Save The Narmada, Save Humanity! NBA Press Release                                                                                 August 24, 2000


While the Gujarat government has exhibited its cowardice once again by unwarrantedly detaining prominent people who were proceeding towards the Satyagraha locations in the Narmada valley, the Saga of Narmada programme got underway in Domkhedi-Jalsindhi with hundreds of tribals participating in it. They have appealed to the people all over the nation to stop the destructive Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) and make the governments in India follow the rule of law and the Constitution of India, respecting the rights and natural resources of the people. Noted author, Arundhati Roy has also reached the Satyagraha place, after a stopover in Baroda for 12 hours, to participate in the programme.

The Gujarat police detained the thirty four people - with 11 women - including Justice (retd.) Rajinder Sachar, ex-President of People's Union of Civil Liberties of India, noted Gandhian educationist Jyotibhai Desai , reputed jurists in Gujarat Girish Patel and Haroobhai Mehta (former MP), feminist journalist Vidya Bal, Minar Pimple of National Housing Rights Campaign, senior mathematician Dr. Mangla Narlikar, Madhukar Deshpande of Vidnyan Vahini, senior NBA activists, Alok Agrawal and Sukumar and people from Tamilnadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and other parts of the country. In the early morning, over 500 people from Nimad were detained by Gujarat police at the Madhya Pradesh-Gujarat border, near Chhaktala. Strangely, one of the reasons cited by the Gujarat police for all this alarm was that the Madhya Pradesh Police have asked them to detain the people from proceeding to the Satyagraha place! Veteran Socialist intellectual Surendra Mohan and Dr. Sunilam, MLA from Madhya Pradesh proceeded towards Satyagraha.

As the programme date was nearing hundreds of police sealed the roads going out from Baroda. Gujarat police detained five activists on Wednesday, who were later released . This scare on part of Gujarat government was bordering dementia. Even when the senior jurist, Mr. Sachar tried to convince them about the illegality of their acts, the police pleaded helplessness by referring to the "instructions from above". Senior lawyer in Gujarat, Haroobhai Mehta, who is among the detained, has decided to challenge this act in the court. All are detained under Sec.68 of Bombay Police Act.

Before being detained, in a short meeting of the supporters, Mr. Sachar, in a statement made it clear that, "We are not breaking any law. We are only exercising our fundamental right of movement and free speech, inspite of the police warning not to do so. If inspite of our wanting to exercise our basic rights peacefully and within law, any of us are detained, arrested or prevented from moving, it will amount to criminal offence of restraint and wrongful confinement. In that case we make it clear that we shall bring criminal complaint against the highest of political personnel and of the police administration in a Court of Law". Mr. Mehta clarified that he has been the supporter of the SSP and he wants to listen to the people affected by the dam, from which he was being prevented.

In another incident, the Gujarat government has stopped over 500 men and women from the SSP affected villages from Nimad region in Madhya Pradesh at Gujarat boundary near Chhaktala (teh.Alirajpur). The District Collector of Baroda has informed the people that they were not allowed to enter Gujarat because "the roads are slippery due to heavy rains". They were prohibited to enter in Gujarat under section 37 of Bombay Police Act. The people are not ready to go back and they have started the Public Hearing about the dam and displacement there, as they were not allowed to reach Domkhedi- Jalsindhi.

The Domkhedi Programme, Saga of Narmada has been organized to make an appeal to the conscience of nation regarding the basic issues of people's rights for just and sustainable development. It is meant to refresh people's awareness of the grave situation in the valley. Therefore, number of social, political activists, journalists and artists were supposed to be present there, along with hundreds of people from the valley. Gujarat government wanted to prevent this from happening. While various other groups from Nagpur, Dhule and from the valley have reached from Madhya Pradesh and mountainous path of Satpuda ranges from Maharashtra. Noted Socialist activist Kumar Saptarshi, M.B. Shah from Maharashtra too have reached.

Meanwhile, Jnanpeeth Award winner Kannada litterateur Prof. U.R. Ananthamurthy, and formal Chief of Indian Navy, Admiral Ramdas have condemned the anti-democratic way of handling the non-violent people's movements. Various people's movements including National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) and national and international organizations like International Rivers Network, Friends of River Narmada and AID-India have condemned the gross violation of fundamental human rights by the Gujarat Government.

Joe Athialy   Sanjay Sangvai