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Press Release                                 September 22, 1999

Medha Patkar and 300 people still under arrest at Dhadgaon
Indefinite Dharna starts as villagers from the Narmada Villages reach Dhadgaon
People at Jalsindhi still in one feet water - Satyagraha continues

Medha Patkar and 300 people were arrested and brought to Dhadgaon, by the police late last 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. The Samarpit Dal was neck deep in water at Domkhedi, for more than 28 hours before they were arrested. Waters also entered people's homes and fields at Sikka, Bharad, Pipalchop where people were in 2-3 feet water for hours. All the three hundred arrested and brought to Dhadgaon are still under arrest.

Meanwhile hundreds of villagers from the Narmada valley and the surrounding area are walking towards Dhadgaon where an indefinite Dharana starts to demanded that the Government of Maharashtra must initiate a dialogue with the people and answer their questions . The indefinite sit in at Dhadgaon is to protest against the suppression of the real issues through the police actions against the satyagrahis who have been challenging the increase in back water due to the Sardar Sarovar dam.

In a statement Medha Patkar 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 cat and mouse games with them of arresting and releasing and rearresting. People are serious on their demand and their resolve. The State Government cannot shrink 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.

On the other hand, the increase in water in the Narmada had entered the lowest house of the village Jalsindhi and its satyagraha house where more than a hundred people including Luharia, Bawa Muharia, and others have been sitting in 1 to 1.5 feet of water since yesterday afternoon. It is important to note that this is just the starting of submergence in MP where more than 193 villages are to be submerged, consisting of 33,000 families. The Madhya Pradesh Government has not yet given land to a single family in its state. It is important to note that the Madhya Pradesh Government has not yet been able to rehabilitate those displaced years ago by the Bargi, Tawa, Sukta, Barna, etc. dams built on the Narmada and its tributaries. Also the track record of the performance of already existing dams in MP is very poor, for example, the Bargi dam has submerged more land than it is irrigating today as MP Government has no money to build the canals. Against this background, the MP Government cannot be pardoned to have allowed submergence in MP due to SSP and for having started other dams in the Narmada valley like the Narmada Sagar and Maheshwar dams.

Meanwhile support groups are continuing programs against the Government and in support of the demands of NBA in both Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. At Bombay, activists of Samajwadi Janparishad, National Alliance of People's Movements, various small groups in and around Thane district blocked the main road of the metropolis. At Mandleshwar in MP, the people of the Maheshwar dam affected area met the SDM in large number and registered their protest. At Badwani people of the plains of Nimad and in the submergence area of SSP had a rally at the district head quarters and told the collector that they will drown but not move if waters are allowed to rise further and condemned the flooding of the village Jalsindhi.

Rehmat
Nandini Oza