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The Hindu on indiaserver.com : Gujarat Govt. to keep out rallyists against Narmada dam

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Tuesday, August 03, 1999


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Gujarat Govt. to keep out rallyists against Narmada dam

By Our Special Correspondent

GANDHINAGAR, AUG. 2. The Gujarat Government will not allow anti- dam rallyists to enter the State and cross the Narmada to reach Jalsindhi in Madhya Pradesh.

A State Government spokesman said here today that the police at Kwant and at other centres bordering with Maharashtra had been told to avoid any confrontation with the rallyists while turning them back.

Denying that the State Government was preventing free movement of people, the spokesman claimed that the only reason for preventing the rallyists from entering the State was that crossing the swollen Narmada would not be safe.

The Gujarat Chief Secretary, Mr. L. N. S. Mukundan, had in a letter to his Madhya Pradesh counterpart made it clear that crossing the river at this stage when it had swollen due to very heavy rain in its catchment areas was unsafe for the people. ``Since the `Rally for the Valley' has declared that its only intention to enter Gujarat is to cross the Narmada at Hafeshwar, there is no reason why should they be allowed to come in when the route is not safe,'' the spokesman said.

Mr. Mukundan wrote the letter in response to one from the District Collector of Jabhua in Madhya Pradesh seeking permission for the anti-dam activists to cross the Narmada at Hafeshwar since crossing the river at Alirajpur was too risky. Mr. Mukundan claimed that crossing the Narmada at Hafeshwar would be dangerous and that the State Government could not agree to it.

The Gujarat Government also pointed to a report from Madhya Pradesh that a policeman drowned in the Narmada yesterday to justify its stand.

The Gujarat Government has also mounted a vigil at Hafeshwar and other points along the Narmada to ensure that no boats were available for the rallyists.

It has also advised the pro-dam voluntary organisations to drop the plan to create a ``human-wall'' at the State's borders to block the anti-dam rallyists, fearing a confrontation. ``We will deal it as a normal law and order problem and not a confrontation between the pro and anti-dam forces,'' the spokesman said.

The Gujarat Government's stand came in for flak from the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) which described the ``safety'' reason as ``very flimsy and laughable''. An NBA spokesman in a statement at Baroda, said the Gujarat Government as usual was raising a ``non- issue'' and had been trying to whip up frenzy in the State against the rallyists. ``The Gujarat Government will have to face universal condemnation for its strong-arm tactics,`` the NBA spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the State Narmada Affairs Minister, Mr. Jaynarayan Vyas, denied that the burning of some copies of the Booker Prize winner, Ms. Arundhati Roy's book, ``The Greater Common Good'', and of her effigies in some parts of the State amounted to denial of freedom of expression. The burning of some copies of the book by workers of both the Congress(I) and the BJP was ``spontaneous'' and was only a ``symbolic gesture to express the sentiments of the people of the state against the misquotes of Ms. Roy in her book'', he maintained.

UNI, PTI report:

The NBA organisers have apparently diverted their route to reach Jalsindhi through Kakrana in Madhya Pradesh following the Gujarat Government's attempt to prevent them from offering satyagraha in the Narmada valley.

NBA activists criticised the Gujarat Government for preventing activists from reaching Hafeshwar, the access point to Jalsindhi and Domdhedi (in Maharashtra) where satyagrahis and the displaced have been protesting from June 20 this year.

Around 250 NBA supporters, led by Ms. Arundhati Roy, are scheduled to cover 40 km in boats to reach Jalsindhi, crossing Hafeshwar on the way.

Meanwhile, pro-dam activists, including tribals, today blocked the way of a batch of anti-dam activists from Madhya Pradesh at Renudha village in Chhota Udepur taluk in Baroda district border, when they were on their way to Jalsindhi.


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