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Court reprimands MP Government for arresting 91

Court reprimands MP Government for arresting 91 anti-dam protestors


by Bobby Ramakant

The Jabalpur High Court reprimanded the Madhya Pradesh State Government on 25 September 2007, for illegally arresting and detaining 91 people in jail, who were peacefully demonstrating for their land rights at Taloon on 25 July 2007.

The court orders the state Government to pay Rs 10,000 to each of the above 91 people as compensation for violating their fundamental rights on the basis of Article 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. A total of Rs 9,10,000 should be paid to the anti-dam agitators.

The 25 page above order of the Court states that the State government may recover the total compensation from officials found responsible, after conducting a special enquiry, or pay the amount directly. The bench consisted of the Chief Justice AK Patnaik and Justice Ajit Singh.

Earlier on the evening of 25 July 2007, a huge police force came down on the adivasis, fishworkers and farmers who were peacefully agitating as part of the "Zameen Hak Satyagraha", demanding land-for-land rehabilitation instead of cash compensation.

"Today's verdict is yet another victory for the Narmada Bachao Andolan and people's movements at large. The verdict affirms the rights of the affected people to agitate peacefully and assert their right to land and livelihood. The peaceful and legitimate agitation by the Sardar Sarovar Dam affected people of the Narmada valley, for right to life and livelihood, continues irrespective of efforts by the authorities to sabotage and suppress the movement of the people" said frontline leader of Narmada Bachao Andolan Medha Patkar.

"The Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award, The Supreme Court orders, Constitutional rights of citizens, all stand violated as submergence without rehabilitation continue to happen in the valley, year after year. 22 years of persistent struggle by NBA has achieved much in terms of rehabilitation and without struggle, the remaining populations will not get their due, especially in Madhya Pradesh" stressed Arundhati Dhuru, another senior NBA activist.

MP Government had stated earlier that not enough appropriate land is available for land-to-land rehabilitation of every eligible displaced person.

Therefore the movement continues to gain ground with water level rising in the valley. The main demands include:

  • Land-based rehabilitation for the dam-affected families. More than 2 lakhs people still remain in the submergence area
  • Adivasis already affected at 122 meters of the dam, should be immediately given land-based rehabilitation
  • Height of the Dam should be stayed at 122 meters and not built any further till rehabilitation work is completed
  • Cancellation of Special Rehabilitation Package as it is grossly inadequate
  • Action against officials involved in corruption while distributing land and cash
  • Action against violation of law (NWDTA and SC orders), contempt of Court through false affidavits

It's obvious that in spite of Special Rehabilitation Package (SRP), land for 11,000 families, 90 resettlement sites, right to 5 acres of land for each major son of affected family, which SSP (Sardar Sarovar Project)-affected could seek through long struggle of past 22 years, much remains to be done and attained.

*************

Bobby Ramakant

(The author is a senior development journalist, writing for Asian and African media. He can be contacted at: bobbyramakant@yahoo.com )

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