Novelist-turned environmentalist and NBA activist Arundhati Roy along with about 300-400 agitating villagers and oustees of the Maheshwar hydel power project at Jalud in Khargone were arrested this afternoon for trying to capture the less-than-half built
dam to protest against the entire project.
Ms Roy, who had to be physically lifted by a woman police official, insisted on being put up at the local jail along with others, though the local officials tried to separate her from the crowd of activists and villagers. The officials wanted to house her
at a rest house in Mandleshwar.
“All those who courted arrest have been put up at the Mandleshwar guest house which has been converted into a make-shift jail”, said Mr Iqbal Ahmed, divisional commissioner of Indore. He denied that any form of violence took place and said that throughout
the 7-8 hours of protest sit-in by the NBA activists the police showed complete restraint. “It was a peaceful agitation”, Mr Ahmed said. He said that a few NBA sympathisers from Italy, Britain, America and New Zealand too had joined the agitation but left
the place before the police made arrests.
The local administration had declared the project area around the dam site a prohibited area. The NBA had given a call to capture the dam near Mandleshwar through their well-publicised “indefinite direct action”. The NBA which has demanded scrapping of the
only hydel power project in MP, had laid siege to the dam in March 1998 for more than 21 days to successfully draw attention of the government to the issues raised by them.
Today’s protest march was a sequel to the one organised two years ago and the other similar actions they have taken last year at Jalud, Bhopal and other places. Though the NBA had expected “thousands” to be present, only a few hundreds finally arrived at
the venue. Sources said they reached from various directions to the dam site to stop ongoing constructions in protest against the MP government’s breach of promises made to the NBA, an NBA spokesman said.
Hundreds of volunteers, villagers, farmers and NBA sympathisers, including about 20-25 foreigners descended upon the banks of the Narmada river. Officials said that the arrested activists would be presented before the court tomorrow morning. NBA leader Ms
Chittaroopa Palit is prominent among those held.