Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar was arrested today when she was on her way to Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh to meet the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) oustees, the police said. “We have arrested her as she insisted on going back to meet the oustees. We have told her that it is not possible to allow her to go to Dhar as section 144, CrPc has been imposed in the area,” Ajay Sharma, Additional Director General of Police (ADGP), Indore range, said.
The police stopped Patkar and informed her that she could not proceed to Dhar, but as she refused to relent, she was placed under arrest at the border of Indore and Dhar districts, and subsequently, taken to Dhar, he added. “We will ask her to furnish a bond stating that section 144 will not be violated. If she furnishes it, we will release her,” the ADGP said.
Subsequently, Patkar was produced before a sub-divisional judicial magistrate at Dhar who sent her to jail. Patkar (62) and 11 others were forcibly removed from Chikhalda in Dhar on August 7, where they were staging an indefinite fast demanding a proper rehabilitation of the oustees, and were admitted in different hospitals.
Earlier in the day, Patkar was discharged from a private hospital in Indore after her condition improved. After she was discharged from the Bombay Hospital, Patkar said her indefinite fast would continue.
Patkar (62) and the other activists have been fasting for 14 days. “Medicines were administered through drips to the fasting agitators in various hospitals but none of us has eaten food so far. We demand the oustees be allowed to stay in their original dwellings till proper arrangements are made for their rehabilitation,” Patkar, who came out of the hospital on a wheelchair, told reporters.
She claimed that the process of rehabilitation of the displaced people in the Narmada valley was yet to be completed. “At many places, even drinking water is not available. But the state government is insisting the people to go to these places. This situation is not acceptable to the oustees and therefore, they continue to stay put at their original dwellings,” she added.
Patkar said a special leave petition (SLP) came up before the Supreme Court yesterday, but it was dismissed as a related case was pending before the Madhya Pradesh High Court. “The hearing in the case is scheduled tomorrow in the high court. On behalf of the dam oustees, we appeal to the judiciary to deliver justice in the matter,” she added.
Patkar termed as “incorrect” Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s “claims” that different decisions of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal on the issue of rehabilitation were being followed by his government. “The state government is just making announcements, statements and giving out figures, but is doing nothing on the issue,” she alleged.
Asked about her future course of action, the activist said a plan to stage a “big agitation” would be finalised soon. Patkar alleged that after her removal from the site of the fast, she was kept in an “illegal” custody in the hospital. “I was allowed to meet only two-three persons. They also did not allow me to use my mobile phone,” she claimed.
However, Indore Divisional Commissioner Sanjay Dube dismissed Patkar’s charge. “Every hospital has its own rules. In view of the health condition of the patient, the management did not allow every visitor to go to the ICU (where Patkar was admitted). Still, some were allowed to meet her,” he said. Dube said Patkar was admitted in the hospital on a written advice of doctors that her life was in danger due to the fast.
Thousands of families, living along the banks of the Narmada river in Barwani, Dhar, Alirajpur and Khargone districts of Madhya Pradesh, are at the risk of getting displaced with the closing of the gates of the Sardar Sarovar dam in neighbouring Gujarat and the resultant rise in the water level in its catchment area. The Centre recently gave the nod for closing the gates of the dam. The dam is likely to be filled to its capacity by August-end.