The Narmada Sardar Sarovar Project
Mass Arrests and Excessive Use of Police Force
Against Activists in Central India
A Report of the Narmada International Human Rights
2025 I Street, N.W., Suite 522
Washington, D.C. 20006
Tel. (202) 466-8191
Fax (202) 466-8189
POLICE ARRESTS, BEATINGS IN RIVERBANK VILLAGES
Rape In Antras (4); Beatings in Manibeli (6); Violations Prior
To Submergence (8)
USE OF FORCE AND INTIMIDATION DURING SURVEYS AND ROADBUILDING
Chimalkhedi (12); Shurpan (13); Poula and Pipalchowk (14)
MASS ARRESTS DURING "JAL SAMARPAN" PROTEST
ABUSES OF POLICE FORCE AS A VIOLATION OF INTERNATIONAL LAW 23
SUPPRESSION OF PEACEFUL DISSENT 25
The Official Secrets Act (25); Suppression of Free Association
in Gujarat (26); Incidents in Ahmedabad (26); Suppression of Political
Debate (27); Officially Incited Violence Against Protestors (28)
In ....1991, responding to growing concern about violations of
human rights taking place in the Narmada Valley in central India,
a consortium of ... international environmental and human rights
organizations established the Narmada International Human Rights
Panel to document ongoing violations of political, economic, social
and cultural rights of the people of the Narmada Valley. The Panel
is funded by...
This is the ... report conducted on behalf of the Panel. This
report is based on field investigations in August 1993 in the
contiguous states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh,
India. The report was researched and written by Julie Triedman,
an independent journalist and 1991/1992 research fellow at the
New York-based Human Rights Watch. It was edited by Lori Udall
of the the Environmental Defense Fund, in Washington, D.C., and
by Smitu Kothari, of the ..... , in New Delhi.
The report is based on interviews with more than 40 individuals,
including residents of project-effected areas, human rights lawyers,
activists, local law enforcement officials and journalists. The
investigation focused on incidents reported between April and
August, 1993. Wherever possible, accounts of incidents were cross-checked
against press reports and against each other for corroboration.
Where information remains unconfirmed or not directly from a first-hand
source, that is so noted.
Research could not have been conducted without the kind assistance
of members of the Narmada Andolan Bachao, or "Save the Narmada
Movement", who provided ready access to historical files,
to local guides and to interpreters; and special thanks is due
to villagers in the riverbank areas scheduled to be submerged,
many of whom opened their homes and hearts to the author.
The conclusions expressed in this report reflect only those of
the author herself as a human rights observer for the Narmada
International Human Rights Panel. The author nowhere takes a position
on the Sardar Sarovar project itself, preferring to leave that
to those directly touched by the controversy.
New York October 1, 1993
Since 1988, rural activists and social and political action groups
in western India have campaigned against the construction of a
series of dams on the Narmada River, the largest of which is known
as the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP). The SSP will flood 33,947
acres of forest and farm land, creating one of the world's largest
artificially created lakes. An estimated 248 towns and villages
are scheduled to be submerged, and at least 90,000 people relocated
by the Sardar Sarovar dam alone.
The project is of long standing. It was funded by the World Bank
from 1985 until funding ceased in April 1993, when the Bank withdrew
financial support at the request of the government of India. The
withdrawal came on the heels of a report by an independent review
panel which recommended a halt to World Bank funding of the project
until the Indian government could address grave concerns about
the project's impact on tribal and riverbank residents and on
the environment. At the time, more than a third of the estimated
640 million rupees ($US ... dollars) had been spent.PLEASE CHECK
amount, Change if necessary and cite source in footnote
It was largely because of a highly organized and focused local
and international opposition that the World Bank had taken the
unprecedented action of appointing an independent review panel
and commissioning the 363-page report, known as the Morse Report
after chairman of the review board Bradford Morse.
By withdrawing its request for World Bank funds, the Indian government
also conveniently removed international attention from the project.
Since pulling out, the World Bank has made no further attempts
to slow the project, and continued to pour money into other projects.
