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Patnaik cancels lecture at Sussex University

May 24, 2012 22:39 IST

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has cancelled his participation in a seminar at the Sussex University where he was scheduled to deliver a lecture on Monday amid claims by rights groups that he changed his programme fearing demonstrations against him.

Patnaik, who is on his first foreign trip after becoming chief minister in 2000, was scheduled to give a lecture on development issues in the state at the Brighton-based Institute of Development Studies.

A spokesperson for IDS told PTI: "The seminar has been cancelled due to the chief minister changing his schedule."

It was due to be titled, 'Reforms and Achievements in Odisha,' and would have been open to IDS staff, students and members of the public.

Several Indian students, civil servants and activists have studied and conducted research at IDS, which is part of the University of Sussex and is known for research into Indian development issues.

Patnaik, who was scheduled to visit IDS and present the seminar, has also cancelled the visit.

The reason for Patnaik cancelling the visit and seminar was not known, but London-based human rights organisations alleged that his schedule was changed after learning that the event would be attended by activists and students protesting against alleged violation of tribal rights in Odisha.

Organisations that had planned to attend the seminar included Amnesty and Survival International.

Some students had reportedly displayed a board with photos and details of alleged atrocities in Odisha ahead of Patnaik's expected visit to Brighton.

Survival International's director Stephen Corry said, "There has been an alarming state-wide abuse of tribal peoples' rights on Patnaik's watch. Families trying to defend their lands from industrial projects have met police bullets, batons and brutality".

He added, "The tribal peoples of Odisha have learnt that their leader places the profits of the industrialists over and above their rights. And British taxpayers are supporting his state with considerable funds."

During his visit to the UK, Patnaik is scheduled to meet officials of the Department for International Development (DFID), which funds several projects in Odisha.

He is also scheduled to inaugurate an Odisha handloom show and attend a dinner organised by the Odisha Society in UK.

Prasun Sonwalkar London
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