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Friday 10 March 2000

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Students blame NBA for disturbing studies

The Times of India News Service

BHOPAL: There is increasing evidence that the activities of the Narmada Bacchao Andolan (NBA) are getting increasingly unpopular in Madhya Pradesh.

This becomes obvious from the Khargone district police's decision on Wednesday to arrest around 272 NBA activists (they were released the next day) following a complaint lodged by students, teachers and local panchayat officials that the former's high-decibel campaign in the Mandeleshwar area against the Rs 2,200-crore hydro-electric project at Maheshwar (promoted by a private cloth mill company) was affecting their studies at a time when annual school examinations were on.

A few hundred NBA activists have been holding round-the-clock sit-in demonstrations at the Maheshwar dam site since February 24 to get the project scuttled on the ground that thousands of families in the area would be rendered homeless with the submergence of their villages. They want the ministry of environment and the Central Electricty Authority to withdraw their clearance.

Khargone collector Bhupal Singh told The Times of India News Service on Thursday that the action had been taken after repeated persuasion by over 1,000 teachers and students that the noise and bustle at the dam site had made it impossible for the examinees to concentrate on their studies. Both teachers and students had also handed over a signed representation in this regard, Singh informed.

Attempts had been made to persuade the NBA to suspend their agitation till the end of the examination season. But the plea fell on deaf ears. Even NBA convener Medha Patkar's visit to Mandeleshwar early this month failed to break the logjam.

NBA sources, however, claimed that the place where they were holding the ``satyagraha'' was pretty far from the main entrance of the dam complex and well beyond the hearing range of any school of college in the area. Though this was admitted by the collector, he said the overall atmosphere had ``tensed up'' due to the ``NBA circus''.

Most locals want these ``trouble mongers'' out, said Bhupal Singh. This was the main reason why the NBA's much touted ``do-or-die'' march to Maheshwar led by Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy on January 11 turned out to be a huge failure.

The collector accused the NBA of ``cooking up'' complaints against the district police.

One of the activists, Chittaroopa (Sylvie) Palit, blamed the policemen for tearing her dress and ``disrobing'' her during Wednesday's arrests - little realising that the real picture had been captured on video. Still more baffling, he informed, was the NBA's ``directive'' to him to appear before the Natonal Women's Commission whose members were scheduled to conduct a hearing at Maheshwar on March 15. Strangely enough, no direct communication had been received from either the NCW or the state government in this connection.



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