rights defenders in Odisha

In an open letter to the Prime Minister of India FIAN International joins other international human rights organisations in expressing grave concern over numerous ongoing violations of human and environmental rights linked to the illegal handover of people’s land in Odisha's Jagatsinghpur District to JSW Utkal Steel Ltd. (JUSL).

We call on the Government of India to put an end to all types of repression and violence against the resisting communities, immediately release all the human rights defenders arrested, withdraw all charges against them, and refrain from using force and intimidating people. Furthermore, the government must hold those responsible to account; process individual and community forest rights claims and provide compensation for the damages and loss of life and livelihood. People demand to halt the establishment of large-scale industries and rather encourage small and local initiatives preserving the traditional livelihoods. India has to ensure that all its commitments under international law are prioritized and implemented.

Since 2005, when land was  forcibly acquired for the now abandoned POSCO project, local communities have been facing eviction, loss of livelihood, and criminalization. The proposed project sparked resistance against environmental destruction and illegal land and community forest acquisition. After POSCO finally withdrew in March 2017 the government of Odisha handed over the community’s land to Indian steel major, JUSL. It is estimated that, if implemented, the planned projects would displace up to 40,000 people from their land and livelihoods, impinge upon their human rights to food, water, work, health, adequate housing, healthy environment and other economic and social rights, and will have disastrous effects on the environment.

The State of Odisha has responded with severe repression to the protests. Women have always been at the forefront of the resistance, and many of them, including children and elderly people, were injured while protecting their villages and lands. More than 60 community members have been arrested over the past seven months as a result of their resistance to the projects.

Co-signed by:

ESCR-Net - International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Forum Asia

Frontline Defenders

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Read the letter here

Read FIAN's UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submission here