Narmada Samachar: 24 April 2001

Headlines


All this (and more) news can be accessed via the Press Clippings page at:
     http://www.narmada.org/pressclippings.html
The NBA press releases are accessible at:
     http://www.narmada.org/pressrelease.html

Archives of Narmada Samachar are accessible at:
     http://www.narmada.org/scripts/subscribe.html


SSP-related news

NBA Press Release

R&R sub-group meeting defers further construction on the dam ;
NBA Press Release - April 20, 2001

Press Clippings

Medha, villagers seek probe into rehabilitation plan ; Hindustan Times- April 21
NBA seeks lowering of Sardar Sarovar dam height ; Times of India- April 20
NEW DELHI: The battle isn't over yet for Narmada Bachao Andolan(NBA).
Fighting for the rights of the dam oustees in the states of Gujarat,
Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, the NBA now says that at least the height
of the dam should be lowered from the present 90 metres to 80 metres.

With thousands of dam-affected families facing submergence in the
coming monsoon and the state governments having done little so far
on the rehabilitation front, the dam height should be reduced
to 80 metres, it says.
....
Medha Patkar's charges against Narmada basin States ; The Hindu- April 20
Monsoon spells doom for Narmada valley inhabitants ; The Hindustan Times- April 20
THOUSANDS OF people face submergence this monsoon in the Narmada Valley as
the height of the dam has been increased without any efforts to
rehabilitate them.

With a meeting of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) scheduled for
tomorrow in the Capital, Medha Patkar of Narmada Bachao Andolan addressed a
press conference to highlight the plight of the families affected by the
dam construction.

"In total violation of Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT), the relief
and rehabilitation of many affected families is incomplete even as the
government has gone ahead with constructing the dam walls to 90 metre
height. We demand that the dam wall be demolished to 80 metre height. It is
impossible to rehabilitate the thousands who would be affected this
monsoon," Patkar said.

According to Ms Patkar a lot of ex-parte allotment of non-existent land or
uncultivable land and dispersed land was going on in the name of
rehabilitation. "The Justice SM Dawood Committee of the Maharashtra
Government has found that these allotments were faulty. Allotments on paper
can not be proved as correct," Patkar said.
Villagers demand resettlement scheme ; The Hindu- April 16


Contempt case against Prashant Bhushan, Medha Patkar, and Arundhati Roy

NBA Press Release

Contempt Case Adjourned till August 7;
Medha, Arundhati assert rights of people and right to criticise the court
;
NBA Press Release - April 23, 2001

Affidavit filed by Prashant Bhushan ;
Affidavit filed by Medha Patkar ;
Affidavit filed by Arundhati Roy ;

Press Clippings

Roy, Patkar dare SC to take contempt action against them ; Indian Express- April 24, 2001
`NBA affidavits may be contemptuous' ; Times of India- April 24, 2001
SC takes dim view of Patkar, Roy affidavits; ; Times of India- April 24, 2001
....
The Bench said, ``The charges made in the petition against them (Patkar,
Roy and Bhushan) have been denied, but the tenor of the affidavits may
itself be contemptuous''.
....
The bench said with the affidavits filed, two ways were now open: One, to
drop the proceedings on the basis of the their denial, or two, to enquire
into the allegations. The original allegations made by some lawyers, who
had also filed FIRs against the three persons, might not be contemptuous
but the tenor of the present affidavits have to be looked into, the Bench
said.
....
The Bench also warned the complainant lawyers that ``if the allegations are
found to be false, you may be also sent to jail''.
....
Tenor of Medha's affidavits contemptous: Supreme Court ; The Hindustan Times- April 24, 2001
SC objects to Patkar's response ; The Hindu- April 24, 2001
Police have their way, protesters have their say ; The Hindu- April 24, 2001
Tenor of Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy's affidavits irk SC ; Rediff on the Net- April 23, 2001
I will continue to raise voice against injustice: Medha ; Deccan Herald- April 23, 2001
I'll help people fight injustice: Medha ; The Hindustan Times- April 23, 2001


Water issue

Rajasthan village learns to harvest water again, reaps riches ; Indian Express- April 24, 2001
Expert warns of damage to ecology ; Times of India- April 22, 2001
VADODARA: The recent reverse flow of sea into the Mahi river is
not a local phenomenon, it is a global phenomenon and in Gujarat
it has already led to pollution and salinity of many rivers like
Narmada, Tapi and Daman Ganga.

