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Update on Maheshwar
31 May 1998

500 PEOPLE ARRESTED AND MANY BEATEN UP : MEDHA PATKAR ALSO ARRESTED

The Madhya Pradesh police once again descended down upon hundreds of villagers on Sunday May 31, 1998 who have been running the "people's check points" and blocking the supply of material to the controversial Maheshwar project in the NArmada Valley. Arresting about 500 men and women, the police cleared the way for 60 truck loads of cement to the dam site. Number of people were beaten and injured during the police action. Senior activists including Medha Patkar and Chittaroopa Palit were beaten and then arrested. At least six persons including five women have been hospitalised due to the injuries. Despite the repeated police repression the people have re-iterated their determination to continue the "people's check posts" and intensify the struggle.

"It is yet another anti-farmers act on the part of the MP Government, serving the interests of the industrialists and the capitalists. This repression would in fact further aggravate the people's wrath against the Government and the companies and they will have to abandon the dam soon", said Alok Agarwaal, senior activist of the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

The people's check posts have been active at important roads leading towards the dam site to stop all materials and machinery for carrying on the construction. This action had brought the work on the so called protection wall to a standstill. The people have so far compelled the trucks to return back or many a vehicle carrying cement and machinery have been stranded on the roads. The people did not stop the general traffic on the roads but have been targeting only the vehicles of the dam building company. The MP Government had acted on May 20, 1998 also, arresting more than 150 villagers, beating many of them.

Despite this, the check points continued. This resulted in the stoppage of the work since last one week again. The State Government and the Khargone district administration have been escalating the tensions in this area since last several months.

The NBA had raised the issue of violation of human rights in front of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and a team from the NHRC was in the area to investigate the incidents of 22-23 April. It is significant that today's incidents took place even as the team is in the area. It is not clear however whether the team will look at today's incidents or not.

Shripad Dharmadhikary
Narmada Bachao Andolan