For Immediate Release
August 16, 2005
R. Ajayan, Plachimada Solidarity Committee (India) T: +91 98471 42513
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center (India) E: info@IndiaResource.org T: +91 98103 46161
August 16, 2005 (Plachimada, India): Close to 100 activists from Yuvajana Vedi, youth wing of the CPI(ML), and their allies marched to Coca-Cola's factory gates in Plachimada in Kerala in southern India, demanding that the bottling plant shut down permanently.
The protesters were stopped about 100 meters from the factory gates, and the heavy police force resorted to a violent lathi charge (baton charge), severely injuring four activists who had to be hospitalized with severe head injuries. Another 43 activists were held in custody, including a 16 year old girl who has been transferred to juvenile home.
The march was held on August 15, 2005, India's 58th anniversary of independence from British rule.
The march started in Kannimari and culminated in Plachimada, was led by Yuvajana Vedi state president, Mr. Provit and inaugurated by CPI(ML) State secretary K.C. Sivaraman.
Representatives from the local community, including Vilayodi Venugopal of the Anti-Coca-Cola Struggle Committee, also addressed the rally.
"We condemn the violence used by the police," said Vilayodi Venugopal. "We are committed to ensuring that this plant never opens again."
Mr. R. Ajayan, convener of the Plachimada Solidarity Committee, has called for a demonstration at district headquarters on August 17 to protest the police action.
The Coca-Cola bottling plant in Plachimada, one of the company's largest in India, has been shut down since March 2004 because of local community pressure. The community is experiencing severe water shortages as well as a polluted groundwater resource and soil- directly as a result of Coca-Cola's operations.
The state government of Kerala has announced that it will challenge Coca-Cola's right to extract groundwater in the area, and the panchayat (village council), which initially refused to renew Coca-Cola's license, has now offered a 3 month temporary license with 13 conditions.
In a related development, the Kuttiady panchayat (village council) in Kerala declared its area to be a Coke-free zone, and received the support of shopkeepers as well as political parties, in a show of solidarity with the people of Plachimada.
The Coca-Cola company is the target of many communities across India that are experiencing water shortages and polluted water and soil.
For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org
India Resource Center