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Press Release                                 September 23, 1999

386 arrested in Dhadgaon as police clamp SEC. 144;
Many beaten up badly, dragged, without food

Three hundred and eighty six people (including 55 women and 11 children) sitting on an indefinite dharna in Dhadgaon (Maharashtra) were arrested today morning as the authorities clamped Sec. 144. in this tehsil HQ. The police behaved in a very bad manner, beating and badly dragging the people, including women. Medha Patkar, who is also among those arrested, was also dragged by the police. Activists Ravi, Ashish were among those badly beaten.

The arrested people were presented before the Magistrate after the arrest. The people unanimously refused to take personal bond for the release but demanded that the police release them unconditionally as they had committed no crime. The people have been charged under Sec. 144, 188 of the IPC and 37/1/35 of Bombay Police Act. It is not known what orders the magistrate has made after the people refused personal bond, but the police are taking them to some unknown place, possibly Dhule or Aurangabad.

Just outside Dhadgoan, the police stopped for food but as there was not enough food for everyone, the arrested people moved on to the roads and blocked the road in protest. The people were still sitting on the road block as this note was being written.

It may be recollected that Medha Patkar and 300 people were arrested and brought to Dhadgaon, by the police late Tuesday night after an intense fight by people of the Narmada valley, as the waters reached neck deep level of the Samarpit Dal at the Domkhedi Satyagraha House and as waters entered villages destroying fields and homes, for the third time this season. After these, hundreds of tribals started moving towards Dhadgaoan, and even as Medha Patkar and others were released, had started an indefinite dharna in Dhadgaon since yesterday evening.

The dharna was started with a demand that the Government initiate a dialogue with the people and answer their questions and to protest against the suppression of the real issues through the police actions against the satyagrahis who have been challenging the increase in back waters due to the Sardar Sarovar dam.

In a statement, Medha Patkar had said: "When people have been raising the basic issues and have been challenging injustice, the response of the State Government was to trivialize it with the police actions. This is not at all a law and order problem but the situation has arisen due to the wrong policies and actions regarding the dam and displacement on the part of Maharashtra rulers. It is the question of tribals rights."

The people arrested are demanding that the Government stop the cat-and-mouse game with them of arresting and releasing and rearresting. People are serious on their demand and their resolve. The State Government cannot shirk from its responsibility by hiding behind the police. They demanded that the Chief Secretary or some such functionary of the State Government must come to Dhadgaon where the people were detained and answer their questions.

OTHER ACTIONS

Meanwhile, the water levels in the Jalsindhi Satyagraha centre in M.P. receded today even as the tribals had braved and stood in 1.5 feet deep water for 24 hours.

About 50 people from Kerala, Bangalore and other places have reached the satyagraha centres today to express solidarity and support to the struggle.

From Thailand, the people affected by the Pak Mun dam, who have occupied the dam site since April this year, setting up de facto township with over 8000 people demanding that the dam be removed, have conveyed their solidarity to the Narmada struggle and have said that everyday at 7.00 pm, the people sitting at the Pak Mun dam are offering prayers in support of the Narmada struggle.

Nandini Oza, Sukumar M.K., NBA