| NBA Press Release
|| 01 November 2009
INDEFINITE JAIL-FAST OF NBA ACTIVISTS ENTERS SECOND DAY: Against unlawful arrests and seizure of office
62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Struggle intensifies with displaced gathering in thousands:
Support pours in from organizations across the country
Medha Patkar slams M.P. Govt: Charges contempt of Court
Thousands of displaced gathered today as well in Khandwa to lend solidarity and support to the jailed activists of Narmada Bachao Andolan and to condemn the malicious and brazen attempts of the Government of Madhya Pradesh to scuttle their lawful attempts to enforce the directives of the High Court. The displaced of Maheshwar, Upper Veda, Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar dams were joined by representatives of various people’s organizations from within and outside the state.
Even as the protest fast of activists Chittaroopa Palit and Ramkuwar Rawat inside the jail continued undaunted on the second day, the Government seemed to be investing all its energies and resources in hounding the activists, instead of respecting the High Court’s orders and speedily rehabilitating the displaced.
The NBA office was again searched today and shockingly, the police officials (instead of electricity officials!!!) slapped an additional bill of Rs. 15,149/- on the Andolan for electricity charges, terming it a ‘commercial establishment’, even though it is well-known that NBA is a people’s organization, working for the realization of the constitutional and human rights of the displaced. It is clear that the office is being targeted. While it was told that activist Alok Agrawal was being taken for interrogation; he was detained all through the night and was then framed in old cases. NBA is contemplating legal action against such annoying tactics of the State.
Citizens groups and eminent persons from across the country have extended support to the ongoing ‘sangharsh’ in the valley. Major Genl. (Retd). Sudhir Vombatkere wrote to the Prime Minister and Chief Minister, terming the arrests as repulsive to democratic resistance and demanded urgent release of the activists and justice to the displaced. Vetern Gandhian idealogue Raha Bhatt and Vasant Pandey of Uttarakhand Nadi Bachao Abhiyan, in a seperate letter to the CM, demanded him re-establish the rule of law in the state.
Yesterday, activists Yogesh Diwam, Azam Khan, Sarika Sinha and others of Jan Pehal met the Chairperson of the State Human Rights Commission, Justice (Retd) Shri D.P. Dharmadhikary, in person and expressed serious concern on the ersosion of democratic space in the state. The Chairperson later issued notices to the District Collector and Superintendent of Police and demanded a Report on the incident within 3 days.
The Government also drew flak from citizen’s groups in Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur, Badwani and Harda where protetsts are taking place. The Indore Solidarity Group and People’s Union or Democratic Rights as well expressed vocal condemnation of the arrests in seperate releases and expressed solidarity with the Andolan. An online petition has also been circulated and more than 500 sensitive citizens and organizations have already expressed their support. The Asian Human Rights Commission also came down heavily upon the State Government and has issued an action altert for global support.
Meanwhile, addressing a press conference in Khandwa, today evening, Medha Patkar along with Rajkumar Sinha of Bagri Dam Displaced and Affected Organiation and others stated that the actions of the State Government tantamount to contempt of Court, which it will have to answer. She said that the administration is tarnishing its own image by leveling false allegations against the activists.
Yesterday, a delegation along with Medha Patkar met the Collector Mr. Singh and pressed for the immediate and unconditional release of the activists and enforcement of the Court’s directives. He was also warned that any inaction from the administration will not be brooked anymore and all the diasplaced are even ready for a ‘Jail Bharo Andolan’, if their demands are not met.
Interestingly, the Staff Union at the Collector’s office also submitted a letter of solidarity with the diplaced. Respecting their gesture, Medha Patkar convyed that the struggle was not against the staff, but against the thick-skinned administration that has such disrespect towards the Constitution and the Court.
The struggle continues with some other activists joining in the fast today.
Hon’ble Justice (Retd.) Shri Dharmadhirkari
State Human Rights Commission,
Respected Shri Dharmadhirkariji,
I would like to draw your urgent attention to an incident of grave human rights violation in Khandwa district and seek your immediate intervention in the same. As I had communicated to you over the phone yesterday, the unlawful treatment of the activists and displaced who are non-violently asserting lawful rights continues, even as twenty activists, including senior activists Chittaroopa Palit, Alok Agrawal, Kamla Yadav, Ramkuwar Rawat are still locked up in the jail.
