NBA Press Release
  17 August 2007
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

The Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh hails NBA's Right to Agitate

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Badwani,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-222464
Email: badwani[at]narmada.org

Expects the State Government to Protect Fundamental Rights of the Dam Affected

he Public Interest Litigation in the High Court of M.P. on the basis of complaint filed through a letter from Indore Jail was heard further by the Chief Justice (CJ) of Madhya Pradesh, Shri A K Patnayak with Justice Ajit Singh, yesterday and today at Jabalpur and the orders are reserved by them.

Yesterday, Adv N S Kale, pleading for the petitioner, Medha Patkar, had explained how the arrest and use of force during Satyagraha on July 25th was violation of human and legal rights. He had put forth the issue of the Sardar Sarovar affected adivasis and farmers, arguing for their Constitutional right under article 19 (1) (b). When the government advocate pleaded on the basis of their filed reply that no police force was used during the arrest and that the agitators of NBA had 'manhandled' the officials, taken to road blockade and the petitioner had instigated the poor, innocent adivasis to occupy government farm land, Adv Kale refuting all the charges as fake, had requested the CJ to view a CD (Visual Record) available with the petitioner.

It was at 4.30 p.m. that the CJ and Justice Ajit Singh viewed the CD of the petitioner and at least 5 CDs from the respondent, Government of Madhya Pradesh.

Today, when the hearing resumed, Advocate Kale raised the issue of fundamental right to life and the Constitutional right to agitate. When the land and houses of the adivasis are already submerged, without rehabilitation, they have no way but to agitate peacefully. The government, he pleaded, had violated their legal rights under NWDT Award and many Supreme Court orders as also the ILO Convention No. 107 on Indigenous and Tribal People of 1957, ratified by India in 1958. The Convention requires that the governments protect the rights of the adivasis and they should be safeguarded against the improper application of preventive detention and shall be able to take legal proceedings for the effective protection of their fundamental rights. Adv Kale posed a question "If right to peaceful agitation is not protected, will they not be compelled to take to violence?" Quoting from the SC Judgment 2005, "no submergence of property without allotting cultivable and irrigable lands is permitted" and the SC in 2007 has upheld NBA's work to ensure compensation with the same, he asked the Court to direct return or compensation for the property lost during the incidence of arrest.

The Advocate General repeated some points in the Government's reply saying that the State had to resort to action since the agitators had taken law into their hand. He pleaded that all the issues related to rehabilitation are before the Supreme Court and the SC had given orders in 2002 against Court intervention.

The Chief Justice of M.P. then commenting on the CD, said, the right to agitate is a fundamental right and needs to be protected. It can't be suppressed with police force. The reply of the government appears to be a farce to anyone who sees the CD and blood would boil. The State government was expected to say sorry and agree to compensate for the mistake, in all fairness.

Since we have seen how the women and adivasis were treated, we can't accept violation of fundamental rights, which are Constitutional. Not the erring officers but the peaceful agitators need to be protected. He said the rehabilitation issues which are before the Supreme Court, need not be ruled on by this Court. The CJ's court had reserved the orders.

Clifton Rozario Rajkumar Sinha
Ashish Mandloi