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The Hindu on : Medha in custody

Online edition of India's National Newspaper on
Thursday, August 12, 1999

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Medha in custody

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, AUG. 11. The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader, Ms. Medha Patkar, and about 50 others were taken under police custody from the remote Domkhedi tribal village, to Akrani tehsil in Maharashtra today, even as the celebrated author, Ms. Arundhati Roy, returned to the Narmada valley to lend support to the villagers facing submergence. Ms. Patkar and others had stood in nearly waist-deep waters for almost 12 hours before they were taken into custody.

``I am going back to the valley to express solidarity with the people who are standing in the water. They have their backs to the wall. For a situation to develop into this is brutal,'' said Ms. Roy before she left for Indore from here. The Booker Prize winner had only last week toured the valley with the ``Rally for the Valley''.

Earlier, the Maharashtra Home Secretary, Mr. Ranganathan, and the Principal Secretary, Mr. Negi, flew down in a chopper to Domkhedi today, which was cut off by rising waters, to talk to Ms. Patkar. But when the agitators refused to move in protest against the Government's failure to rehabilitate and resettle the people displaced from the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) in Gujarat, they were forcibly removed. The operation was supervised by the Collector and the Superintendent of Police of Nandurbar district.

As the Narmada waters rose due to incessant rainfall in parts of Madhya Pradesh in the last 36 hours, coupled with releases from three dams on the river, the ``satyagraha'' villages were submerged. The worst-affected were Jalsindhi in Madhya Pradesh and Domkhedi in Maharashtra on opposite banks of the Narmada.

Ms. Patkar, and tribal inhabitants, Ranyabhai Padvi and Devrambjai, along with others, stood in near waist-deep waters for long hours at Domkhedi before they were taken into custody. At Jalsindhi the water level was nearly at the hut of Loharia tribal. Loharia and 25 others continue to sit on ``satyagraha'' at Jalsindhi. Both villages, along with 60 others, face submergence due to higher backwater effect from the raised SSP.

The NBA had launched protests at Jalsindhi and Domkhedi since last month to draw attention to the lack of rehabilitation in the valley, despite statements to the contrary by the State Governments of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh in the Supreme Court, which is hearing a petition on the costs-benefits and the rehabilitation process of the SSP.

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