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DECCAN HERALD Saturday, August 26, 2000

Arundhati Roy escapes Gujarat police net

DH News Service
DOMKHEDI (Maharashtra): Aug 25

Keshubhai Patel`s BJP government in Gujarat failed in its attempt at stopping Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy from reaching here through its State borders to participate in the Saga of Narmada, even as they had illegally detained 34 prominent persons at Vadodara on Thursday.

Describing her experience of jumping the Gujarat police net in Vadodara on Wednesday like ''a scene from a B grade Zee TV serial,`` she was scathing about the government muffling voices of dissent.

She castigated the Gujarat Government for arresting the former Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajindar Sacchar, who was to conduct a public hearing here. ''How could they arrest senior Gandhian Jyoti Desai, human rights activist and senior advocate Girish Patel former MP and senior advocate Haroobhai Mehta, journalist Vidya Bal and 30 others for merely coming to extend their solidarity with the displaced persons ?``

''Why this paranoia about outsiders flooding Gujarat? What about the Gujaratis living abroad and in other parts of the country ?``

Arundhati lashed out at the government`s attempt to brainwash people against the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) protest against the Narmada dam. ''How can any government stall freedom of movement and stop people from attending a peaceful programme like the Saga of Narmada which is held beyond their geographical jurisdiction?``

''I was stunned when the jeep driver who whisked us away through heavy police cordon from Vadodara on Wednesday told me that he felt guilty of conspiring with a foreign government,`` said the appaled Arundhati. He was obviously brainwashed into thinking that the anti-dam movement was a conspiracy of Western powers.

''While all Chief Ministers are busy pandering to Veerappan and have even accepted his demands for the Cauvery waters nobody is willing to listen to the genuine problems of the thousands of displaced tribals from major dams and particularly the NBA which has been struggling for the past 15 years. There is no reaction or response to the poor and deprived people`s voices!`` said the anguished Arundhati.

She said that she had come to declare her moral support to the movement and listen to the people`s woes and complaints in the Narmada valley. She was very upset that her dancer friend Raina who had composed a ballet of the tribals struggle for the past 15 years in the Bhilali dialect (tribals) in the Kathakali style could not perform here as he was arrested by the Gujarat police.

Krishna Iyer deplores arrest of Narmada activists

DH News Service
VADODARA (Baroda), Aug 25

Gujarat government`s detention of former Chief Justice Delhi High Court Rajindar Sachar, veteren Gandhian Jyoti Desai, human right lawyer Girish Patel, Haroobhai Mehta, journalist Ms Vidya Bal and 30 human rights activists, literary figures, academicians , enviornmentalists from various parts of the country on Thursday was severely condemned by former Chief Justice Krishna Iyer.

Castigating the Gujarat government for violating the fundamental rights of the people who were proceeding to the Narmada valley to listen to the voices of the displaced persons of the dam, Justice Iyer stated that they had overstepped.

Former chief of the Indian Navy Admiral Ramdoss who had visited the satyagraha site in Jalsindhi last month and Jnanpeeth awarwinner and Kannada literateur Prof, U R Ananthamurthy also condemned the Gujarat police action of detaining them as ``dastardly.'' Activists of the People`s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Inquilabi Communist Sagathan, Vadodara Kamdar Union, Sahiyar Stree Sangathan, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti and other groups from Vadodara strongly condemned the Keshubhai Patel government for its detaining the 35 luminaries.

In a strongly worded statement released to the press they condemned ''the fascist manner in which the government had curbed the luminaries `` including writers, jurists, former Chief Justice Rajindar Sacchar, former MP Harobhai Mehta and others by preventing them from going to the Narmada valley to listen to the displaced people`s problems.

Not all of them were supports of the movement but were keen to listen to the voices of the displaced people.

LAWLESSNESS ALLEGED: Mincing no words the statement condemned ''the state terrorism and emasculation of freedom of expression, assembly, and movement. This was a glaring example of lawlessness in the State which had endangered the life and castrated the rights of the people who questioned the wrong decisions and policies``. Umbergaon and Narmada dam were glaring examples of the ''barbarian state`s unleasing terror and brute force .`` ''We support the right to life in the Narmada valley and oppose the unjustified means of snatching away livelihoods, natural resources of the people.`` said the statement.

Before getting arrested Justice (retired) Rajindar Sachar who was to conduct the public hearing in Domkhedi on Thursday told the press that ''the Gujarat police`s threat of arrest will not deter us from going to the valley``. He had told the press on Thursday prior to getting arrested under Section 68 of the Bombay Police Act, that it was totally illegal. ''Where is the breach of peace when we are attended a perfectly peaceful programme and listen to the people`s problems.`` ''Their purpose is being defeated. We are outsiders and not the sufferers.``

The eminent human rights activist and former PUCL president Justice Sachar said that India is a party to the covenant for resettlement. Even the World Bank had stepped out of funding the Narmada dam project ''as it did not have proper resettlement programme.`` The Vadodara Commissioner of Police Mr J Mahapatra said that ''we had feared breach of peace, hence we arrested them.`` They were released later at 8 p.m.


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