Press Statement July 24, 1999
STATEMENT BY ORGANISATIONS AND PEOPLE'S MOVEMENTS IN GUJARAT AGAINST THE ATTEMPTS TO SUPPRESS FREEDOM OF SPEECH & EXPRESSION
We are appalled at the attempts by some political parties, pro-Sardar Sarovar project elements to burn the copies of the book "The Greater Common Good" by renowned author Ms. Arundhati Roy. It is all the more reprehensible that they have threatened the bookshops in Ahmedabad city to withdraw the book from their stalls. It is a kind of undeclared censorship by the self styled 'Thought Police' in our society to suppress and hide the facts from the people of Gujarat. This is the height of intolerance, undemocratic and unconstitutional behaviour.
Moreover, it was reported that some people have threatened to 'stop' the proposed "Rally in the Valley" to be launched on July 29th from Delhi in support of the people in the Narmada valley, who have been on Satyagraha against the submergence and displacement. All these are the blatant violations of the basic rights of the individuals and the groups who have different opinions.
These attempts to physically prevent the expression of opinions are not new for the struggles of the depressed classes, particularly for the Narmada Bachao Andolan. In this way, the pro-dam elements are also blocking the right to information of the Gujarat people. If they have any case, they could have as well countered the arguments put forth by Ms. Roy and others opposing the dam, in a democratic manner. We call for such reasoned debate and evaluation of the development process in our country. But instead of that, the attempt to throttle the debate with muscle power has to be condemned in severest terms.
It is sad commentary on public life of the state that instead of patient debate, the attempts to suppress any possibility of dissent is being encouraged by the state. The police did not take any action against the threats of hooliganism and the government media gave undue publicity to such an act.It reveals the state's active role in such acts of suppression of the freedom.
We appeal to all the people in Gujarat who have faith in the democratic rights and the freedom of speech and expression to stand up against the these intolerant and fascist tendencies. These elements are tarnishing the image of Gujarat people. We will have to restore the spirit of the tolerance, respecting the rights of others to have dissenting opinions and non-violence in the state.
Acting President Civil Liberties, Gujarat
Adhikar Sangh, Gujarat, Ahmedabad
Vadodara Kamdar Sangathan, Baroda
Educationist, Vedchhi, Surat
Scientist, author, Baroda
Manav Kalyan Trust, Khedbrahma
Navsarjan Trust, Surat
Sahiyar (Women's Organisation), Baroda
Olakh (Women's organisation), Baroda
Dr. Jagannath Vora
Inquilabi Communist Sangathan, Baroda
Astha, Godhra, Panchmahal
Aditi Desai, Shabnam Virmani,
Stalin, Vinita Bhansali, Nimmi Chauhan
Drishti Media, Ahmedabad
Dr. Swaroop Dhruv