In July, the World Bank announced it would pledge some $3 billion
in loans and aid to India.
As international interest in the project dimmed, the Indian government
stepped up its bid to raise the dam on its own, while also continuing
a campaign of harassment of residents refusing to resettle.
It is against this backdrop that the mass arrests, harassment
and occasional physical abuse of anti-dam activists in the April
to August period must be viewed.
State authorities were incensed by the sudden loss of international
funding and credibility, blaming activists for the situation.
Local governments, particularly in the down-stream state of Gujarat,
attempted with increasing vigor to publicly discredit groups and
individuals critical of the project, portraying activists -- whether
illiterate tribal villagers or urban intellectuals -- as environmental
"terrorists" and as "tools of foreign intervention."
Members of the coalition known as the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save
the Narmada Movement), a group which espouses only nonviolent,
Gandhian forms of protest, were especially targetted. Consequent
police saturation of communities known for their entrenched opposition
to the project and mass arrests of their residents hence became
more palatable to the public, whose access to information about
the project was and remains anyway largely restricted to a strongly
pro-dam vernacular press.
At the same time, 1993 marked the first year that entire villages
were scheduled to be submerged. Consequently, there were increasing
incidents of forced evacuation and destruction of property as
panicky authorities attempted to move people out of the way before
rain-fed waters flooded the area. But dam officials admitted having
been caught by surprise by the sudden rise in water levels in
mid-July, and forced families out even when it was publicly acknowledged
that no resettlement sites were available.
Serious human rights violations have been documented in the area
in recent years, but by mid-1993, police were increasingly exploiting
their wide powers of preventive arrest and detention to suppress
peaceful dissent and to harass tribal residents in remote villages.
In the five months between April and August 1993, a wide range
of individuals complained of abusive or prejudical treatment at
the hands of law enforcement authorities. These included activists
associated with the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), representatives
of organizations representing tribal villagers, unions, peasants,
journalists, and prominent opposition politicians. Incidents below
describe how some these individuals have been subjected to repeated
harassment, short-term detention and abuse in custody by police.
In many cases, protestors describe having been beaten with lathis
and verbally abused by police and local officials during mass
arrests at demonstrations and rallies. In other cases, whole families
were pulled from their homes and forced into police vans without
official warrant or explanation early in the morning, only to
be released from distant jail cells in the middle of that night.
In the gravest cases, authorities targetted specific individuals
known to be leaders of local opposition for particular abuse or
The NIHRP is concerned that the central government is remiss in
failing to control abuses by state and local officials and police.
In most cases reported here, national reserve police and regional
authorities have been witnesses to, if seldom participants in,
the abuses taking place. The NIHRP is especially troubled that
the central government has made no direct attempt to hold local
law enforcement figures accountable for beatings, intimidation
and harassment. Its inaction emboldens the state government to
extend police powers from the legimate exercise of state power
-- for the purpose of preventing crimes -- to the outright suppression
of local residents' Constitutionally and internationally enshrined
rights to political dissent.
While the NIHRP notes continuing abuses with dismay, the researcher
did find a decrease in the incidence of beatings from past reports.
Only a handful of individuals interviewed for this report sustained
serious injuries. For this, human rights lawyers say, the recent
success of human rights victims in court may be credited; the
dismissals of police involved in abuse may have discouraged police
from engaging in torture. In two cases reported to the NIHRP,
police charged with abuses in 1991 and 1992 were convicted and
dismissed from active duty, although it was not clear whether
any had actually served time. CAN YOU CHECK SMITU?
POLICE ARRESTS, BEATINGS IN RIVERBANK VILLAGES Rape In Antras
BACKGROUND: Antras, a village of approximately 60 houses divided
into two hamlets, is among the remotest villages in Gujarat. It
is scheduled to be submerged in the monsoon of 1994. It takes
four hours to reach the village by jeep from the district center
of Dhumna. Until the late 1980s, when the government began enrolling
many village families in the resettlement effort, the central
government was not much in evidence in Antras. The nearest clinic
is still X km and X HOURS walk distant, while the nearest school
X HOURS away.