"If policies are not framed by the government to control damage
to down stream ecology of rivers as a result of bunds and dams,
South Gujarat too would one day become like Saurashtra and Kutch,"
warns Rohit Prajapati of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti. According
to him the TDS level that indicates the presence of solid particles
in water has already reached 2000 TDS in river Narmada at Bharuch.
....
Amid drought, this village is an oasis ; Times of India- April 21, 2001
Unicef doubts Gujarat's Narmada claim ; The Telegraph- April 19, 2001


Other News

Tribals in MP teak forest face govt wrath over 'naxalite' curse ; Indian Express- April 20, 2001
Man affected people demonstrate at Commissioner's office in Indore;
Temporary govt. camps completely unacceptable; Govt. must immediately
stop dam construction and give people land based rehabilitation
;
NBA Press Release - April 16, 2001

On the Tehelka expose and connections to the Narmada and other issues

'Peoples' organisations should capitalise on the anger generated by tehelka expose' ; Interview with Medha Patkar; Tehelka.com- April 13, 2001
'The Tehelka expose has given Vajpayee an opportunity to introspect' ; Interview with Swami Agnivesh; Tehelka.com- April 12, 2001
'You need a Chomsky' ; Interview with Arundhati Roy; Tehelka.com- April 2, 2001


Tehri Dam case

Bahuguna arrested ; Rediff on the Net- April 24, 2001
Environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna and 74 others were arrested
Tuesday morning as they were agitating against work being resumed
at the Tehri dam site. 

They have been taken to Narendranagar, Rajiv Nayan Bahuguna told
UNI over the telephone. 

Last Sunday, 84 people had been arrested. 

Rajiv, the son of Sunderlal, said the villagers had not
received adequate compensation from the government. 

Work on the dam resumed on Sunday after the arrests. 
Sunderlal Bahuguna later went on an indefinite fast. 

"I have seen a letter written by my father to the district authorities
informing them about his indefinite fast," Rajiv said.
Sunderlal Bahaguna and 74 others arrested ; Deccan Herald- April 24, 2001
Sunderlal Bahuguna, 75 others arrested ; Hindustan Times- April 24, 2001
Bahuguna joins villagers in staging dharna ; Times of India- April 24, 2001
Bahuguna stages dharna at Tehri ; Deccan Herald- April 24, 2001
Villagers stall construction work at Tehri dam ; Times of India- April 23, 2001
Villagers stall work at Tehri dam ; The Hindu- April 23, 2001
Bahuguna stages dharna at Tehri ; Deccan Herald- April 23, 2001
Work resumes at Tehri project: fifty people held ; Deccan Herald- April 23, 2001
Uttaranchal despair over dam stirs ; Indian Express- April 18, 2001


Feature Article: In defence of dissent - Arundhati Roy (affidavit filed in Supreme Court)

Outlook - April 23, 2001

I, Arundhati Roy, daughter of Mary Roy, resident of 2A Kautilya Marg, New 
Delhi 110021, do solemnly state and affirm as under. I have received the 
showcause notice issued by the Supreme Court and I have read and understood 
the contents of the contempt petition in which this notice has been issued.

My reply is as under: The gravamen of the charges in the petition against 
me are contained in the FIR that the petitioners say they lodged in the 
Tilak Marg police station on the 14th of December 2000.

The FIR is annexed to the main petition and is reproduced verbatim below.

First Information Report dated 14.12.2000

I, Jagdish Prasar, with colleagues Shri Umed Singh and Rajender were going 
out from Supreme Court at 7.00 pm and saw that Gate No. C was closed.

We came out from the Supreme Court premises from other path and inquired 
why the gate is close. The were surrounded by Prasant Bhusan, Medha Patekar 
and Arundhanti Roy alongwith their companion and they told Supreme Court 
your father's property. On this we told them they could not sit on Dharna 
by closing the gate. The proper place of Dharna is parliament. In the mean 
time Prastant Bhusan said."You Jagdish Prasar are the tout of judiciary. 
Again medha said "SALE KO JAAN SE MAAR DO (kill him). Arundhanti Roy 
commanded the crow that Supreme Court of India is the thief and all these 
are this touts. Kill them, Prasant Bhushan pulled by having caught my 
haired and said that if you would be seen in the Supreme Court again he 
would get them killed. But they were shouting inspite of the presence of 
S.H.O and ACP Bhaskar Tilak marg. We ran away with great with great 
hardship otherwise their goonda might have done some mischief because of 
their drunken state. Therefore, it is requested to you that proper action 
may be taken after registering our complaint in order to save on lives and 
property. We complainants will be highly obliged.

