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Press Release                                 September 30, 1999

COURT RULES THAT AGITATIONS LIKE NBA ARE A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT
DHULE DHARNA ENTERS 7TH DAY
SUPPORT FROM MAHESHWAR OUSTEES

The sessions court in Nandurbar, Maharashtra has recently ruled that the agitations like Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) could not be restrained in view of the fundamental rights under Indian Constitution.

This was one of the observations in an order of the court made on Wednesday (29th September), quashing the preventive arrest of Medha Patkar and others of the NBA under section 151 of IPC. The court however, retained the police action against the 386 tribal and peasant agitators and arresting them at Dhadgaon on 23rd September under sections 144 IPC and 37 (1) of Bombay Police Act.

While setting aside the order of the promulgation of Sec. 151, the court observed that there were no specific allegations against the activists of Narmada Bachao Andolan and the contention that they were involved in committing cognizable offence appears to be unacceptable, therefore, the learned magistrate committed an error in this respect.

Dismissing the observations that the agitation cannot be stopped unless detenues were held in jail, the sessions court observed that, such an agitation cannot be restrained in view of the fundamental rights granted to detenue under the Indian Constitution. Merely the fact that the detenue has continued with agitation would not be sufficient to determine whether the presence of detenue in society is pre-judicial to the public or not, and it is difficult to accept the contention that if the detenues are released then they would create a law and order problem in the area in which the agitation was started.

The NBA has decided to challenge the imposition of the Sec. 144 in Akrani tehsil (Dist. Nandurbar) and the police action on that basis. "The Maharashtra government has resorted to such unjust tactics to avoid facing the real issues raised by the people" said Medha Patkar who has been in the Dhule central jail along with 385 other men and women from the valley.

Meanwhile, the indefinite dharna against the state government's adamancy in Dhule continued seventh day on Thursday (30th), with determination to challenge the state government. Five colleges in Dhule were closed today in support of the dharna by the Andolan to demand the answer from the government.

Over 250 peasants from the Maheshwar project affected area in the Narmada valley have today (Thursday) met in Mandaleshwar and sent a letter to the Maharashtra Chief Minister, Narayan Rane, condemning the insensitive and repressive attitude of the state government and its timidity to face the people.

European Parliament To Oppose SSP

The Andolan got the support from leaders across the political spectrum in the European Union, who have come out openly against the Sardar Sarovar project. The European politicians are likely to not only lobby their own governments but might also extend their campaign to the corporations and banks involved in the project. Wolfgang Kreissl-Dorfer, a Green Party member of the European Parliament from Germany, told rediff.com in Brussels recently that sentiment against potential environmental disasters like the Narmada project was building up. For starters, the issue will figure in the European Parliament as a resolution expressing concern over the situation in the Narmada Valley will be moved next week. The resolution, to be moved by the Green Party, will appeal to the Indian government not to go ahead with the Sardar Sarovar Project, due to the human and environmental costs of the project.

The resolution will also call upon the European Union Banks not to finance the project or companies involved in the project. It will also express open support for the people fighting the SSP. Kreissl-Dorfer says that several MEPs are seriously concerned over the social and environmental aspects of the project. He said that his group has been in touch with MEPs from other groupings like the Socialists and the Christian Democrats and expected widespread support for the resolution during the debate on it. Parliamentarians from France, Italy, Finland, Germany and Sweden are expected to play a leading role in the campaign.

Sanjay Sangvai
Shripad Dharmadhikari
Joe Athialy


Dhule (Contact Phone : 02562-34519)