NBA Press Note

March 31, 2001

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

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

Harasment by the State Administration continues
Chittaroopa Palit and Urmila Patidar still held in jail for the 11th day

The government of Madhya Pradesh continues to act in an exceedingly shameful manner by holding the Narmada Bachao Andolan activists in jail for the 11th day today. On 26th, 200 adivasi project-affected activists were released unconditionally. On 29th March, 6 more activists were released on bail, by the order of the District Court, while on 31st March, 7 activists were released. However, Smt. Chittaroopa Palit and Urmila Patidar are still being held in jail with the government persisting on raking up old cases against them. The project-affected persons, who have been released strongly condemn this act of the government and reiterate their demand for rehabilitation in accordance with the rehabilitation policy.

The shameful and exceedingly vulgar display of administrative might of the State was further showcased yesterday with production warrants for old cases being submitted to the Dhar Jail Superintendent. Production warrants for 6 cases against Chittaroopa Palit and 5 cases from the Mandleshwar Court were received by the Jail Superintendent to be produced in the Mandleshwar Court on the 3rd and 4th of April. Production warrants for Chittaroopa Palit have also been served from Khargone Court directing her to be produced there on 4th of April. The government is clearly avoiding the main issue of rehabilitation and indulging in pathetic displays of shameless behavior. The attitude of the State proves their inability to disprove the fact that rehabilitation has not been done. We demand that the State immediately release the remaining activists instead of sidetracking the real issue of rehabilitation. The activists aptly respond to this grossly illegal action of the State by simply saying: "Jab Tak Jail Mein Channa Rehega, Aana Jaana Banna Rehega". It must be recalled that the State had to give in to the demands of the project-affected and unconditionally released 200 of those arrested.

On the 21st of this month, hundreds of adivasis affected by the Man Project in Dhar district, stormed and occupied the dam site stopping any further construction of the dam protesting violations of their legal rehabilitation rights by the State. Instead of rehabilitating them the State put them in jail. Then, to top this atrocious conduct, the State then proceeded to file cases of Atrocities on Scheduled Tribes against the senior activists including Chittaroopa Palit and others. It must be mentioned that the project-affected adivasis are furious with this and insist that the State must be taken to task for such appalling doings. Meanwhile, on 28th March, after a long dialogue between the Narmada Bachao Andolan, which continued till late in the evening, an understanding was reached that within the next 10 days a comprehensive meeting will be held in Dhar, to enable a detailed case-by-case examination to establish the rehabilitation status of each affected person.

Narmada Bachao Andolan in replying to the accusations of Smt Jamuna Devi, Deputy Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and the local MLA Shri Karan Singh Pawar, only wishes to say that the Andolan firmly believes that no project can be built by displacing thousands of adivasis without rehabilitating them in accordance with the governing rehabilitation policy. This project cannot be advanced till all the affected adivasis are completely rehabilitated according to the rules and regulations of rehabilitation, that have been framed to ensure that the adivasis atleast regain their standard of living after displacement. We warn the government not to forget that these rules and regulations, the rehabilitation policy and the Narmada Award are legally binding on the State and it is illegal for the State to violate these rehabilitation provisions.

Narmada Bachao Andolan believes that in the event of adivasis getting displaced without any rehabilitation being done, there is no alternate but to involve itself in the struggle for the rights of those displaced. If the government is under the impression that holding activists in jail is the answer to such struggles, then it is sadly mistaken. If the government decides to make a sincere effort to rehabilitate these adivasis, then the Andolan promises to offer its total help, support and participation. However, if the government attempts to cheat the adivasis, then the Andolan sees no other way, except intense struggle, to fight for the rights of those displaced by this project.

Alok Agarwal