Save The Narmada, Save Humanity! NBA Press Release                                                                                 August 23, 2000

Hundreds of Police Seal the Roads To Domkhedi-Jalsindhi

In yet another bout of reactionary intolerance, the Gujarat government has deployed hundreds of police and has blocked all the ways towards the Satyagraha place in the Narmada valley, to prevent the oustees, supporters and prominent people from going there to attend the "Saga Of Narmada", a peaceful programme of the oustees to be held on Thursday (August 24). The Baroda Police have detained Joe Athialy, one of the main activists of Narmada Bachao Andolan and four other supporters in the early hours today, when they were proceeding towards Badwani, in M.P. Amongst those detained include two women despite the fact that no policewomen were present during the time of the arrest. More people may have been arrested by now. Narmada Bachao Andolan condemns this as yet another anti-people and reactionary manifestation of the state power, to suppress the people's constitutional and democratic rights and appeals the President and Prime Minister to make the state government respect rule of law and Constitution of India.

It is reliably learnt that the Baroda police have received the 'instructions from above' to prevent the people from reaching to the Satyagraha place. Many prominent social-political activists, artists, journalists and human rights activists are to go for the Thursday programme. Among them are noted senior human rights activist Justice ( Retd.) Rajinder Sachar, renowned litterateur Ms. Arundhati Roy, veteran Gandhian Jyotibhai Desai, jurists Girish Patel, Colin Gonsalves, journalists Darryl D'Monte and Mrs. Vidya Baal and many others. Since it is easier from Baroda to reach the Satyagraha place, many of them are to pass the city and go to Hapheshwar to reach Satyagraha place. The " Saga of Narmada"(Narmada ki Pehchaan) was organised to appeal to the nation's conscience regarding the issues raised by the fifteen years of the struggle by the people against the SSP and other large dams in Narmada in the Narmada valley.

However, from Wednesday (August 22), without any provocation, hundreds of police have been deployed and roads, vehicles are searched for those going for the Satyagraha. The Gujarat government has demonstrated this unjust and illegal intolerance time and again. At the time of the visit of the World Commission on Dams, in the monsoon of 1998 and again at the time of the " Rally for the Valley" in the monsoon of 1999, the state government had similarly raised the unfounded bogey and tried to prevent the people from reaching in the Narmada valley. In the early morning on August 24, when the activists were proceeding towards Badwani in Madhya Pradesh, the police did not allow them to cross Baorda and detained them under section 68 of Bombay Police Act. All of them are kept in the police lock-up at Gorwa, in Baroda. The vehicle also was taken away by the police. All the detained activists have refused food in protest of their illegal and mala fide detention. The detainees demanded the reasons for the police action. They were told that the Government of Madhya Pradesh demanded the detention of Satyagraha people. The breach of peace and such reasons also have been given. All these reasons are atrocious. The police are keeping vigil on NBA office in Baroda, in a desperate attempt to create panic and tension.

All the apparent reasons given by the state government and police for such police action are fictitious. The programme was slated to be in Domkhedi (Maharashtra) and Jalsindhi (Madhya Pradesh), where the Satyagraha has been continuing from July 15. Also, the number of people going to the Satyagraha place from out of valley for this programme is not also large one for such action. Thirdly, the so-called pro-dam organisations also did not express their desire to oppose the programme. After all the state government has no business to prevent the people going for a peaceful programme in other state - that is Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh! The police are telling that the government wants to prevent Medha Patkar, one of the main activists at Satyagraha, from going to the dam site. This has never been the plan and Medha Patkar has gone many times to the dam site during last couple of months. The police are also pleading that the NBA has not taken the 'permission' from Gujarat police, for the programme, which is going to take place in Maharashtra. Also, they are citing the reason of prohibitory orders imposed in Baroda district for the 'Janmashtami' festival, when Lord Krishna was born in the jail. All these are fanciful reasons and the main reason is to prevent, with the misuse of law and government machinery, a programme in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh in support of the oustees of the Sardar Sarovar Project. Thus, the Gujarat government does not want the adivasis and peasants to express themselves and the nation to hear their voice.

A number of social activists and organisations have condemned this neurotic and cowardly reaction of the Gujarat government to the simple and peaceful programme of the people in the Narmada valley. The state government seems to be in the grips of the fundamentalists, for which it has become infamous during couple of years, who are out to suppress any expression of dissent or difference, even when it is not within their own legal and geographical bounds. It is suppressing the right of the people all over the nation and the people of Gujarat to know the truth. We appeal to all the people and organisations in India who believe in democracy, equality and freedom, particularly that of the underprivileged and suppressed, to stand up against the reactionary and anti-democratic posture of Gujarat government and make it respect the Constitution of India and rule of law.

M.K. Sukumar
Alok Agrawal
Sanjay Sangvai