September 25, 1999
INDEFINITE DHARNA IN DHULE AGAINST ARRESTS
NBA DEMANDS UNCONDITIONAL RELEASE, DIALOGUE AND COMPENSATION
Hundreds of adivasis (tribals) and peasants from Narmada valley have launched
indefinite dharna (sit-in) in front of the Central Jail in Dhule (Maharashtra), on
Saturday (25th) demanding the unconditional release of about 375 men and women
arrested by the state government on Thursday (23rd), in Dhadgaon. They took
a rally through the streets of the town braving the rains, while the groups
of village people continued to join in all day long.
They are also demanding revoking of the prohibitory orders under sec. 144
I.P.C., promulgated in Akrani tehsil preventing any mass action against the
unjust submergence. The people, along with their supporters from Dhule,
Malegaon, Pune, Mumbai, Kerala, Karnataka etc. have also demanded that the state
government must send some responsible and senior official to respond to the
basic issues regarding the submergence and displacement in the Narmada valley.
The people also demanded the assessment of the losses and destruction of farms
and houses due to the submergence.
The action follows the arrest and beating by the Maharashtra police of 375
tribal and peasant men and women, activists and supporters on September 23rd.
The police action is a sequel to the earlier action of taking into custody the
satyagrahis who were daring neck deep submergence waters in Domkhedi and
other villages. Among those arrested are the main activists like Dadlya
Karbhari, Noorji Padvi, Ranyabhhau Padvi, Luwariya Karbhari, Sitarambhai
Patidar, Devrambhai Kanera, Ashish Mandloi, Ravikumar, Dr. Sugan Baranth and
"The Government Maharashtra has arrested the Narmada satyagrahis not to save
them but to save itself from the responsibility of responding to the basic
issues raised by the people", said Medha Patkar while reacting to the claims
made by the state government officials regarding the Dhadgaon arrests. The arrests were
made after the people launched an indefinite dharna in Dhadgaon from September
22 to demand that the state government must send some senior and responsible
functionary to respond to the issues raised by the people. The government must
not hide behind the police action to sideline the basic reason behind the
satyagraha and talk with the people. However, the government has again chosen
the option of police action.
The Resolve And Reaction
The state government could not respond to the valiant struggle by the
satyagrahi people in the valley against the unjust submergence and
displacement. The "samarpit dal" (Dedicated Squad) of the satyagraha,
including Medha Patkar, Devrambhai and Sitarambhai Patidar were in neck
deep swirling backwaters of the SSP submergence. They had asked other
satyagrahis to leave the place to take care of the future of the Andolan. The
police made a last minute appearance and arrested them after beating the people.
When over 300 people were taken to Dhadgaon and released, they decided to
launch the dharna.
The manner in which the Chief Minister of Maharashtra has reacted to the
reflects his ignorance and misleading information provided by his officials
regarding the Andolan and its issues. We wonder whether he adequately
understands the seriousness of the life and death struggle by the satyagrahis,
staking their lives till the waters rose upto their necks in the swirling
waters of Narmada. His allegation that
the Andolan had encroached on the lands of the tribals is, to say the least comical. Thereby, it seems his advisers might be trying to
trivialise the issue of the earlier adivasi encroachers on the land earmarked
in Taloda and Akkalkua tehsils for the Narmada oustees. This is dangerous and
the Chief Minister must recognise that there has been a genuine problem of the
earlier encroachers, for which government's own policies have been responsible.
We reiterate that the claims of Government of Maharashtra regarding the
availability of the resettlement through the false affidavits in the apex court
have been exposed before the affected people in the valley. We assert that the
Chief Minister would not be able to break the people's movement as he had
Meanwhile, the Andolan has received a message from the Prime Minister Atal
Behari Vajpayee, asking Medha Patkar and her colleagues not to resort to
actions like "Jal samarpan". He conceded that the Narmada issue was a complex
one defying any facile solutions and rehabilitation issue a problematic one.
The Andolan would be responding to the concern shown by the Prime Minister.
of now, suffice to say that such a complex issue needs to be addressed in a
democratic, participatory manner and be reviewed in a comprehensive manner
for the sake of national interest. Any work on the dam and further displacement of the people would make the issue more vexed.
The Satyagraha in Domkhedi is continuing with the villagers ad supporters from
many parts of India camping in the village. The water had submerged the two
houses of Satyagraha in last week. Now, one hut is hospitable and satygrahis
are camping there and continuing with the usual satyagraha chores.