Budiben Indiya Vasavi, a woman in her late 30s, has long been
known in her village as a militant anti-dam activist. In the late
1980s, she was among the first in Antras to join NBA (NBA) in
opposing resettlement. In the Antras hamlet, all but Budiben's
family had accepted government offers of resettlement by 1991.
On the other hamlet, Kundabari, some 29 families had either refused
resettlement or had returned from resettlement sites after they
found the resettlement parcels uncultivable or inadequate to meet
their basic needs. In 1993, most of the 30 remaining families
in Antras were strong supporters of the NBA. They have continued
to refuse new government offers of land.
In March, a conflict arose between some families that had relocated
and those stayed behind. At issue was whether the relocating families
had the right to cut down trees on village lands they had abandoned.
The argument came to a head on April 2, when there was a fight
between Budiben's son and two men from relocating families, including
the police patel Sajya Imla. During the fight, Budiben's son injured
his assailant. Police came to Antras at midnight the next day,
ostensibly to look into the incident.
BEATING: Shortly before midnight on April 4, state police accompanied
by police patel Sajya Imla, village headman Karsan Bukla Vasavi,
and four district police officers, entered Antras in two jeeps
owned by the Resettlement and Rehabilitation department of Kevadia
Colony. The men pulled up before Budiben's hut. Budiben and her
son-in-law, Thunya Khema Vasavi, 23, were inside. Armed with standard-issue
"303" rifles and lathis, seven police forced their way
into the hut, apparently looking for Budiben's son, Simjee, while
others surrounded it from the outside.
Two officers then grabbed Thunya, apparently mistaking him for
Simjee. He recounted how police dragged him outside and threw
him on the ground:
They beat me twice on my left cheek and three times on my right
eye. They hit me with a stick on my hip...then they took me outside
and beat me again four times on the hip and around three times
on the left shoulder and twisted my arm. The police dragged out
my mother- in-law even though she was not wearing a blouse and
He was handcuffed and forced into one of the jeeps parked outside.
When he asked why he was being arrested, he was told that he was
with "Medha Patkar's group," and because he was refusing
to resettle away from the river. Police made no mention of the
confrontation they later claimed they were there to investigate.
Victims reported repeatedly being told they had to resettle.
RAPE: While Thunya was held in the jeep some distance outside,
Budiben alleged in an affadavit that she was assaulted and raped
by Sajya Imla with the assistance of a police officer, Narendra
Singh Himmatsind, and another in plain clothes believed to be
a higher-ranking official who was not identified in a line-up.
"You want to become a leader like Medha Patkar," she
recalled Sajya Imla saying. "How dare you oppose the dam.
We'll teach you a lesson."
They threw me into a nala and stripped my clothes..Two policemen
and Sajya Patel took my honor away (mari poori ijjat lidhi). I
was also beaten with a cane on the back, hands and feet and even
on my stomach.
A half-hour later, Budiben was carried out to the other waiting
jeep. The two jeeps took off in the direction of Dhumna. Some
time later, near the neighboring village of Chharbara, the jeep
with Budiben and police patel Sajya Imla slowed and stopped en
route while the jeep with Thunya continued on its way. Budiben
alleges that Sajya Imla and another police forced her to accompany
them to a wooded area beside the road and assaulted her again
An attempt was made to push a lathi into my private parts, but
I caught the stick and prevented it...They told me that "we
will teach you a lesson, because you think you have become greater
than the government."
At roughly 3 a.m., the jeep containing Thunya, Budiben's son-in-law,
reached the Naswadi police station. He alleged that before being
led out of the jeep he was kicked and boxed in the chest by the
village headman, Karsan Bukla Vasavi, and a police officer. He
also alleged that he received a third beating inside the station
on the back and thighs. He says he was forced to stand while a
single officer lathi-whipped him from behind.
The jeep with Budiben arrived an hour later. Thunya was not permitted
to see Budiben. Later that morning, Thunya was released.