Sd. Complainants


The main petition is as shoddily drafted as the FIR. The lies, the 
looseness, the ludicrousness of the charges displays more contempt for the 
Apex Court than any of the offences allegedly
committed by Prashant Bhushan, Medha Patkar and myself. Its contents are 
patently false and malicious. The police station in Tilak Marg, where the 
FIR was lodged, has not registered a case. No policeman ever contacted me, 
there was no police investigation, no attempt to verify the charges, to 
find out whether the people named in the petition were present at the 
dharna, and whether indeed the incident described in the FIR (on which the 
entire contempt petition is based) occurred at all.

Under the circumstances, it is distressing that the Supreme Court has 
thought it fit to entertain this petition and issue notice directing me and 
the other respondents to appear personally in court on the 23rd of April 
2001, and to "continue to attend the Court on all the days thereafter to 
which the case against you stands and until final orders are passed on the 
charges against you. WHEREIN FAIL NOT."

For the ordinary working citizen, these enforced court appearances mean 
that in effect, the punishment for the uncommitted crime has already begun.

The facts relating to the petition are as follows:

Contrary to everything the petition says, insinuates and implies, I am not 
a leader of the Narmada Bachao Andolan.I am a writer, an independent 
citizen with independent views who supports and admires the cause of the 
Andolan. I was not a petitioner in the Public Interest Litigation petition 
in the case of the Sardar Sarovar Project. I am not an 'interested party'. 
Prashant Bhushan is not my lawyer and has never represented me.

Furthermore in all humility I aver that I do not know who the petitioners 
are. That I never tried to murder anybody, or incite anybody to murder 
anybody, in broad daylight outside the gates of the Supreme Court in full 
view of the Delhi police.

That I did not raise any slogans against the court. That I did not see 
Prashant Bhushan pulled anyone by having caught their haired and said that 
if you would be seen in the Supreme Court again he would get them killed. 
That I did not see Medha Patkar, leader of India's most prominent non-violent
resistance movement, metamorphose into a mediocre film actor and say "Sale 
ko jaan se maar do" (Kill the bastard). That I did not notice the presence 
of any "goondas" in a "drunken state". And finally, that my name is spelt 
wrong.

On the morning of the 13th of December 2000, I learned that people from the 
Narmada Valley had gathered outside the gates of the Supreme Court. When I 
arrived at the Supreme Court at about 11.30 am, gate No. C was already 
closed. Four to five hundred people were standing outside. Most of them 
were adivasi people who, as a consequence of the recent Supreme Court 
judgement that allowed the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam to 
proceed, will lose their lands and homes this monsoon to the rising waters 
of the reservoir. They have not been rehabilitated. In a few months they 
will be destitute and have nowhere to go. These people had travelled all 
the way from the Narmada Valley to personally convey their despair and 
anguish to the court. To tell the court that in contravention of its order, 
no land has been offered to them for rehabilitation and that the reality of 
the situation in the Narmada Valley is very different from the one 
portrayed in the Supreme Court Judgement. They asked the Registrar of the 
Court for a meeting with the Chief Justice.

A number of representatives of peoples' movements in Delhi, and other 
supporters of the Andolan like myself, were also there to express their 
solidarity. I would like to stress that I did not see Prashant Bhushan, the 
main accused in the petition, at the dharna. Medha Patkar, who was there, 
asked me to speak to the people for five minutes.

My exact words were: "Mujhe paanch minute bhi nahi chahiye aapke saamne 
apni baat rakhne ke liye. Mein aapke saath hoon." (I do not even need five 
minutes to tell you why I'm here. I'm here because I support you.) This is 
easy to verify as there were several film and television crews shooting the 
event. The villagers had cloth labels hung around their necks that said 
"Project Affected at 90 metres" (the current height of the dam). As time 
went by and it became clear that the request for a meeting with the Chief 
Justice was not going to be granted, people grew disheartened. Several 
people (who I don't know or recognise) made speeches critical of the Court, 
its inaccessibility to common people, and its process. Others spoke about 
corruption in the judiciary, about the judges and how far removed they are 
from ground realities. I admit that I made absolutely no attempt to 
intervene. I am not a policeman or a public official. As a writer I am 
deeply interested in peoples' perceptions of the functioning of one of the 
most important institutions in this country.

However, I would like to clarify that I have never, either in my writing, 
or in any public forum cast aspersions on the character or integrity of the 
judges. I believe that the reflexive instinct of the powerful to protect 
the powerful is sufficient explanation for the kind of iniquitous judgement 
as in the case of the Sardar Sarovar Project. I did not raise slogans 
against the court. I did not, as the petition claims, say "Supreme Court 
bika hua hai" (The Supreme Court has sold out). I certainly did not 
"command the crow that Supreme Court of India is the thief and all these 
are this touts." (Perhaps the petitioners meant 'crowd'?)

