India: Govt Must Act Immediately to Save Protesters' Lives
ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
Urgent Appeal Update: AHRC-UAU-030-2012
9 September 2012
[RE: AHRC-UAC-162-2012: INDIA: Victims
protest, while the government threatens to drown them]
INDIA: The government must act immediately to save the lives of protesters
ISSUES: Right to life and livelihood; right to
rehabilitation and compensation; rule of
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received an update from Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) that the Madhya Pradesh State Government has miserably failed in convincing the protesting villagers that the state is willing to meet the legitimate demands of the villagers, who have lost their land and livelihood to the Omkareshwar Dam. The first Urgent Appeal issued (AHRC-UAC-162-2012) on the issue provides background of the case. Since then the AHRC has made a series of interventions on the case, entitled:
INDIA: Rights are a mandate, not a
concession on 4 September 2012
INDIA: History repeats in Omkareshwar protest on 5 September 2012
ASIA: Three great protests - In Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and the Omkareshwar Dam in India on 6 September, 2012
INDIA: Activists storm M.P Bhawan demanding justice for the Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar Dam oustees on 6 September 2012
INDIA: Abandoned to fate on 6 September 2012
INDIA: Peeling a dead fish on 7 September 2012
INDIA: The State working against Rule of law has forced this Jal Satyagraha on us on 7 September 2012
A large section of the national media also reported the case, that finally prompted the Government of Madhya Pradesh to, first send an elected representative to meet the villagers, and later two ministers to discuss issues with the villagers. Despite this, the government has failed to meet the demands of the villagers, and the hollow request by the government to end the protest has been turned down by the villagers.
16 days after remaining in neck-deep water, what the villagers has received from their elected government is a pathetic request to end the protest. It is reported that the government made no genuine or acceptable offers to the villagers so far, but has only reportedly assured the villagers that the government would follow the Supreme Court's judgment concerning rehabilitation and compensation.
That the people have to resort to such drastic and unique protest for their government to listen to them in itself is a shameful state of affairs. Equally shameful is the fact that the government has failed to comply with the Court's mandate, since the Court had directed that the government to first rehabilitate and compensate the villagers, who will loose their land and livelihood to the Dam, then start increasing the water level. The protest is the result of this direct disregard to the people's lives and livelihood.
The government's position that some villagers have already accepted the paltry compensation that it has disbursed, Rs. 30,000.00; and those who have accepted this compensation are estopped from demanding land is also a worthless, if not contemptible. It only shows the government's trivialisation of the issue, and that of the lives of the people, it is mandated to protect and preserve. Those who had collected the paltry compensation the government offered at least had that to cling on to, for a while. Neither does a monetary compensation makes any sense, both in comparison to the loss of land and livelihood, and further in terms of the reality that many who received this compensation were members of the poor tribal communities who were in fact duped by the government to accept such pittance for generations old heritage, living patterns and livelihood options.
Today, the reality is such that the money has been spent, lands submerged and the future dark for these villagers. To cheat them further offering them the pittance of the Supreme Court's "as far as practicable" directive is ruthless, to say the least. It is just not that the government do not have land to offer to the villagers. The Madhya State Government has directed the District Collectors in a meeting concluded today to identify 26000 hectares of land in 26 districts to be given away for industries, before the next investors meet. It is just that for the villagers, their government has just given them up and abandoned them.
The media coverage of the protest is available in a series of websites, of which a few are cited hereunder for easy reference:
Neck deep in water - will India ignore their plight?
MP govt cold to jal satyagraha
The Hindustan Times
Sri Lanka Guardian
Firstpost: MP government reaches out to
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (email@example.com)
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