Budiben was only released four days later. She said when she arrived
at the station, her sari were returned to her, but since she did
not have a blouse, one was later purchased for her. She was held
one night then was transported to Baroda, where she said she was
forced to strip again. She alleged that she asked for medical
help but was refused. She further alleged that she was given no
food or water, but was fed by fellow inmates.
NBA activists who went to the station to make inquiries on April
6 were not told under what charges Budiben had been arrested.
On April 7 and 8, they made repeated inquiries about where Budiben
was being held, but were refused information. Upon her release,
she was taken to the S.S.G. Hospital in Baroda.
Following the incident, police presence was stepped up, with an
estimated 100 police deployed to Antras. Their harassment and
pressure led to the forced relocation of six households between
April 9 and 13.
On April 12, the Sankheda Civil Court agreed to hear the complaint
of rape and ordered an investigation into the crime. A medical
enquiry was also begun. At the same time, headlines detailing
the incident came out in the press, compelling police to decamp
from Antras to a village downstream.
Although Budiben identified one of the policemen and the police
patel, neither had been arrested as of August. Beatings in Manibeli
BACKGROUND: Manibeli village, a village of three distinct hamlets,
is home to the militant core of tribal opposition to the dam.
It was also the site of the NBA's local office, and serves as
a take-off point to more remote villages up and down the riverbank.
Manibeli was the second village submerged in July. But despite
imminent submergence, only members of Patelpada, one of the three
hamlets, had accepted offers of resettlement by the monsoon season
in 1993. The hamlet had become a police camp.
Anti-dam and anti-government sentiment runs high in the village,
and police and officials seldom come down from Patelpada except
in large numbers. In several cases noted by the NIHRP between
April and August 1993, police saturated the villages and engaged
in mass arrests. They entered with the ostensible reason of accompanying
surveyors or tree-cutting crews, and in two cases, of preventing
mass drownings. However, the large numbers of officers had the
effect of harassing and intimidating local residents. In some
cases reported below, villagers were beaten severely with lathis.
April 16 Villagers say that, at around 1:30 p.m. on April 16,
hundreds of police -- eyewitness estimates range from 350 to 800
-- along with 1,000 forestry workers entered the hamlet of Vamipada
in Manibeli, intending to cut trees. The confrontation began when
they were met by some 300 village residents on the narrow dirt
road coming down from the police camp at Patelpada.
Villagers claim they did not use force or throw rocks, merely
stood in the way and shouted protests. Nevertheles,, police encircled
them and started beating many with lathis. The melee continued
for about 20 minutes. Some women were beaten and manhandled by
male police, a violation of the Indian police code. Some 150 villagers
were put into trucks -- at which point the trucks were filled
so arrests ceased -- and carted off to jails. EXCESSIVE USE OF
FORCE: Damja Gumtha Vasawa and Kadwa Gaba Tadivi, both c.60 years
of age, reported being lathi-whipped by Maharashtra police, causing
enough injuries in the case of Damja to require a visit to the
Damja told the NIHRP he was protesting the survey/cutting when
he was struck on neck, upper back, right hand and right shin.
An NBA organizer, Arundhati, brought him to a hospital in Baroda
for treatment. No scars were visible four months later, but he
continued to wear the hospital-issue neck brace, and claimed that
his hand hurt and his "nerves" were affected.
Kadwa said he, too, was struck while verbally protesting the treecutting.
He said he was struck just below the neck; on the lower back;
the left hand, and upper right arm. He told the NIHRP that his
arm swelled up and his neck still gives him pain. WARRANTLESS
ARREST: Ten NBA activists from outside the village were arrested
though they had decided to stay out of the confrontation and had
sought refuge in the NBA office. None of them had taken any active
role in the protest. Gangaran Baba, 60, told the NIHRP that police
forced their way into the NBA office, and proceeded to arrest
all of them: Rama, 35, from Danel; Damni, 27, and Kumti, 25, both
women from Chimalkhedi; Manohar, 20; Radeshya, 28; Sitaram Baba,
50; Mistry Lal, 30; and Ganesh, 32, Balwan Baba, 45; and Gangaran
Baba, all from Nimad. Violations Prior To Submergence May 28-June
6 BACKGROUND: In the course of nine days, police and local authorities
put increasing pressure on villagers in Manibeli and Vadgam, villages
situated on facing banks of the river, to accept government resettlement.
