| NBA Press Release
|| 02 December 2001
People In Narmada Valley Lose Senior Friend in Gujarat
NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
B-13, Shivam Flats
62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Senior lawyer, reputed human rights crusader and a respected political leader in Gujarat, Mr. Haroobhai Mehta, died on Saturday, December 1, in a road accident near Ahmedabad. The 68 years old Haroobhai always championed the rights of the downtrodden people, workers, Adivasis and Dalits in the state, both and outside of the court. He was a senior and influential leader of the Congress Party in the state and was a Member of Parliament for one term.
He was returning to his home in Rajkot (Saurashtra) after a panel meeting on the infamous Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO), in Ahmedabad. Senior lawyers Girishbhai Patel, Bhushan Oza and journalist Kiritbhai Bhatt were with him in the meeting till 5.30pm. He is survived by his wife and a son, Dr. Sukumar Mehta.
Before shifting to Gujarat High Court in Ahmedabad in 1965, Haroobhai was a practicing in Rajkot labour court. He was an active member of Communist Party in Rajkot and was jailed in 1963 during Indo-China war. He always fought for rights of the poor, Dalits and Adivasis and minorities. He joined Congress Party in 1969 and was once elected to Parliament. He was reputed as a fearless fighter for justice in the Court. He was the only advocate in the High court who could point out the mistakes of a judge without caring for its consequences for him.
Haroobhai came in contact with the Narmada struggle rather late, around 1999; but once he was convinced of the genuine cause, he unequivocally expressed his sympathies and support. He was one of the staunch supporters of the rights of the oustees of the Sardar Sarovar Project. He participated in many important meetings and public hearings pertaining to the displacement and resettlement of the Narmada oustees. He made it clear that he was not against the SSP, but was against the exploitation and deception of tribals. He believed that the tribal oustees in the Narmada valley should be rehabilitated properly and was against the distribution of cash compensation.
Recently, on November 23, he was one of the panelists of the Public Hearing about the condition of the people affected in Gujarat by the SSP and unflinchingly supported the rights of the people. He stood firm on his conviction despite the attempts by the vested interests to malign his reputation. It was learnt that he was even ready to give up party membership for this cause.
The people in the Narmada valley have lost their another senior friend and sympathizer, who dared to take a clear stand on the Narmada issue in Gujarat. We pay our respect to the comrade-in-arms and extend our condolences to the bereaved family.M.K. Sukumar