NBA Press Note

January 20, 2001

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

62, Mahatma Gandhi Marg
Badwani, Madhya Pradesh

Criminal Case of Defamation Case Against 'Advertisement' filed; Comparison of the Struggle with US Presidential Election is Absurd; NBA Challenges the Accusers to Prove The Allegations of Foreign Hands and Treachery

The Metropolitan Magistrate, Delhi has fixed March 11th for the hearing for admission of the defamation case filed by me against one Mr.V.K.Saxena from Gujarat and Indian Express, who published defamatory advertisements in November 2000. I was depositioned before the Magistrate on the 11th of January 2001. I have also, through my advocate, issued legal notices to other Hindi and Marathi dailies, like Dainik Bhasker for the advertisements published therein. It has already published an 'apology' in the matter but since it was not as prominent as the advertisement, we continue to challenge.

One may remember that the Indian Express, dated November 10 & 11, 2000 carried an advertisement titled "True Face of Medha Patkar and her Narmada Bachao Andolan" by an Ahmedabad based National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) which is defamatory for both myself and my colleague Chittaroopa as well as a people's movement, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) in more than one ways. The advertisement has alleged that "NBA is passing on confidential documents relating to projects of national importance to the foreign people..." and that the NBA is funded through hawala transactions.

The case filed is based on our position that the evidence published in the advertisement doesn't in anyway show that NBA is passing confidential, oficial documents to other countries. The document referred to is our 'financial appraisal' of Maheshwar Project. The financial transaction referred in the advertisement is also perfectly legal. On the other hand, the cheque given by a Gujarat industrialist to a NBA supporter was proved to be fake and could not be encashed. The supporter-organisation, therefore, has also sent a legal notice to the person concerned who, it seems, is also the sponsor of the advertisement. Myself and NBA has to once again reiterate that we are a people's movement, living on the voluntary donations, collection of grains, collection of in-kind gifts, sale of literature etc. and free services by supporters such as absolutely free legal service by our advocates from Sessions to the Supreme Court.

Yet another advertisement was published in some other newspapers, including Nai Duniya (dtd. Jan 18th 2001) later. It alleged that foreign people are working in unison with NBA to "thwart the Development of India". Interestingly the advertisement carried some quotes from different letters / reports of organisations / fact finding teams on different projects. The projects mentioned includes, Coal India Projects, NTPC Power Projects, Umargaon Port Project. NBA has no funding relations with any of the organisations referred to in the advertisement and no one including myself has even received the hospitality of anyone of them. Nothing in the advertisement which quotes various social organisations, environmentalists from different countries is proved false. And yet the advertisement concludes and indicates that NBA is working against the interest of the country. We firmly deny and challenge this.

The advertisement speaks for itself, to say the least. For example, the advertisement quoted a report of 1999 on NTPC by Berne Declaration, an NGO in Switzerland. The advertisement quotes: "Singrauli (NTPC) power plants have long and sorry history. Around 3 lakhs people have been uprooted.... The new projects documents do not adhere to the sound development process.... Equally unsatisfactory are the social rehabilitation measures of the NTPC projects. The Project document does not consider the impact on the broader social environment". One who is aware about the history of human rights violations by these mega projects, planned and pushed ahead by the might of the State, can only agree to what the report says. May be for NCCL, in the pursuit of development, human beings don't count. And we beg to differ with them.

Another allegation is that we are party to oppose the Umargaon Port Project. If destitution of nearly a lakh fishworkers and other labourers from that area and if even killing of their leader Col.Pratap Save by the police (DYSP Dr. Narendra Amin, who is the main culprit is at large and there were no arrests till today is yet another story) doesn't evoke any kind of interest in the self proclaimed Council for Civil Liberties, it speaks of their lack of concern for people's issues. We once again affirm our full solidarity to the valiant struggle by the fishworkers against the destructive port.

We strongly deny that any logistical (or what ever) support is being given by Earth Justice Legal Defense Fund for Arundhati Roy or me to "frequently visit foreign countries....for attending conferences and / or workshops on large dams". When there is need, we do travel abroad and each invitee take care of our travel expenses. Can Mr.Saxena advise our rulers and industrialists, who roam around the globe with begging bowls at every lending agency to stop doing that? Mr.Saxena should be aware that the decisions of our country are taken not in the villages of our country but it in the suites of lending agencies like World Bank, IMF and WTO. International visits are not to prostrate before the lending agencies but to web up a true international umbrella against this multi-faced onslaught. We believe that only that will help the people who face threat to their lives and livelihood, across the boundaries.

The questions he has asked to the "general pubic and to the concerned authorities" are indeed baseless. "Are all projects in India being developed with gross violation of human rights and environmental laws?" he asks. We are not against development or industrialisation per se. We are for projects and plans, cemented on scientific and humane foundations, and if those can enhance the lives of the people for better. Can he just keep his senses open and go to some of the places where these mega projects have cropped up? Behind the glitter and glaze of those, he can find the answers. If the human rights record of the country is so excellent why is the need of such a Council for Civil Liberties? Or does he asks for more liberty to throw slang on others?

The bottom line of the advertisement is most interesting. "US Vice President Al Gore says, 'Now the US Supreme Court has spoken. Let there be no doubt, while I strongly disagree with the Courts decision, I accept it'. In sharp contrast, Medha Patkar on Supreme Court judgment says, 'It is inhuman crime and conspiracy of the state. Agitation will go on'". The difference is, Mr.Saxena, while Al Gore was fight his luck for being in the top-most position, US President, the people in the Narmada Valley was fighting for their right to life and livelihood. The people have no other choice, but to fight for their rights, while Al Gore can always be in the electoral fray again after 4 years. NBA has never negated the Judiciary, it has only asked for honesty, truthfulness and greater accountability of the same.

While NBA will explore further legal options to expose NCCL and the newspapers who carried the advertisements, we challenge Mr.Saxena and his likes to come in the before a battery of eminent persons drawn from different walks of life, and prove his allegations. We again ask for the identity of this 'Patriot', who is funding the NCCL to put such expensive advertisements in the national / regional newspapers. Hiding behind such Patriots, who buy spaces in the newspapers for carrying expensive advertisements, are acts of cowardice, which show that our opponents can't fight us on facts and merits of our case for people-centred, sustainable development and hence resort to such defamatory tactics.

Medha Patkar