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NBA Press Release May 20 1998

POLICE TAKE BRUTAL ACTION ON PEOPLE'S CHECKPOINT IN MAHESHWAR 200 ARRESTED, MANY BEATEN UP IN EARLY MORNING ACTION

The police today came down brutally on one of the seven "people's check points" located at Gandhinagar, Maheshwar, arresting over 150 women and 50 men, severely beating up many of the people in the process. One of the activists Asit is badly injured and has been admitted in the hospital. Another activist, Chittaroopa Palit, has been taken away by the police in a jeep to an unknown location, separating her from the rest of the arrested. The operation took place at about 6.30 in the morning, and was personally supervised by the Superintendent of Police and the District Collector. Following this, eighteen trucks of material including cement were taken in to the dam site. The work on the dam had come almost to a standstill since two days as the project had run out of cement due to the blockade.

The people have reacted angrily to the arrests and have announced their determination to continue the blockade. Hundreds of people have started moving in towards the blockade site to replace those arrested.

It may be recollected that since 7 May 1998, the people have put up "people's check points" (janata ka naka) on the roads leading to the dam site, and have stopped the material-machinery-humans from getting in. This unique method of protest against the dam has been hugely successful, and with the initial four checkposts being increased to seven, and with full support of the whole area, these check points had succeeded in blocking cement and other essential inputs for the work. As a result, from around 18 may, the work on the dam site had come practically to a standstill. So successful has been this program, that instead of the proposed occupation of the dam site, this itself has become the major thrust of the struggle. Of course, people are ready and determined to physically occupy the dam site also if required.

On 18th May, the checkpoint at Gandhinagar blocked the entry of about 15 trucks carrying cement. The police had then come in large numbers, but had returned without any action. The trucks had moved to the nearby town of Maheshwar. Today's police action seems primarily aimed at getting these trucks in, as S.Kumars seemed desperate to start work again. Alok Agarwaal, key activist of the struggle has responded by saying that "Eighteen trucks do not a dam make. We know ours is a long struggle, and we are determined to fight till the end. Today's action has however once again confirms that the Government is not ready to stand by the genuine demands of the people but will not hesitate to use the state repressive apparatus to favour the national-international capital". The people have already indicated their determination by starting to assemble at Gandhinagar checkpoint to replace those arrested. They are saying that we too will see how long the Government can continue the repression.

It is becoming clear a major confrontation between the people and the state is building up, and the work on the dam can be continued only under the continuous use of the state repressive machinery.

Shripad Dharmadhikary
Narmada Bachao Andolan