[ Fr. Medha Patkar -NBA]
From: Medha Patkar
Sunday, October 15, 2000
Unwarranted Repression of a Peaceful People's Movement
Police savagery in Gujarat against people associated with NBA and activists.
Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), which during its 15 years of struggle against the destructive Sardar Sarovar (Narmada) Project (SSP), has been a victim of State highhandedness several times, in all three (Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat) states. This include killing of youth in police firing, rapes, lathi charge several times, prohibiting entry to villages, illegal arrests and detention, clamping of false cases etc. The Gujarat Government is up against the peaceful people's movement, using illegal means, again.
Following is a brief description on the unwarranted incidents of State Repression and Police Atrocities faced by the people and activists of NBA from August 2000 onwards:
On October 13th, Kishore Minj, an activist from M.P. tribal area who is volunteering for NBA for an year and resides in Kevadia region for peaceful work on issues of social justice for the Project affected, was forcibly arrested from village Kothi at 8 p.m. and taken to Kevadia Police station. Mr.Rajkumar, DSP himself was present and took to beating of Kishore with his own hands and cane, when many police constables and officials were present.
For last many days, Narmada District police had been checking all buses and blockade on all roads to sanctuary area and affected villages, in order to prevent entry of Medha Patkar and conducting of any meeting by any of the local activists.
Latest news is that Khansigh, a tribal resident of village Saibas, tehsil Dediapada, Dist Narmada was taken by the police officials on 15th October and have subjected to brutal physical assault. Further news in awaited.
Forest employees had confrontation with Khansingh who was peacefully cultivating his farm in the forest area since decades. Suddenly, his bullock was fortified. When the tens of villagers went in search for the same in the third week of July and found that the bullock was being used by the forest employee himself, they recovered it and brought it back. Forest and police officials, however, filed a case against Khansingh, and was asking him to surrender himself and the bullock to the police station and forest department. This case was discussed with the District Forest officer, Mr.Tyagi on August 28th when during a rally in Rajpipla. NBA delegation had a long discussion with the Collector and the DFO when the latter had agreed to investigate the matter.
28th August, 2000 A rally was held at Rajpipla (Dist. Narmada, Gujarat) were 3500 SSP affected tribals from Gujarat participated. When our village representatives went to the police station in Kevadia Colony and approached Deputy Superintendent of Police (Dy.SP) for giving a letter of intimation about the program of rally, he refused to take it. About 100 tribals and supporters of NBA, who were on their way to Rajpipla, to take part in the rally and later a meeting with the District Collector along with the Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary affected people, were arrested near SSP dam site and taken to Kevadia Colony police station. They were all detained there for atleast 4 hours and then released after a lot of unwanted questioning.
During the rally, a heavy police force was deployed and people were being continuously threatened of action by District Superintendent of Police (DSP). Even after a dialogue was held with the Collector and Forest officials, Rajpipla and the program was over, senior and junior police officials followed the people to the place of halt and continued to take a intimidating stance.
A distorted news of Medha Patkar having run away from Rajpipla was spread by the police and roads of returning villagers were blocked and were allowed only after much argument.
5th September, 2000: Two students from Tamilnadu Theological Seminary, Madurai, Tamilnadu, named Ms.Ayona and Ms.Selvy went to Kevadia from Baroda to visit the dam site and talk to affected people. But were stopped at Kevadia and taken to police station and questioned them about 2 hours. Later when they proceeded towards Mokhadi, affected village along with Kishore and Aravind, visiting activists of NBA from July onwards, they were again stopped on the way and taken to Rajpipla before the DSP. He started harassing them by asking -why are you here? Why only students from TTS are coming? He also abused them with dire consequences if they come again. Why only Christians are involved with NBA? ....and the like, and the DSP made them sit in the police station till 6.30 in the evening. He also cautioned them not to dare come again.
It is to be noted that police in Kevadia is harassing Bhimsingh Tadvi and Prabhubhai Tadvi, the persons affected by the SSP Colony since 1960s who are active in the movement, daily from 28th onwards. The method of harassment are, going to the houses everyday, asking indecent questions in a threatening manner. When is the next program? Where is it? Where is Medha Patkar? When will she come here? etc.
It is also to be noted that the police in Kevadia continues to harass a lot of tribal women who are with NBA in the six villages affected by the Project with their indecent and subhuman behavior.
People from Manibeli are being blocked from entering Kevadia colony, which is their only market place for essential consumer goods and for medical service. Their licensed boat, which is the only way of transport, was confiscated on 25-9-2000 and was released only after 3 days of argument.
Again on 9-10th of October, 5 students from Bangalore National Law University were detained and not allowed to visit the area, even after obtaining a legal pass from the Nigam office. They were harassed by asking unwanted questions and when they showed their pass to visit the dam site, the police arrogantly refused to accept it. All the students were detained till evening and had to come back in vain without talking to villagers or without seeing the dam site.
The incidence of August 24th, just before the mass rally in Rajpipla, Retd Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, Rajendra Sachchar, Adv.Haroobhai Mehta, Former Member of Parliament, Adv.Girishbhai Patel, Human Rights Activist, Smt.Vidhya Bal, Editor, Marathi Women's Magazine and other eminent persons were arrested in Baroda and prevented from participating in the Public Hearing in the Narmada Valley. The renowned litterateur Arundhati Roy too was to be stopped but could reach the valley having changed her route and traveled by boat, taking a detour. Jst. Sachchar and Adv.Mehta have filed a case in the Gujarat High Court.
The Gujarat government is following illegal and repressive methods to prevent any movement of NBA or its supporters by camping a lot of police and home guard in the whole area, including the Sanctuary affected villages in Dediapada and Sagbara tahsils. Gujarat government have deployed by Tuesday (10.10.2000) afternoon six deputy superintendents of police, eight inspectors, 25 sub-inspectors, over 500 constables, and 15 home guards in Narmada District alone.
It's obvious from the above incidences that the Government of Gujarat is up against the peaceful people's movement. It's the State that is violating the constitutional right granted to all citizens under article 19, 21 and others. People's right to get organised and fight against absolute injustice is trampled upon. Such a violation of human rights need to be seriously condoned and fought against.
We Appeal to our supporters from all walks of life, the organisations, peace-loving organisations all over to issue statements and write protest letters to Chairman, National Human Rights Commission (Fax: ++91-11-3366537 or 3340016), President of India (Fax: ++91-11-3019545), Prime Minister of India (Fax: ++91-11-3019817 or 3016857) and Chief Minister of Gujarat (Fax: ++91-2712-22101). Even when the case of Sardar Sarovar is the Supreme Court, work at the dam is stayed and the Project Affected People from 3 states, having faced first injustice due to gigantic dam and then repression at the hands of the state police force esp. in Maharashtra and Gujarat, have to fight the battle at every front.
If the Government of Gujarat dares to crush the basic human rights so blatantly now, when the Apex Court is looking into the whole case of Sardar Sarovar Dam, what would be the situation after the judgment, when there will not be any control over them?
In this critical stage of the struggle, therefore, your prompt and strong response would be the most valuable support.
M.K.Sukumar Joe Athialy
When the earthworm and her child were going from Kevadia to Manibeli, the child felt a bump. "There, my dear", said the mother, "lies Sardar Sarovar dumped"
~ Kersi Sabavala
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