The operations always involved large numbers of police armed with
lathis, and included incidents of unwarranted arrest, beatings
and destruction of three houses, including that used by the NBA.
In a particularly pointed action, police cut down a tree which
was a symbol of the local struggle against the dam and razed a
wall surrounding a shrine.
Again, abuses appear to follow official exasperation over residents'
intransigence in the face of submergence. Although submergence
was predicted the following month, only 12 of 55 households in
Manibeli had accepted government resettlement offers; five families
in Vadgam also refused to move. May 28In Manibeli, police increasingly
focussed their pressure on two community leaders, Narayanbhai
and Keshubhai, apparently hoping that the rest of the village
would then capitulate to government orders. Keshubhai told the
NIHRP that the conflict began after local officials came to his
house on May 28 and threatened and cajoled him and the village
headman, Narayanbhai, into affixing their thumbprints on a contract
indicating their agreement to accept government offers of resettlement.
Keshubhai and Narayanbhai owned homes closest to the water level
(these subsequently were submerged six weeks after the incident).
Keshubhai said he and Narayanbhai were forcibly taken from their
homes, placed in the police van, and taken to Parveta, a resettlement
The additional district collector and three policemen issued me
and Keshubhai notices stating that our houses would be demolished
on the 30th. They told us we had to examine the land we were to
receive in compensation...and forced us to accompany them to Kevadia.
Resistance was out of the question...they took me to the circuit
house and Keshubhai to another house and refused to allow us to
Consequently, the men in the village fled into the forest for
the entire week to avoid being forced to "sign" similar
resettlement agreements. Only women and children had remained
in the village, according to a human rights team that visited
the village the next day.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra state government on May 28 moved to
impose prohibitory orders on Manibeli, effectively sealing the
village from outsiders and restricting villagers from leaving.
Authorities called into force Section 144 of the Bombay Police
Act, which prohibits gatherings of more than four people; and
Section 37(b), which gives police extensive powers to arrest and
detain people and to prohibit political activities such as public
meetings, slogan- shouting and entry of individuals or groups.
On May 29, a human-rights team found an "unnaturally high
presence of hundreds, perhaps thousands of policemen" in
Kevadia Colony, the town through which access to the dam site
is gained. They estimated that some 800 police were called in
from all over the neighboring state of Maharashtra for the operation
with an additional 1,200 on standby. An officer from Bombay was
reportedly brought in to supervise the IG forces.
That day, two journalists from the Bombay-based newspaper Mahanagar
were stopped at a check point on the border of Kevadia Colony
-- the main point of access to the river and to Manibeli and administrative
center of the project -- and prevented from proceeding towards
the dam site. A human rights team present at the time was informed
by the supervising officer, Bombay Inspector-General Pathaniya,
of that all private vehicles and autorickshaws were being stopped
at the border of Kevadia Colony to prevent access to Manibeli.
He told the team police were on a "persuasion" mission
to convince tribal families to move out and that anyone associated
with the NBA would be refused permission to pass.
By mid-morning, between 600-800 police had entered Manibeli and
Vamipada hamlets. With them were some 40 laborers, who attempted
to begin construction of a road from one hamlet of the village
to another. Villagers strongly opposed construction on the basis
that just such roads were to facilitate access by logging trucks
and transport of construction materials to a resettlement site.
A group of women villagers (all men had fled) blocked their path,
shouting slogans, and subsequently the construction team and bulldozer
turned back. At the same time, a group of three village women
successfully barred police from setting up camp near the NBA office.
