Save The Narmada, Save Humanity! NBA Press Release                                                                                 August 25, 2000

GUJARAT GOVT. DRAWS FLAK FROM AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, ORGANISATIONS FROM GUJARAT AND FROM ALL OVER COUNTRY: NARMADA PROGRAMME GOES AHEAD

The Government of Gujarat has come under severe criticism from various organisations and individuals all over the country, particularly from Gujarat, and in the world for trying to detain the people attending the major programme in Narmada Satyagraha on August 24th. Amnesty International, while condemning the Gujarat government, has pointed out that the action by Gujarat government has been violative of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Indian Constitution.

As is known now, the Gujarat police had detained 34 people in Baroda, including the noted human rights activists Justice (Retd.) Rajinder Sachar, Girtishbhai Patel, Haroobhai Mehta, journalist Ms. Vidya Bal and others. It had also stopped over 500 men and women coming from Nimad villages in Madhya Pradesh and over 50 people from the Rehabilitation Sites of Gujarat going to participate in the "Saga of Narmada" programme at Domkhedi on 24th.

The Amnesty International has written a letter to the Chief Minister of Gujarat regarding these actions. In its communique, the organisation said that, "Amnesty International believes that those arrested in Baroda and other parts of Gujarat in the past 48 hours have been detained solely on the grounds that they are planning to exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom of peaceful assembly and association"

In its letter Amnesty International has drawn attention to Articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which provide that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. These rights are reflected in Article 19 of the Constitution of India.

Noted legal luminary, retired Supreme Court Judge, Jst.Krishna Iyer too joined to condemn the action of Gujarat Government. In a statement released today he has said, "Merits of the dam apart, there are fundamental rights for every citizen of the country,.... police action to arrest persons of the stature of Rajinder Sachar displays reprehensible conduct and will be condemned by the people. I appeal to the Chief Minister to ...... persue the democratic path of convincing the common people rather than scaring fellow Indians by threat of arrest. Arbitrariness of Government is unconstitutional and police terror in Gandhi country is pathetic."

Organisations from Gujarat condemned the "the barbarian state government's unfettered lawlessness by the state in Gujarat, violating the rights of minorities, dalits, adivasis". It castigated for the fascist attitude unleashed by the ruling junta in Gujarat and chided it to listen to the people and respect their rights. "This is nothing short of state terrorism and emasculation of freedom of opinion, assembly, expression and movement", the statement said. They supported the right to life of the people in the Narmada valley and called for a reconsideration of the project on basis of the issues raised by the NBA for last 15 years. The signatories include, Rohit Prajapati and Dr. Maya Walecha ( Inquilabi Communist Sangathan), Thakorbhai Shah and Sudhir Biniwale ( Vadodara Kamdar Union), Narpatsingh Solanki ( Wanakbori Barrage Sangharsha Samiti), Trupti Shah, Deepti ( Sahiyar Women's organisation), Kirit Bhatt ( PUCL), Anand Mazgaonkar and Rajni Dave ( Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti) and many others.

Over fifty organisations from Mumbai and Maharashtra have also condemned the Gujarat government's actions of suppressing the voice of the people of Narmada valley. They have demanded that the Gujarat government now must abandon this project as it is potentially against the interests of the peasants and adivasis (tribals) in India. The organisations include the organisations of backward classes, footpath-dwellers, slum-dwellers, like Footpathwasi Nagarik Sangathana, Pheriwala (hawkers) Sangharsha Samiti , Bahujan Sena, Girangaon Bachao Andolan, Girni Kamgar Sangharsha Samiti, Samajwadi Jan Parishad, national Alliance of People's Movements, Mumbai, YUVA, Manav Mukti Morcha, Indian Center of Human Rights, Nirbhay Bano Andolan, PUCL, tribals' organisations to safeguard rights over land-water and forest ( Jal Jangal Jamin Lokadhikar Sanghatan), Bombay Environmental Action Group, Rashtriya Yuva Sanghatan along with various human rights, environmental and backward classes organisations.

In Thiruananthpuram (Kerala), despite the heavy downpour various organisations gathered in front of the state Secretariate to protest against the Gujarat government's unconstitutional acts and to support the Narmada Satyagraha.

Meanwhile, the programs in the Narmada valley went on as planned despite the attempts by the Gujarat government to create hurdles. Despite the heavy police force, noted author Arundhati Roy, veteran Socialist leaders Surendra Mohan, Kumar Saptarshi and Dr. Sunilam, MLA. M.P. Assembly and number of supporters were present on the occasion when the oustees from the villages presented their case against the dam. On the other front, over 500 men and women from Nimad (M.P.) villages, who were stopped by Gujarat police, held a "public hearing" in the Gujarat village, Renda while the top Gujarat officials witnessed the dam being indicted by the oustees.

Sanjay Sangvai  M.K.Sukumar