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Sunday 5 December 1999
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Kevadia kar seva done with, Joshi targets Oman project

By Raja Bose

The Times of India News Service

KEVADIA: Narmada Jan Andolan leader Sharad Joshi on Saturday morning broke through the "impregnable" police bandobast and Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel's dogged opposition to perform the symbolic kar seva near the Sardar Sarovar dam here. And, for the future, he intends to target the Oman pipeline project.

He was detained along with senior Congress leaders from the dam site and later taken to the Circuit House at Rajpipla. Till late, he was yet to be released.

At 9 am, the kisan leader, who had vowed to perform the kar seva in support of the Sardar Sarovar Project, gave the police the slip and entered the protected area of the dam after travelling throughout the night from Vadodara and making his way through a thick jungle on foot along with 28 kar sevaks. He then collected water from the reservoir and sprinkled it into the canal.

Mr Joshi had gone underground on Friday following a major police crackdown on kar sevaks in Vadodara, Bharuch, Panchmahals and Narmada districts and left for Kevadia late in the night. He was accompanied by senior Congress leaders - former Union minister Urmilaben Patel, former Sardar Sarovar Nigam Limited chairman Sanat Mehta, former MP Satyajitsinh Gaekwad, former deputy mayor Shailesh Mehta and district Youth Congress president Naval Bajaj.

Mr Joshi collected water near the canal head power house, two km from the proposed kar seva site. He then walked down to the main canal and sprinkled the water as Urmilaben Patel and Sanat Mehta chanted 'Sri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Ram' and Congress leaders shouted slogans of "Aaj hamne kamal kar diya, Narmada se pani le aya".

No policemen were near the kar seva site as they concentrated on the area previously decided upon. It was only after a project watchman, on duty nearby, ran to inform the police that they rushed to arrest the kar sevaks. But, by then the kar seva had been performed and the leaders courted arrest. They were whisked away to Rajpipla in two GSRTC buses.

Speaking to The Times of India immediately after his arrest, Mr Joshi termed the kar seva a triumph and said it was the first step to a series of protests. "Our next target will be the excavation for the Oman pipeline project after it is approved," he said.

While special inspector general of police D D Tuteja camped at the site and police pickets were posted on all possible routes to the dam site, Mr Joshi and the kar sevaks had drawn up an alternate route to reach the dam, avoiding Devalia, where a heavy police bandobast was made.

After keeping the city police guessing throughout the day on Friday, Joshi, Urmilaben, Sanat Mehta and the other leaders left Vadodara at 2 am in six vehicles after dividing themselves into two groups. They skirted the police pickets, passing through Rasulabad, Sankheda, Naswadi, crossed the dry Amroli river and reached Jhel. They met at Jahar village at 7 am where they abandoned their cars and began walking.

It was an arduous two-hour trek through a jungle in the early morning chill that led the leaders to the dam site at 9 am. "It is this guerrilla kar seva that brought us triumph," said a beaming Sharad Joshi later at the Rajpipla Circuit House.

Related reports and photographs, Page 5

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