It is ‘force versus children’ in the battle for land at Orissa’s Jagatsinghpur district, the site for Posco’s R54,000-crore mega steel project. Around 400 children have been at the site in Gobindpur village since June 8, defying the police .
The children form the first ring of the blockade, followed by around 2,000 women. Orissa has accused the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) — a body spearheading the agitation — of using children as a “shield”, but the villagers differ.
“Can the state or Posco provide us a better future. It is our parents who will sustain us. If they are going to lose livelihood, who will give us protection,” asks 11-year-old Rosalin Patra, a student of Gobindpur Upper Primary School.
Like Rosalin, many students from Dhinkia High School and Patana Primary School have ‘voluntarily’ joined the battle
Bapina Mandal, whose father was killed three years ago during an anti-Posco agitation, says: “...it is left for me, my mother and elder sister to carry on the agitation.”
Social activist Swami Agnivesh agrees with the villagers: “I don’t see anything wrong in children taking up the cause of their parents…. they are not left alone to fight the government.”
Nandigram, in West Bengal, too had seen a similar mode of protest in 2006-07.
Farmers and villagers here were against the acquisition of land for a petro-chemical hub to be set up by the Salim Group of Indonesia. On March 14, 2007, the state had deployed a contingent of more than 3,000 policemen to enter Nandigram. The villagers organised a three-tier defence — children, women and then men.