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DECCAN HERALD Thursday, August 24, 2000

Gujarat border sealed, five NBA activists held

VADODARA, Aug 23 (DHNS)

The BJP government of Gujarat detained five Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activists in the wee hours of Wednesday morning for alleged ''breach of peace`` and blocked its borders with heavy police deployment to prevent any movement of people to attend the ''Narmadaki Pehchan`` programme which will be held in Domkhedi in Maharashtra on Thursday.

Condemning the saffron government`s detention of the five social activists, including two women, National President of the People`s Union of Civil Liberties Justice Rajindar Sachar said, ''No government can restrict the fundamental right of movement, not even under the garb of breach of peace.``

Vadodara Police Commissioner J Mahapatra was obviously under tremendous pressure from his political bosses and refused to talk to Justice Sacchar, who went to the police station where the NBA activists have been detained. He castigated the government for taking pre-emptive measures for throttling the voice of the people. ''How can they apprehend danger from social activists? This is a gross violation of human rights,`` the former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court told Deccan Herald.

While Gujarat Minister of State for Home Haren Pandya refused to talk to this correspondent on his cell phone, his Additional Chief Secretary Dr V V R Subba Rao said Arundhati Roy had been advised against travelling in Gujarat. ''Her visits to the State evoke strong emotions from the people who are supporters of the dam. Last year, NBA supporters did not travel through Gujarat. So why do they want to create trouble now,`` he said, adding that the activists should be aware of the consequences of violating government orders.

However, NBA leader Joe Athialy and four other NBA supporters, who were detained when they were on their way to Badwani in Madhya Pradesh, denied having any knowledge of any order on the movement of people. Neither Ms Roy nor the NBA had been informed of any order to prevent their entry into Gujarat, according to a NBA spokesperson. Police Commissioner Mahapatra refused to say when the five ''illegally`` detained activists would be released. ''You leave it to us,`` he said. For Ms Veena D'Souza and Ms Anu of the Mahila Pragati Kendra of Bangalore, the detention is a harrowing experience. Veena spent last night on a bench. ''There were no policewomen when we were brought to the police chowki. We have read and seen films of gross violation of human rights. But the actual experience is terrible,`` she told this correspondent.

''With the Supreme Court verdict round the corner, how can the Gujarat government crack down on activists?`` asks Mr Geo Jose of the National Alliance of People`s Movement. Several artistes and journalists, including Darryl D`Monte, veteran Gandhian Jyoti Desai and many other human right activists will be among those who will attend the ''Narmadaki Pehchan`` programme on Thursday. The NBA commenced its monsoon satyagraha in Domkhedi, Maharashtra and Jalsindhi, Madhya Pradesh, on July 15 when Admiral Ramdoss (retd) was present.


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