A nine-member fact-finding team from Delhi comprising women activists, which had gone to take stock of the situation at the site of Kanhar Irrigation Project in Sonbhadra district on Monday, was forced to leave following aggressive stance taken by those in support of the construction of the dam, work for which has resumed since Sunday.
The members of the team, which included Kavita Krishnan (CPIL-ML politburo member) and Priya Pillai of Greenpeace, alleged that the mob supporting the construction of the Kanhar dam was sponsored by the state police, which began harassing them from the moment they entered the district.
The administration officials said the mob threatened to get violent and, therefore, the team had to be evacuated to safety.
Following violence twice in one week, adequate force continued to be deployed at the spot in Amwar village. The administration has assured relief to the villagers opposing the project.
Debadityo Sinha of Vindhya Bachao organisation, who was part of the fact-finding team, said: “After being subjected to multiple checks, we somehow managed to reach Duddhi (in Sonbhadra) by Sunday evening. The policemen consistently told us that Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code had been promulgated in the area. We somehow managed to reach the local hospital where at least 15 people injured in police action were admitted.”
Sinha added that the team had barely spent 15 to 20 minutes when a mob gathered outside the hospital, calling them “bandh virodhi (opposers of the dam)” and demanding they leave immediately.
“We have videographed policemen laughing with the members of the mob. Why was there no Section 144 for them?” he asked.
On her twitter account, Kavita Krishnan posted that the state police was preventing the team from visiting the site because “it was hiding things”. The team later met Sonbhadra DM and lodged a formal protest.
Sonbhadra Additional District Magistrate Manilal Yadav said: “We ensured that the team was taken out in time. The mob was getting angry and was shouting that they should leave. Work on the site has resumed. The administration has already accepted most of the demands of the villagers who are going to be displaced. Even now, constant meetings are being held with them to ensure there is no communication gap.”
Prabhu Singh, a senior office-bearer of the Kanhar Banao Sangharsh Samiti, said: “The locals feel that there are some NGOs that are against this project, even though it is going to be beneficial overall to the entire area, which is dry. When the news spread that ‘some NGOs’ had come to stall the project, people gathered in large numbers to protest. Had the administration not whisked them out of the area to safety, anything could have happened.”
Debadityo Sinha informed that the team has now reached Varanasi and it is likely that social activists Sandeep Pandey and Medha Patkar may visit the site on Tuesday.
The first incident of violence on Kanhar Irrigation Project — which officially started in 1980-81 but picked pace only towards the end of 2014 — took place on April 15, in which an Inspector was badly injured and one tribal leader, Akku, sustained gunshot injuries.
On Saturday last (April 18), violence had broken out again when the police tried to remove those who were blocking the construction work. Two Circle Officers, an Inspector and two other constables, besides 17 villagers, were injured then.
On the same evening, however, a delegation had met the district administration and presented a charter of demands after which the DM had assured affected villagers will be provided relief.