PARADIP: Social activist and Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar was prevented from entering Dhinkia by villagers on Monday. Patkar had reportedly come to study the ground realities in Dhinkia after police cracked down on protestors opposing the proposed JSW steel plant in the area in January 14. Besides, she wanted to meet anti-JSW leader Debendra Swain, who is currently in jail, and his family members.
Alleging that the social activist and her accomplices were visiting Dhinkia to disturb the peace and foment unrest in the area, supporters of the JSW project armed with lathis blocked the road leading to the village at two places. Patkar was accompanied by farmer leader of western Odisha Lingaraj, former professor of Delhi University Manoranjan Mohanty and Samajwadi Party leader Sudarshan Pradhan.
Village leader Nirvaya Samantray said, “We have no problem if Patkar visits Dhinkia alone. But the leaders accompanying her have a history of stirring up unrest. Apprehending law and order situation, we restricted them from entering the village.”
Samantray further said outsiders are coming to Dhinkia to instigate the villagers against the proposed steel plant leading to violence. “The administration has acquired land and betel vines with our consent and in return, has provided adequate compensation. We want the industry here so that our livelihood will get a boost,” he added.
Interacting with the villagers opposing her visit, Patkar said, “I have come to Dhinkia not to breach the law and order but to restore peace in the village. The compensation provided to the land losers here is very less. Now, your are opposing us. But a time will come when you will seek our support and cooperation after being betrayed by the company.”
Criticising police for ‘torturing’ anti-JSW activists, the NBA leader said false cases have been lodged against many villagers for opposing the proposed steel project. Earlier on the day, Patkar and her team met anti-JSW leader Swain in Kujang jail. Meanwhile, police arrested an anti-JSW activist, identified as Gitanjali Dash, for attacking the villagers for restricting Patkar’s entry to Dhinkia.