Narmada Bachao Andolan [NBA] activist Medha Patkar, who is on an indefinite hunger strike since July 27, got arrested by the Madhya Pradesh police on Monday. The police also detained five others from the Pandal in Chikhalda village on the banks of Narmada River, where Patkar and her supporters were on indefinite hunger strike against the forcible displacement of people in Narmada Valley.
According to Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), about 2,000 police personnel marched to the protest site and resorted to lathi charge to remove Patkar’s supporters before taking her away. This took place just a day before the scheduled hearing of a petition filed by a group of activists and affected villagers.
While implementing the dam project, the respective state government and Centre failed to give proper rehabilitation to affected people. As a result, after the closure of gates of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, two Lakh people from 192 villages and one township were forcefully evicted out of their homes.
A statement issued by NBA before Patkar’s arrest said, “We wanted dialogue. However, they had no reply to the arguments we had put forward to contradict their web of statistical lies. Hence, they are using force”.
Though Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan did deny the arrest of Patkar, he did not shy away from putting up a tweet wishing the activist a ‘long and healthy life’. Patkar was admitted to Indore hospital after doctors advised against her deplorable health conditions.
Patkar’s arrest took place even after 50 international organizations, including Association for India’s Development, the Asian Human Rights Commission, Landless Workers Movement – Brazil and International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs - Copenhagen, extended their support to the NBA.
According to an NBA release, 21 Goldman Environmental prize winning organisations have also written “a collective letter”, urging Modi to “ensure the fundamental rights of life and livelihood of the people in a democratic country.”
Meanwhile, condemning the forceful arrest of Patkar and five others, All India Kisan Sabha [AIKS] along with Bhumi Adhikar Andolan, has released a statement against the state violence on peaceful agitators. They have called for a protest all over Madhya Pradesh, at state and regional centers across the country, against the authoritarian State Government.
“AIKS appeals to all its units to send message to MP Chief Minister to withdraw the criminal act of closing the gates of Narmada Dam without rehabilitating and compensating 40000 households in Narmada valley,” said the statement.
Exposing the position of BJP-led state and central governments on this issue, the statement added: “This type of authoritarian and violent attack on peaceful sit-in hunger Strike is unacceptable in democratic system”.
On the other hand, AIKS General Secretary Hannan Mollah and Adivasi Adhikaar Rashtriya Manch Convenor Jitendra Choudhary, along with the representatives of different constituents of the Bhumi Adhikar Andolan, sat on a Dharna in Delhi, to show solidarity with the people of Narmada Valley.