I went to the dharna because I have been deeply distressed and angered by 
the Supreme Court's majority—and therefore operative—verdict on the Sardar 
Sarovar Project. The verdict allowed the project to proceed even though the 
court was well aware that the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal had been 
consistently violated for thirteen years. That not a single village had 
been resettled according to the directives of the tribunal, and that the 
Madhya Pradesh Government (which is responsible for 80 per cent of the 
oustees) had given a written affidavit in court stating that it has no land 
to resettle them. In effect, the Supreme Court ordered the violation of the 
fundamental rights to life and livelihood of hundreds of thousands of 
Indian citizens, most of them Dalit and Adivasi.

As a consequence of the Supreme Court judgement, it is these unfortunate 
citizens who stand to lose their homes, their livelihoods, their gods and 
their histories. When they came calling on the Supreme Court on the morning 
of the 13th of December 2000, they were asking the Court to restore their 
dignity. To accuse them of lowering the dignity of the Court suggests that 
the dignity of the court and the dignity of Indian citizens are 
incompatible, oppositional, adversarial things. That the dignity of one can 
only exist at the cost of the other. If this is so, it is a sad and 
shameful proposition. In his Republic Day speech, President K.R. Narayanan 
called upon the nation, and specifically the judiciary, to take special 
care of these fragile communities. He said, "The developmental path we have 
adopted is hurting them, the marginalised, the Scheduled Castes and 
Scheduled Tribes, and threatening their very existence."

I believe that the people of the Narmada Valley have the constitutional 
right to protest peacefully against what they consider an unjust and unfair 
judgement. As for myself, I have every right to participate in any peaceful 
protest meeting that I choose to. Even outside the gates of the Supreme 
Court. As a writer I am fully entitled to put forward my views, my reasons 
and arguments for why I believe that the judgement in the Sardar Sarovar 
case is flawed and unjust and violates the human rights of Indian citizens. 
I have the right to use all my skills and abilities such as they are, and 
all the facts and figures at my disposal, to persuade people to my point of 
view.

The petition is a pathetic attempt to target what the petitioners perceive 
to be the three main fronts of the resistance movement in the Narmada 
Valley. The activist Medha Patkar, leader of the Narmada Bachao Andolan and 
representative of the people in the valley; the lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, 
legal counsel for the Narmada Bachao Andolan; and the writer (me), who is 
seen as one of those who carries the voice of the Andolan to the world 
outside.It is significant that this is the third time that I, as a writer, 
have had to face legal harassment connected with my writing.

In July 1999, the three-judge bench in the Supreme Court hearing the public 
interest petition on the Sardar Sarovar Project took offence at my essay 
The Greater Common Good published in Outlook and Frontline magazines. While 
the waters rose in the Narmada, while villagers stood in their homes in 
chest-deep water for days on end, protesting the Court's interim order, the 
Supreme Court held three hearings in which the main topic they discussed 
was whether or not the dignity of the Court had been violated by my essay. 
On the 15th of October 1999, without giving me an opportunity to be heard, 
the Court passed an insulting order. Here is an extract:

"...Judicial process and institution cannot be permitted to be scandalised 
or subjected to contumacious violation in such a blatant manner in which it 
has been done by her...vicious stultification and vulgar debunking cannot 
be permitted to pollute the stream of justice...we are unhappy at the way 
in which the leaders of nba and Ms Arundhati Roy have attempted to 
undermine the dignity of the Court. We expected better behaviour from them..."

The order contained a veiled warning to me not to continue with my 
"objectionable writings".

In 1997 a criminal case for Corrupting Public Morality was filed against me 
in a district magistrate's court in Kerala for my book The God of Small 
Things. It has been pending for the last four years. I have had to hire 
criminal lawyers, draft affidavits and travel all the way to Kerala to 
appear in court.

And now I have to defend myself on this third, ludicrous charge.

As a writer I wish to state as emphatically as I can that this is a 
dangerous trend. If the Court uses the Contempt of Court law, and allows 
citizens to abuse its process to intimidate and harass writers, it will 
have the chilling effect of interfering with a writer's imagination and the 
creative act itself. This fear of harassment will create a situation in 
which even before a writer puts pen to paper, she will have to anticipate 
what the Court might think of her work. It will induce a sort of enforced, 
fearful self-censorship. It would be bad for law, worse for literature and 
sad for the world of art and beauty.

