NBA Press Note

March 25, 2001

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh
Tel: 07283-33162

False charges of atrocities on adivasis filed on those fighting for the rights of adivasis!
Will anyone in this country listen to what the President has to say?

The atrocities and harassment by the State has been increasing ever since the adivasis affected by the Man project raised their voice in protest and captured the dam site on the 21st of March. Smt Chittaroopa Palit, senior activist of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, who has been organizing the project-affected people, who are predominantly adivasis, for the last 4 years, along with few others have been falsely charged for atrocities on adivasis. The police have also raked up about 10 old cases filed against Chittaroopa Palit and many of the Maheshwar project affected people who are here in solidarity with the Man affected adivasis, and arrested them in jail for the old cases. Narmada Bachao Andolan believes that the filing of cases of atrocities on adivasis is not only terribly shameful but also demonstrates the desperation of the State.

Today is the fifth day in jail for those Man project affected people who were arrested on 21st of March. More than 90% of those arrested are adivasis. Chittaroopa Palit and few others, who along with the adivasis have been raising serious question regarding the rehabilitation of the affected people for the past few years, have been charged for atrocities on adivasis. This act of the State clearly establishes the misuse of power by the State and the depths of shamefulness to which they can drop to try and silence the voices demanding justice. The fact, however, is that the State is guilty of atrocities on adivasis considering that this monsoon 4000-5000 adivasis are slated for submergence without any rehabilitation having been done. This inspite of the fact that the government has passed official orders entitling the affected people to agricultural land in rehabilitation, while the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award clearly states that under no circumstances can lands being submerged without rehabilitation having been done. Would this not make a good case of atrocities on adivasis, and, should the State not be charged on such grounds?

It is pertinent to note that there exists special provisions in the Constitution and precise rehabilitation provisions to safeguard the interests of adivasis. It is clearly stated in the rehabilitation policy that the affected adivasis are entitled to agricultural land for their land that is being submerged and also community rehabilitation i.e. entire village rehabilitated in one place to maintain their social fabric. It is also stated in the policy that cash compensation can only be given to that project affected person who makes an application for the same personally. But if this affected person is an adivasis, then the Collector must issue a certificate stating that cash compensation will not be detrimental to the future of this adivasi. In 1990-91 few adivasis were coerced and threatened into accepting small amounts of cash compensation. At that time, not a single adivasi submitted the needed application requesting cash compensation nor did the Collector issue any certificate saying that this cash compensation is detrimental to him/her. Should not the Collector be immediately charged for atrocities on adivasis considering the above facts?

Even the President of India, Shri K.R. Narayanan has expressed deep concern about the displacement of adivasis in `developmental' projects. This year, on Republic Day, the President stated,

"But the march of development is having different kinds of impact on different sections of our people. It tends to widen the existing inequalities and create new inequalities ... It is well known how the large valley projects are uprooting the tribals and causing them untold misery ... When they have to be displaced, the resettlement schemes should be discussed with them and implemented with sincerity ... Let it not be said by future generations that the Indian Republic has been built on the destruction of the green earth and the innocent tribals who have been living there for centuries ... let it not be said of India that this great Republic in a hurry to develop itself is devastating the green mother earth and uprooting our tribal populations ...".
Using these strong words, voicing his deep concerns, the President of our country has taken a clear stand against the indiscriminate displacement of adivasis without even resettling them. However, in Man project, the affected adivasis are facing imminent submergence and displacement without any of the rehabilitation provisions being followed. Will anyone listen to at least our President in this country?

The India Country Study, a chapter done by the World Commission on Dams, has reported that post-independence about 56 million people have been displaced by dam projects and out of these people about 60%-70% are adivasis. This is a very disproportionate representation of adivasis in the population of displaced people considering that they account for only 8% of out country's population. The displacement seems un-necessary in the face of the fact that large dams account for only 10% of the foodgrains produced in our country!

Eminent people, Peoples organizations and others from different corners of the country have written protest letters to Shri Digvijay Singh. Retired Justice Shri. Ravi Kumar Jain, Advocate in the Supreme Court Shri Rajeev Shukla, Ex-Commissioner of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Tribes Shri B.D. Sharma, Socialist leader Shri Surendra Mohan and Shri Kiskan Patnayak, National Secretary of `Lok Swatantr Sanghatan' Shri Rajendra Sayal, Shri Praful Bidwai, Shri S.P. Shukla, Shri Dr. Sunilam among others have written to Shri Digvijay Singh condemning the atrocities on adivasis and demanding their immediate unconditional release. They have demanded that the Man Project should be immediately stopped and land based rehabilitation of the affected adivasis be undertaken.

Alok Agarwal
Govindsingh Ravat