On the 28th of October, thousands of farmers, adivasis, fish workers and labourers affected by the giant Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar dams took out a huge rally, seeking immediate enforcement of the directives of the Hon’ble High Court with regard to the rehabilitation of the displaced. Thousands of displaced from the Maheshwar, Upper Veda, Maan, Sardar Sarovar, Tawa, Bargi and other dams and representatives of other people’s organizations had participated in the peaceful demonstration.
Receiving no positive response from the administration and the NHDC with regard to implementation of the High Court’s orders, the displaced began their Dharna in the premises of the Collector’s office. All through the 28th and the 29th, they were hoping for some response from the Collector and NHDC, but all of a sudden all the senior officials fell ‘ill’ and they all refused to meet the agitators.
When some of the people tried to go to Collector’s office in the evening and find out the reasons, the police fell upon them in the corridor itself. Senior activists Chittaroopa Palit, Kamla Yadav, Ramkuwar Rawat and 18 other activists were brutally caned and arrested by the police, while the others were also ruthlessly beaten up and drove out of the Collector’s premises.
The police then went on to foist false cases on the activists and displaced under inappropriate provisions of law such as Sec 332, 353, 323, 294, 427 and 188 IPC. Surprisingly, one more new case on these same jailed activists was registered yesterday under Sec 342, 147 and 452.
Further, on the 30th of October, the Anti-Terror Squad, along with the police headed by ASI Mr. Pathak illegally raided the Narmada Bachao Andolan’s office. In this process, they forcefully arrested senior activists Alok Agarwal and 5 other activists and sifted through all the office papers, without any notice. We have no clue as to what did to the papers and computers, since activists Sangeta Kanera and Guabchand Patel were not allowed to enter the office all through the course of the investigation, which went on for more than an hour. Underneath is a brief time-wise description of the events:
Chronology of incidents: Time and Description of the incident
AT 5:15 p.m:
A batch of policemen under the leadership of A.S.I. Mr. Pathak, barged into the NBA office, along with the Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) and without any intimation or warrant, arrested senior activist Alok Agawal and 5 other activists. After taking the activists into their custody, the office was seized and locked by the police. When the activists sought the grounds of their arrest at City Kothwali police station, they were not provided the same
AT 5:30 p.m:
The police again came with Vajr vaahan and entered into the Andolan’s office. The office was searched without producing any warrant. In the process, they cluttered up the entire documents and in the garb of investigation, messed up with the computers and also took away some of the papers and literature from the office. The police did not allow activists Sangeta Kanera and Guabchand Patel to enter the office all through the course of the investigation, which went on for more than an hour. After the search, they again went away, by locking up the office.
AT 6:20 p.m:
The 5 other arrested activists, besides Alok Agarwal, were released from City Kothwali.
AT 7:05 p.m: The A.S.I. Mr. Pathak had come to the NBA office, along with some other policemen and Alok Agarwal and unlocked the office.
In the light of the aforementioned atrocities and illegalities of the Madhya Pradesh police and administration, we demand that the Hon’ble State Human Rights Commission may consider the following demands in the best interests of justice and rule of law:
1) The terror unleashed by the police and human rights violations of the arrested displaced and activists must be taken up with utmost seriousness and the Commission may urgently recommend / direct their unconditional release.
2) The baseless and false allegations (and related cases) of destroying public property in the Collector’s office be dropped, as the activists did not enter the Office at all, in the first instance. Their arrests were made from the Corridor in the Collectorate and the office of NBA.
3) Ensure that the orders of the Hon’ble Jabalpur High Court are implemented and that the human rights of the displaced persons are guaranteed.
4) Demand an answer from the State Government for the terrorizing treatment it has meted out to the peacefully agitating displaced and activists, seeking lawful implementation of the Court’s orders for realizing their right to life and livelihood.
5) Take appropriate steps to guarantee and safeguard the constitutional right to peacefully agitate for the protection of one’s life and livelihood, freedom of speech and expression and the freedom of association.
6) Investigate, identify and take necessary legal action against all the police officials responsible for the illegal arrest and detention of activists Alok Agarwal and others.
7) Direct the state Government to adequately compensate the activists and displaced for the physical and mental injury and agony caused to them.
