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December 4, 1999
'Kar seva' at Narmada dam site fizzles out
The much-hyped 'kar seva' undertaken by Narmada Jan Andolan leader Sharad Joshi to restart construction at the Sardar Sarovar dam turned out to be a fiasco, with merely 23 agitationists, all included, virtually surrendering themselves to the police for ''arrest'' after a token protest at Kevadia this morning.
Even journalists, from both the print and electronic media, were literally taken for a whole-night ride in the valley, jungles and across the nullahs amid wild rumours that Sharad Joshi had been ''arrested.'' He was, however, among the 23 who gave up to the police at about 0830 this morning.
Among those who accompanied Sharad Joshi were former Congress MPs Sanatsmehta and Satyajitsinh Gaekwad, Congress MLA Dhirubhai Bheel and former Union minister Urmilaben Patel, the last one coming astride a horse. From the word go yesterday, the Joshi camp in Vadodara was agog with wild rumours of ''two thousand'' farmers from across the country being ''indiscriminately arrested'' by the Bharatiya Janata Party government, bent on ''suppressing'' the agitation. The entire affair, however, proved to be a damp squib with Sharad Joshi doing exactly what Gujarat Narmada Development Minister Jay Narayan Vyas had advised him to do: perform his 'kar seva' downstream at the dam site, not upstream. A long-faced Joshi admitted this morning that his 'kar seva' was merely ''symbolic''.
As things eventually turned out, at about 0800 hours, Joshi and his handful of supporters emerged on the scene holding steel pitchers in their hands. Sanat Mehta and Gaekwad were waiting for him at a nullah in the jungles near the dam site. Some of them filled their pitchers to flow the Narmada water into the nearby canal. That was all. Then they made as if waiting for the policemen who heavily outnumbered the agitationists, and descended into the dry canal bed where a jeep and a bus had already been sent. Visibly relieved and smiling, both the policemen and agitationists then disappeared from the scene.
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