I have written and published several essays and articles on the Narmada 
issue and the Supreme Court judgement. None of them was intended to show 
contempt to the Court. However, I have every right to disagree with the 
Court's views on the subject and to express my disagreement in any 
publication or forum that I choose to. Regardless of everything the 
operative Supreme Court judgement on the Sardar Sarovar says, I continue to 
be opposed to Big Dams. I continue to believe that they are economically 
unviable, ecologically destructive and deeply undemocratic. I continue to 
believe that the judgement disregarded the evidence placed before the 
Court. I continue to write what I believe. Not to do so would undermine the 
dignity of writers, their art, their very purpose. I need hardly add that I 
also believe that those who hold the opposite point of view to mine, those 
who wish to disagree with my views, criticise them or denounce them, have 
the same rights to free speech and expression as I do.

I left the dharna at about 6 pm. Until then, contrary to the lurid scenario 
described in the petitioners' FIR, I can state on oath that no blood was 
spilled, no mob was drunk, no hair was pulled, no murder attempted.A little 
khichdi was cooked and consumed. No litter was left. There were over a 
hundred police constables and some senior police officers present. Though I 
would very much like to, I cannot say in good conscience that I have never 
set eyes on the petitioners because I don't know who they are or what they 
look like. They could have been any one of the hundreds of people who were 
milling around on that day.

But whoever they are, and whatever their motives, for the petitioners to 
attempt to misuse the Contempt of Court Act and the good offices of the 
Supreme Court to stifle criticism and stamp out dissent strikes at the very 
roots of the notion of democracy.

In recent months this Court has issued judgements on several major public 
issues. For instance, the closure of polluting industries in Delhi, the 
conversion of public transport buses from diesel to cng, and the judgement 
permitting the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam to proceed. All of 
these have had far-reaching and often unanticipated impacts. They have 
materially affected, for better or for worse, the lives and livelihoods of 
millions of Indian citizens. Whatever the justice or injustice of these 
judgements, whatever their finer legal points, for the Court to become 
intolerant of criticism or expressions of dissent would mark the beginning 
of the end of democracy.

An 'activist' judiciary, that intervenes in public matters to provide a 
corrective to a corrupt, dysfunctional executive, surely has to be more, 
not less accountable. To a society that is already convulsed by political 
bankruptcy, economic distress and religious and cultural intolerance, any 
form of judicial intolerance will come as a crippling blow. If the 
judiciary removes itself from public scrutiny and accountability, and 
severs its links with the society that it was set up to serve in the first 
place, it would mean that yet another pillar of Indian democracy will 
crumble. A judicial dictatorship is as fearsome a prospect as a military 
dictatorship or any other form of totalitarian rule.

The Tehelka tapes broadcast recently on a national television network show 
the repulsive sight of Presidents of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the 
Samata Party (both part of the ruling coalition) accepting bribes from 
spurious arms dealers. Though this ought to have been considered prima 
facie evidence of corruption, the Delhi High Court declined to entertain a 
petition seeking an inquiry into the defence deals that were referred to in 
the tapes. The bench took strong exception to the petitioner approaching 
the court without substantial evidence and even warned the petitioner's 
counsel that if he failed to substantiate its allegations, the court would 
impose costs on the petitioner.

On the grounds that judges of the Supreme Court were too busy, the Chief 
Justice of India refused to allow a sitting judge to head the judicial 
inquiry into the Tehelka scandal, even though it involves matters of 
national security and corruption in the highest places.

Yet, when it comes to an absurd, despicable, entirely unsubstantiated 
petition in which all the three respondents happen to be people who have 
publicly—though in markedly different ways—questioned the policies of the 
government and severely criticised a recent judgement of the Supreme Court, 
the Court displays a disturbing willingness to issue notice.

It indicates a disquieting inclination on the part of the Court to silence 
criticism and muzzle dissent, to harass and intimidate those who disagree 
with it.By entertaining a petition based on an FIR that even a local police 
station does not see fit to act upon, the Supreme Court is doing its own 
reputation and credibility considerable harm.

In conclusion, I wish to reaffirm that as a writer I have the right to 
state my opinions and beliefs. As a free citizen of India I have the right 
to be part of any peaceful dharna, demonstration or protest march. I have 
the right to criticise any judgement of any court that I believe to be 
unjust. I have the right to make common cause with those I agree with. I 
hope that each time I exercise these rights I will not dragged to court on 
false charges and forced to explain my actions.

The petitioners have committed civil and criminal defamation. They ought to 
be investigated and prosecuted for perjury. They ought to be made to pay 
damages for the time they have wasted of this Apex Court by filing these 
false charges. Above all they ought to be made to apologise to all those 
citizens who are patiently awaiting the attention of the Supreme Court in 
more important matters.