NBA Press Release
  26 June 2002
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Dhar Police abducts NBA activist, whereabouts unknown,
NBA to file Habeus Corpus
State continues repression against Maan dam oustees

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

Yesterday on the morning of the 25th June, the Dhar police picked up the NBA activist Shri Jagdish B.N. from the bus stand close to Village Khedi Balwadi, where he was waiting for a bus and took him to some unknown destination. Despite enquiries and phone calls to various police stations and Police Control Room all of yesterday and today by NBA activists, Dhar lawyers and press, as well as members of Amnesty International, senior police officers either did not come onto the phone or said that they had no information about the arrest.

This is 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. The Narmada Bachao Andolan and the oustees of the Maan dam condemn this behaviour of the Madhya Pradesh government and demands that the state government should stop wreaking repression on the adivasis of the area and the activists working with them, and complete their rehabilitation on the principle of land for land as per the rehabilitation policy. The NBA also demands that the state must immediately release NBA activist Shri Jagdish B.N. and release him safely to the Maan affected village from where they picked him up.

It may be noted that after 35 days of dharna and the historical 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, 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 wreaking 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 20th 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 - of dire consequences if he did not leave the Maan area. The motorcycle of the NBA belonging to an NBA activist was taken away into custody. On the 21st 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 Collector was specially present at Jeerabad to take a written petition from the rallyists. 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 22nd 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 yesterday, on the 25th of June, when Shri Jagdish B.N. of Bangalore who has been actively working among the Maan dam oustees for the last one year was picked up from the Chuna Bhati Naka bus stand near Village Khedi Balwadi, while he was waiting for a bus. Several villagers are eye-witnesses to a police jeep drawing up and arresting Jagdish from the bus stop, and driving away, and soon after several other police jeeps following the earlier jeep.

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 evening the police claimed that they had no knowledge of the whereabouts of Shri Jagdish. It is clear from this that the police have taken Jagdish to an unknown place and may be torturing him.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan condemns this repressive behaviour on part of the state government and understands this as an effort to divert the energy of the Maan affected people from their quest for rehabilitation and from appearances and preparation for the hearings of the GRA. It anticipates that in the days to come, taken aback by the unity and determination of the Maan dam affected people and their insistence on land based rehabiliation , of adivasis who that hitherto regarded only as their puppets, the Madhya Pradesh government plans to step up their repression in the month to come, arresting all activists,and attempting to cause the hearings of the GRA to fail , and to generally create confusion and drive out the Maan dam oustees from their homes. The NBA warns the Digvijay Singh government that there is no possibility that their machinations will succeed, and that if it continues in their blatant violations of the democratic rights of people including the Right to organise and travel freely any where in India, it only stands to be exposed. The NBA also warns the government that if it does not release Jagdish B.N. immediately, the people of the area will continue their ground struggle as well as file for Habeus Corpus in the Indore High Court immediately.

Alok Agarwal
Chittaroopa Palit