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NBA Press Release                                 12th August, 1999

SIXTY TWO SATYAGRAHIS ARRESTED AFTER DARING THE SSP SUBMERGENCE FOR OVER FIFTEEN HOURS : SATYAGRAHA CONTINUES IN JALSINDHI ALSO

The tribals and peasants of the Narmada valley dared the swirling backwaters of the infamous Sardar Sarovar Project for over 15 hours before they were arrested on Wednesday evening ( August 11) by the Maharashtra police. About 62 satyagrahis including 19 women were arrested alongwith the Ranya Padvi, Devram Kanera and Medha Patkar of the first batch of the samarpit dal (dedicated squad). The people were facing the rapidly increasing waters of Sardar Sarovar dam, which eventually went up to waist height. The police had to resort to dragging, beating to arrest the satyagrahis.

However, the satyagraha of Jalsindhi (M.P.) continued while the water came perilously close to the satyagraha site. The people with the veteran Sitarambhai, Luvariyabhai and Rehmat leading the satyagrahis to face the water. By Wednesday evening the water level stabilised some two feet below the satyagraha place. In Domkhedi also, immediately after the arrest the new batch of satyagrahis continued the action.

The backwaters of Sardar Sarovar Project(SSP) started rising from the morning on August 10. At Rajghat, near Badwani in M.P. in the upstream, the river level rose from 118 meters to 124 and further 126 meters within a few hours. This has been a result of the combined effect of the releases from the upstream dams of Bargi ( 30,000 cusecs), Tawa ( 28,000 cusecs) and Barna (30,000 cusecs) some three days before. As a consequence, the water level at the Satyagraha places of Domkhedi and Jalsindhi. At Domkhedi, by the evening the backwaters reached near the Satyagraha house.

After midnight, the water entered in Satyagraha house. Soon the 50-60 satyagrahis, including Medha Patkar, Devram Kanera and the veteran Ranyabhau Padvi were engulfed by knee deep waters. The people shouted slogans against the dam and the unjust submergence. They did not move out even when the waters reached to waste high by the morning. The "samarpit dal" ( dedicated squad), of Medha, Ranyabhau and Devrambhai asked other people to move out of the submergence waters, but all of them stayed there only. The police was nowhere to be seen till the next evening. During the whole day, the sayagrahis were facing the increasing waters while the police were making merry at the higher camp and some indulging in the liquor as it was the "gataari amavaas" ( dirty first-moon day).

After about 15 hours in the submergence waters, the higher police and administrative officials from Nandurbar arrived in the evening of 11th August. They included Mr. Nimglohn, the Additional Inspector General of Police of Maharashtra, Mr. Koregaonkar, the District Police Chief, Mr. Shrimali, the infamous Collector of Nandurbar and other officials. Under their supervision the satyagrahis were dragged, beaten and were arrested. In all 62 people including 19 women were arrested. They were taken to Dhadgaon. They were arrested under sections 68-69 of Bombay Police Act. The satyagraha area in and around Domkhedi was declared as prohibited area under s.144 of IPC.

As an aside, the Additional Chief Secretary of Maharashtra, Mr. Ranganathan and Rehabilitation Secretary Mr. Nandlal cam to Dhadgaon to discuss the matters with the satyagrahis. But the people refused to discuss the things when they were being arrested. The police asked the people to provide guarantee in writing that they would not attempt to commit suicide. The satyagrahis answered back that, it was the government which intended them to drown when they were in their house.

Immediately after the arrest, the next batch of the satyagrahis took charge and resumed the satyagraha.

Sanjay Sangvai