In midnight swoop, more than 300 villagers arrested from dharna site in Delhi
NARMADA AT CENTRESTAGE: CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat with the fasting Narmada Bachao Andolan activist, Medha Patkar, in New Delhi on Wednesday. The NBA leader has since been taken to hospital.
NEW DELHI: In a midnight swoop, the police on Wednesday removed the fasting Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader, Medha Patkar, to the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences. She has been on a hunger strike for the past eight days in protest against the raising of the Narmada dam. More than 300 tribals and villagers who were on dharna were arrested.
The NBA workers said about 1,200 police personnel used force to remove Ms. Patkar and prevent her companions from following her. They alleged that the police descended on the scene after most of the NBA supporters, including Rajinder Sachar, Kuldip Nayar, B.D. Sharma, Arundhati Roy, left the dharna site. Many protesters were roughed up, they alleged.
Earlier in the day, the Union Cabinet expressed concern at Ms. Patkar’s deteriorating health and appealed to her to call off her fast.
The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, reviewed the situation arising out of Ms. Patkar’s condition even as the former Prime Ministers, V.P. Singh and I.K. Gujral, and several prominent citizens appealed to him to intervene.
Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz, Social Justice and Employment Minister Meira Kumar and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Prithiviraj Chauhan would visit the villages, which faced displacement, and inspect resettlement villages in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the resettlement and rehabilitation sub-committee met here to review "compliance" with rehabilitation of the displaced families in the three Narmada riparian States of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. It was on the basis of this committee’s recommendation that the Narmada Control Authority gave its approval for raising the height of the dam from 110.64 to 121.92 metres on March 8. The Narmada tribunal award and the Supreme Court order say all displaced families should be resettled fully at least six months prior to raising the dam height.
Official sources said the clearance was accorded after giving Madhya Pradesh a May 15 deadline to ensure the rehabilitation of 4,000-odd families, who were paid cash compensation to buy land on their own. But the NBA says there is no provision for cash compensation in the award.
Speaking to mediapersons at the dharna site, Communist Party of India (Marxist) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat said the Government was answerable why the dam height was allowed to be raised when the Supreme Court order clearly said that unless there was full rehabilitation, there would be no submergence. Communist Party of India leaders A.B. Bardhan and D. Raja said the Centre must intervene. An NBA team met UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who expressed concern at Ms. Patkar’s health.