NBA Press Release
  01 July 2002
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

NBA activist still in jail on flimsy charges;
Dhar administration deliberately obstructs bail;
Rains in full spate, Impending submergence

NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
B-13, Shivam Flats
Ellora Park,
Baroda-390007
Tel: 0265-282232
Email: baroda@narmada.org

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Badwani,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-22464
Email: badwani@narmada.org

NBA Activist Shri Jagdish B.N. is still in Sardarpur jail where he was taken on the 25th of June, 2002 after several hours spent in police custody at the Amjhera police station. The police had picked him up from Chuna Bhati Naka - the bus stop adjoining the Village Khedi- Balwadi- the first village to be affected by the Man dam at 10.00 in the morning. This was done in front of some villagers who were standing at or near the bus stop. In protest within half an hour, the villagers had organised a chakka jam and stopped all traffic on the Dhar- Manawar road for close to two hours. The Amjhera Station -In- Charge who came to find out the reason of the dharna said that Jagdish would be released in just one hour. After that despite enquiries, and phone calls to the Manawar, Gandhwani , Amjhera and Dhar Police stations as well as police officers in Dhar by NBA activists, members of the Amnesty International and members of the Dhar press and lawyers, till the next evening on the 26th of June, the police claimed that they had no knowledge of the whereabouts of Shri Jagdish.

However following some leads, on June 27th , an NBA activist and villagers of Man reached Sardarpur and found that Jagdish in the jail there. Apparently, Jagdish had been detained on preventive charges of Section 109 and 110- charges for vagrancy. There is deep irony in the fact that while on one hand, several hundred adivasis from the Man area were blocking the Dhar- Manawar road for the return of the young and popular Jagdish, who has just completed his post graduation in law and who has been working in this area for two years now, on the other hand, the District administration who know him very well, was booking him for being a vagrant !!

When the adivasis from Maan who had come to Sardarpur on the 27th of June, and the local lawyer from Sardarpur approached the Sub Divisional Magistrate of Sardarpur for bail for Jagdish on the basis of their land pattas, the SDM demanded that the land holder should additionally get a certificate stating that he belongs to the area from the concerned Tehsildar of his area, certainly an unusual demand because the land holding title itself establishes the land holder's credentials.

On the 28th of June, several people from the Sardar Sarovar affected village of Kowthi and Ekalwara from the Manawar tehsil of District Dhar went to Sardarpur with their titles, asking for Jagdish's bail. This time around, the SDM first asked for a solvency certificate rather than a simple bail on the basis of personal bond or land title. When the farmers from Kowthi agreed to provide solvency, the SDM changed his track and insisted that he would only accept solvency from a person belonging to the Sardarpur Tehsil of Dhar, clearly a ruse to delay the process of justice, knowing full well that Kowthi is in Manawar tehsil although bail is very often given on the basis of land titles from adjoining districts. It may also be noted that till Jagdish was picked up recently, there was not a single case pending against him.

However, the Kowthi farmers were able to arrange even that from their relatives in Sardarpur, and submitted the solvency certificate after completing all formalities. Yet, the administration is dragging its feet and the papers have been lying in the Naib Tehsildar's office since forenoon. Yet bail was not granted this evening. Clearly, the state seems to have engaged itself in a vendetta with the NBA by picking up and abducting NBA activists and refusing to release them in total disregard of the legal requirements, and harrassing the Maan adivasis on one pretext or the other. The NBA has filed for revision in the Higher Court in Dhar.

Maan oustees face harrasment even after conclusion of the indefinite fast and inclusion of experts on Maan GRA. The arrest and detention of Jagdish, the refusal to reveal his whereabouts, and to grant him bail that is his legal right, is only the last in the sequence of painful events and harrasment unleashed by the state after the month long indefinite fast and dharna of the Maan dam oustees was concluded on the 18th of June.

It may be noted that after 35 days of dharna and the 29 day fast in Bhopal by the people of the Narmada valley on the issue of the land rights of the people of the Narmada valley in the Maan area of Dhar, the state government was compelled to appoint Shri Prabhash Joshi, Senior Journalist and Shri B.D.Sharma, Former Chairman of the SC-ST Commission as Experts on to the Grievance Redressal Authority for the Maan dam oustees. It was only after these Government orders were passed that the dharna and the indefinite fast in demand for the rehabilitation of the Maan dam oustees were concluded on the 18th of June.

But immediately after the conclusion of the dharna, the state once more began wrecking repression on the Maan dam osutees. On the 19th of June, around 100 policemen searched for the NBA activists Jagdish B.N. and Radheshyam Verma house to house in the villages of Khedi-Balwadi and Khanpura, checking even in the baskets of grain. On the 21st of June, NBA activist Shri Radheshyam Verma was illegally detained in the Amjhera Police Station for four hours in the course of which he was threatened by the Station - In -Charge of dire consequences if he did not leave the Maan area. On the 22nd of June, the state as well as members of the Congress party organised a rally in the nearby market place of Jeerabad on a market day where several truckloads of people including Anganwadi workers were brought in to rally for the dam, never mind that the Maan dam affected people are not opposing the construction of the dam. One of the slogans given by the local Congress workers at the rally was "Baharwalo ko bhagayenge / Khedi walo ko jalayenge" or that "We will chase out the activists and burn the oustees". The Madhya Pradesh government and local Congress seems to have taken a leaf out of the Gujarat book in threatening living people with arson and death.

On the 24th of June, the MLA of Manawar Shri Balwant Mandloi and a group of Congress workers went to Khedi- Balwadi to ask the affected people to leave the villages. After the villagers of Khedi explained their issues, the people accompanying Shri Balwant Singh Mandloi were forced to concede that the demands of the Maan dam affected people are legitimate and that their struggle is valid.

Finally, on the 25th of June, Jagdish was picked up from the bus stand, where he was waiting to catch a bus, by a police jeep in full view of the villagers.

Rains in full spate, Impending submergence

It is clear to us that the state government is attempting to derail the time bound process of investigation and rehabilitation of the affected people that is to be completed by the 31st of July, 2002 as per the Government order of 18th June, 2002.

Yet, the rains are in full spate, and submergence can take place any time. In fact two river bordering fields in Khedi have already faced submergence twice already this monsoon. We anticipate that the rains will be a pretext for the government to attack the houses and drive out the people. Similarly we anticipate that the state government and district administration will try to continue with their attempts to arrest and detain key activists. And to ensure maximum confusion so that the GRA process gets derailed. However, there is no way, that we can allow this.

Therefore we call on all of you to write to the Governor and the Chief Minister asking firstly, for the unconditional release of Jagdish B.N., and secondly to stop the repression against the people and the activists in the area so that the work of the GRA and the experts can continue in an atmosphere of normalcy. This is especially important considering that the submergence can take place any time and the rehabilitation and resettlement of people has to be a race against time.

The addresses of the CM and the Governor are -

CM, Madhya Pradesh- Shri Digvijay Singh
Phone- 0755-540500,Fax-0755-540501/551781

Governor, Madhya Pradesh- Shri Bhai Mahavir Phone-0755-551300/1/2/3,Fax-0755-554719/554711

Collector,DHAR- Shri Sanjay Dube Phone-07292-34702(o)/34701(r), Fax-07292-34711

Chittaroopa Palit
Alok Agarwal
Govind Rawat