The police on Saturday cracked down on agitators protesting against the Posco plant in Orissa, mostly women and children, at Balitutha, the entry point to the proposed plant site.
The police fired teargas shells and rubber bullets to disperse the preotestors, injuring at least 20 people.
The security personnel ordered nearly 1,000 agitators of the Communist Party of India-backed Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, who have been on dharna since January 26, to disperse immediately from the area, where prohibitory orders were clamped, said the police. The security personnel took action when activists of the PPSS threw crude bombs at them, they claimed.
At least 20 agitators were injured when the police fired rubber bullets and teargas shells, they added. Prohibitory orders were clamped around Balitutha and nearly 1,500 policemen deployed as part of Orissa government's efforts to begin forest survey and land acquisition at the plant site.
"No one should indulge in violence," Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told reporters in Bhubaneswar. Stating that the government believed in peaceful industrialisation, Patnaik said the district administration of Jagatsinghpur was negotiating with the agitators to clear the road, which had been captured by them since January 26.
Communist Party of India Member of Parliament from Jagatsinghpur Bibhu Prasad Tarai, Congress leader Umesh Swain and Jayant Biswal were arrested en route to the protest site.
Justifying Tarai's arrest, Agriculture Minister Damodar Rout said anyone obstructing government officials in performing their duties should be booked.
"Be it a member of Parliament or member of legislative assembly or minister, everyone should abide by the law," Rout said.
Top leaders of PPSS including Abhay Sahu and Sisir Mohapatra, the local sarpanch, who had reached the dharna site, appeared to have gone underground to avoid arrest.