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December 13, 2014

International Delegation of Christian Youth Denounces Ongoing Mining-Related Repression in Orissa, India

An international delegation of Christian students and young people from seven countries and various denominations visited communities in Odisha, India. These communities have been impacted by the proposed $12 billion steel plant project of South Korean-based Pohang Steel Company (POSCO) on December 2, 2014.

In 2005, those most affected by POSCO's plans formed POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti or the Anti-POSCO People’s Movement, which supports the rights of communities threatened with displacement. Their efforts to defend their land and livelihoods continue to be met with brutal repression by state-backed police forces.

Reports from both Indian and international civil society groups document the gross human rights abuses inflicted upon villagers including: targeted bombings of local activists, the use of rubber bullets and tear gas on peacefully assembled protesters, and unfounded charges.
Community members were grieving, as the delegates arrived the day after a youth leader of the Anti-POSCO People's Movement named Kumar Malik was arrested and 70 year old anti-POSCO supporter Bhaskar Dalei was killed.

The delegation met with members in Erasama, Dhinkia, and Orissa to study the impact of the proposed project.

The controversial POSCO project, which would be the largest direct foreign investment in Indian history, includes the construction of a steel plant, mine, and a captive port to export steel. It will require over 12,000 acres of land.

At least 4,000 families in and around seven villages in Jagatsinghpur District, Odisha stand to be displaced from their ancestral lands, severing their livelihoods which are centred on betel vine cultivation.

The international delegation was organized by the World Student Christian Federation-North America (WSCF-NA) and Asia-Pacific (WSCF-AP), with the support of the Student Christian Movement of India, following a recommendation by the WSCF's Global Advocacy and Solidarity Committee (ASC) that POSCO be adopted as one of their advocacy issues.

As the majority of POSCO's shareholders reside in the United States and Canada, North-American delegates recognize the unique and important role they have to play in holding shareholders accountable for violating the free, prior and informed consent of communities, as well as for gross human rights violations committed against community members, and will continue to advocate on these issues in their home countries.

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