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Press Release                                 September 18, 1999

MEDHA AND SIXTY MORE VILLAGERS DETAINED AT PIPALCHOP WHILE FACING THE SUBMERGENCE OF SSP
SATYAGRAHA CONTINUES

Over sixty more people were detained alongwith the main activists Ranya Padvi and Medha Pakar at Pipalchop village in the Narmada valley on Saturday (18th) when they were underground in the village to dare the submergence as a part of ongoing satyagraha against the Sardar Sarovar Project(SSP). The backwater level at damsite was 97.41 meters in the evening, thereby threatening the vilages and satyagraha places in the valley. The satyagraha house in Piplachop was submerged while that in Domkhedi too must have been affected by the floodwaters.

While the Maharashtra police had taken into custody on Friday and later released today 69 villagers and activists stationed in Pipalchop, they were searching for one of the main activists, Medha Patkar, as she became untracable at the time of the police action on Friday (17th). She alongwith the other satyagrahi villagers were not found by the police for over 24 hours. Today, a large contingent of police went to the villages to apprehend the protestors. The satyagrahis at Domkhedi too were taken into custody.

The floodwaters of SSP were hardly 1-1/2 meters below the Satyagraha house in Jalsindhi (M.P.) where number of main activists alongwith the village representatives are present to face the submergence. The waters had almost entered in the Domkhedi satyagraha house where another batch of the villagers sat to dare the submergence.

The swirling waters are also threatening the residence of the veteran Baba Amte, though they have not reached upto the danger level, in village Kasaravad in M.P. According to the Commisioner of Indore region, the water level on Saturday afternoon at Badwani (Rajghat), was 125.250 meters, while Baba's house was at the elevation of 129 meters. However, the water level was at 126.75 at noon today according to the offical measurement at Rajghat.

The waters had started rising alarmingly from Wednesday (15th) due to heavy and continuous and unprecedented dowpour in Hoshangabad and Jabalpur regions. This was compounded by the opening of the gates of the Bargi, Tawa and Barna in Madhya Pradesh. There have been torrential rains in and around Jabalpur and Hoshangabad, inundating number of villages. As a result all the 21 gates of Bargi dam were opened with 5,00,000 cusecs of water being released from Tawa dam 100,000 cusecs and from Barna 10,000 cusecs of water is being released. This has increased the water level tremendously, which would further exacerbate the situation, threatening Jalsindhi and other villages in Alirajpur tehsil in M.P. In 1994, with similar torrential rains, the backwaters had gone back as far as the villages in Nimad plains in M.P.

The people protesting against the unjust submergence and displacement in Jalsindhi and Domkhedi had reiterated their resolve not to move out even if they were submerged. This time the satyagrahis dispersed in villages affected by the submergence. They were in Domkhedi, Jalsindhi, as well as in Pipalchop, Nimgavhan, Bharad, Sikka and other villages. The police had made preventive detention of some 69 satyagrahis from Pipalchop under sections of 68 of Cr.P.C.8 on 17th afternoon from Piplachop, except Medha and number of senior village leaders like Ranya Padvi. The detained people were released today afternoon at Dhadgaon, while Medha and others are being taken to Dhadgaon tonight.

The people in the Narmada valley have undertaken the Satyagraha against the unjust increase in the height of the SSP by 5 meters and consequent submergence and forcible displacement. The main activists like Medha Patkar and orthers have questioned the very propriety of the permision granted by the court for such an increase in view of the abysmal condition of the rehabilitation and other basic issues remaining unanswered. They declared that they would face the submergence waters and also would commit " Jal Samarpan", if the height of the dam is increased further than this without deciding about the basic issues through a new tribunal and people's participation. The people dared the first bout of submergence on 10-11 August, when about 40 people were in the waist deep submergence water for over 15 hours.

The people have resolved to continue their tenacious battle against the dam and forcible submergence and displacement.

Sanjay Sangvai