Social activist Medha Patkar was Wednesday detained along with dozens of others in Chhota Udepur district in Gujarat, when they were on their way to join a protest by the Narmada dam-affected people, police said. The dam-affected people have been protesting at Kevadiya in Narmada district. According to a police official, the activists, including Patkar, were detained on the Gujarat-Madhya Pradesh border near Kawant town in Chhota Udepur district.
“A group of people, who were on their way to Chhota Udepur, were detained at Kavta check-post on Gujarat-Madhya Pradesh border,” the police official from Kawant police station said. Chhota Udepur in-charge superintendent of police Dharmendra Parmar could not be reached despite repeated attempts, but district collector Vijay Kharadi said the detention was made under a notification issued by the collector under section 144 of CrPC prohibiting unlawful assembly.
“They were detained as per the notification under section 144 of CrPC, which prohibits unlawful assembly or processions in the district,” Kharadi said. Patkar, along with environmental activist Prafulla Samantara and around five dozen activists from Narmada Bachao Andolan- an NGO fighting for the rights of tribals affected by dams build across Narmada river–were on their way to Kevadiya in Narmada district, where Narmada Dam is located, to express solidarity with several dam displaced tribals from the area.
The tribals have been protesting since the last eleven months against the “poor” facilities provided to them in colonies for the project affected. Narmada Bachao Andolan, in a statement, said that the detention was “undemocratic” and an “attack on the constitutional rights of people.”
“We condemn the attack by the Gujarat government and the intent of police officials, who have been rampant on suppressing the people’s voices and their constitutional rights…It is an attack on the constitutional rights of people,” it said.
The ‘Rally for the Valley’ organised by Narmada Bachao Andolan planned to stop by Kevadiya before proceeding to Chimalkhedi in Maharashtra and visit Jeevanshala, a school run by Narmada Navnirmal Abhiyaan. Over a dozen agitators from Kevadiya were also detained last night by local police.