the Times Of India

Wednesday 8 December 1999
Posted at 0130 hrs IST



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Do-or-die spirit of NJA leaders prevented cops

By Raja Bose

VADODARA: The police lost out to the "do-or-die spirit" of Narmada Jan Andolan leader Sharad Joshi and his comrades on Saturday, admitted a senior police official who was involved in the process of preventing the kar seva planned at Kevadia.

"We lost out to a group of people hell bent on performing the kar seva. They had made it a life and death issue", he told The Times of India, requesting anonymity. This is the first time the state police have come out with an explanation to what is being billed as a "failure to prevent kar sevaks from entering the prohibited dam site".

"The terrain that they chose to reach Kevadia, walking down from Zer village for over three hours to the canal head power house of the dam, is an extremely dangerous stretch of land. Not only are there thick jungles but it is a ravine and the terrain is rocky. There are certain points from where you cannot see what's ahead", the official said.

According to him, the senior leaders - Sharad Joshi, former state minister Sanat Mehta and former Union minister Urmilaben Patel - did not have an inkling of what lay in store for them when they left Vadodara on Friday night. "The younger leaders like Satyajit Gaekwad and Shailesh Sotta Mehta talked them into the trip, not giving them the true picture of what the terrain was like", he said.

"But, once they reached Zer, it was no looking back and they went ahead like men possessed. Moreover, the path they took is so treacherous and thickly wooded that they could not have been stopped even if policemen from all over the state were deployed. Tracking down five people who ventured upto the site would have been a difficult job", the official remarked.

Asked why the police did not anticipate the route that Mr Joshi chose to reach the dam site, he said that the police were misled by a senior engineer of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP). "We were told that it was not possible to navigate this particular route and we concentrated on other possible avenues", he said.

The official, however, claimed that the so-called kar seva was not a success. "The state government had requested Mr Joshi to hold his kar seva away from the proposed site. A week before the D-day, a government team accompanied Mr Joshi to Kevadia and offered him five alternate sites where they could hold their kar seva. All these offers were then rejected by Mr Joshi. What is ironical is that Mr Joshi held his kar seva on Saturday at one of these five sites", the official said.

The official said that the police had done a good job, given the circumstances and their role was lauded by none other than the state home minister Haren Pandya. "We managed to prevent a large influx of people from other states, especially neighbouring Maharashtra. Then, there were fears of large-scale violence and police excess on kar sevaks. On the contrary, the detainees were treated well at every detention camp and we provided them with food and water", he said.

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