I earnestly reiterate that the terror unleashed on the activists and displaced seeking the implementation of the Court’s order is nothing less that a challenge to the rule of law in the state. It is in this context that your role as the Chairperson of the State Human Rights Commission becomes extremely significant to establish the rule of law and common people’s faith in the legal system.
We hope that you would take this incident of gross human rights with all the seriousness it deserved and initiate appropriate action immediately.
With sincere regards
Issues and Demands of the ISP and OSP displaced:
Indira Sagar Project:
1. Immediately implement the Orders of the Hon’ble High Court of Jabalpur dated 08-09-2006 and 2-09-2009 issued in the writ petition filed by Narmada Bachao Andolan, directing grant of 5 acres agricultural land to all adult sons and unmarried daughters of every affected farmer.
2. The displaced labourers must be given rights over the land under partial submergence (thousands of acres of talak zameen) as they would reap the benefits of the wheat crop in the rains and the summer crop, when the water recedes, and can thus earn a respectable livelihood.
3. The displaced fish workers in the Indira Sagar project affected areas are being subjected to physical assault and hooliganism which must be immediately stopped and the right to fishing must be granted to the fish workers and not the contractors.
4. NHDC has occupied the agricultural lands by paying paltry sums of compensation and the farmers have not be able to purchase land again. It is, therefore, necessary that the Special Rehabilitation Grant being given for the lands must be on par with the Harda command rate of at least 1.5 lakhs to 2 lakhs per acre.
5. The thousands of houses in the ISP submergence area, which are excluded even to this day, must be acquired and appropriate compensation be paid immediately.
6. The houses in all such villages where the lands have submerged and there is no other alterative source of livelihood must be immediately acquired and lawful compensation and rehabilitation must be urgently provided.
7. There is rampant corruption in the rehabilitation of the ISP displaced, particularly in the Harda district. The rehabilitation entitlements are being reaped by the agents and middlemen with the connivance of the officials, which must be immediately stopped and an independent inquiry into the same initiated and the guilty punished.
8. The livelihood of all those in the resettlement colonies must be guaranteed and BPL ration cards be issued to them immediately along with the provision of other civic amenities such as schools, drinking water, hospital etc.
9. It astonishes that until now; even the lists of families are not finalized in many of the villages. This should be immediately undertaken and the affected families must be provided all the rehabilitation entitlements which they are deprived of, until now.
10. All the left-out villages upto Handia and Nemavar in the Indira Sagar submergence area must be surveyed on a war-footing and the affected families be granted compensation and rehabilitated.
11. Along with the acquisition the less than 25% of remaining land, any other assets also must be acquired.
12. Where the houses are in submergence, but the lands are not, resettlement sites must be established with a radius of 1 km
13. The scale indicating the water-level at the Indira Sagar dam site has been maliciously erased by NHDC, which is a matter of grave concern. A new scale, indicating the correct water level must be immediately put in place, in a transparent manner.
1. All the project-displaced must be fully and fairly rehabilitated as per the Orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court and Jabalpur High Court by giving irrigated and cultivable land.
2. The Government should not give already encroached lands as this would jeopardize the livelihoods of other poor and create social tensions and insecurity to the displaced.
3. The Orders of the Hon’ble High Court dated 23-09-2009 and all other orders must be immediately and fully implemented.
4. The displaced must be given house plots of their choice in the command area as per the judicial orders and the Rehabilitation Policy.
5. The houses that have been left out must be acquired and the affected duly compensated, as per law.
6. The farmers have been given paltry amounts as compensation. Special Rehabilitation Grant for the agricultural lands should be given at the rate of at least 1.5 lakhs to 2 lakhs per acre.
7. The fishing rights in the reservoir should in no case be given to the contractors. Instead full rights should be granted to the displaced fish workers on a priority basis.
8. All families who are arbitrarily excluded of or denied the due entitlements of rehabilitation should be given the same immediately, including house plots, livelihood grants etc.
9. NHDC must be punished as per law for its criminal act of causing the death of hundreds of people in Dharaji due to the sudden release of waters in 2004. NHDC should also be brought to book for the tragic death of an adivasi infant, last month in Kamankheda who died due to a sudden increase in the water level.