The human rights team visiting the area spoke with the officials
involved in operations at the police camp at their hilltop hamlet
Patelpada later the morning of May 29. The team was not permitted
to tape the interview or even to take notes. They recalled that
officials complained that survey and resettlement work "was
being obstructed by Andolan (NBA) activists and some local tribals"
and that "the urgency of the situation demanded enforcement
of law and order." Police superintendent I.B. Pathaniya also
insisted that there were no plans to demolish homes or to arrest
On May 30, ten people were reportedly arrested in the village.
That day, according to two journalists who witnessed the incident,
police surrounded Keshubhai's house but were kept back by Kunta,
Keshubhai's 15-year-old daughter.
On May 31 at 1:30 p.m. the NBA office was occupied by police and
ten people were arrested and taken to Dhule jail, including Dr.
B.D.Sharma, former Commissioner of Tribals and Scheduled Castes;
Hira Lal, Shankarbhai and Kadivibhai, both from Nimad; Balwant
Baba, Gangaram Baba, Kamlu Didi, Rukmi Kaki, Bigya Juglia and
Vithalbhai; and three others. B.D. Sharma said he was shown a
notice saying that all NBA supporters were banned from entry into
On June 1, police returned to search the NBA office and found
six hiding there. They included Arundhati, a well-known NBA organizer
who had been coordinating the protests; Kamala from Nimad, Mr.
Sena, and Mr. Rai Singh, from Manibeli; and two others. They were
likewise removed and arrested. Arundhati later filed a complaint
that she was dragged by her hair when she resisted arrest. June
3 FORCIBLE EVICTION AND DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY: On June 3 at
around 12:30 p.m., some 150 police returned again to Keshubhai's
house and at 1:15 p.m. arrested its occupants, NBA supporters
who were staging a sit-in inside. Excessive force was used in
several instances. After the arrests, the house and two others
Arrested included Shuji Baba, 40, and Mahendra, both of Nimad,
M.P.; Kunta, daughter of the house-owner Keshubhai; Prathibha
Shindi and Sanjay, both of Sakkri; Nithin, from Nasik; Dasharat
and Ganesh, both from Bombay; Bandu, from Nagpur; and one unidentified
activist. All taken to Akkalkuwa jail, 150 km away. LATHI-WHIPPING:
An elderly man, Gangaran Baba, reported that he was apprehended
and beaten that day. He said he approached Keshubhai's house,
where Kunta, Keshubhai's daughter, had been alone since the "kidnap"
of her father by authorities.
Gangaran said he found the house surrounded by police. Two police
in civilian clothes told Gangaran to stay away, but when he continued
to move towards the house, they caught him, ripping the kurta
off his body, and beating him with the lathi on the buttocks and
lower back. He fell down, and was dragged 10 feet. POLICE BEATING
AND EXCESSIVE USE OF FORCE: Kunta Keshu Tadivi, told the NIHRP
she was beaten by police when she resisted evacuating her father's
house. She said six women police pulled her by the hair and dragged
her 400 feet on stony stream bed and threw sharply on the ground
Prathibha was also reportedly dragged on the ground and slapped
on the face; Sanjay said he was tripped with a lathi and then
whipped on the back as he followed the women who were being dragged
and shouting protests. MISTREATMENT, THREATS WHILE IN POLICE CUSTODY:
The arrested group complained of being slapped and insulted while
in the custody of the Akkalkuwa police. Fellow detainees said
police threatened to rape Prathibha. The group claims they were
told by the Akkalkuwa magistrate that they would be freed on personal
recognizance but authorities failed to release them and instead
held them in several jails for a period of days.
The group was first driven to Dhule to a criminal jail in Aurangabad
and mixed with 140 inmates, common criminals incarcerated for
murder, theft and other crimes. The next day they were taken back
to Akkalkuwa with handcuffs used to chain pairs of people together.
The group has filed a miscarriage of justice charge against the
Akkalkuwa magistrate who allegedly gave them permission to go.
A case is pending.
On June 3, two NBA activists, Himmanshu Thakker and Shripad Dharmadhikari,
were arrested in Kevadia Colony, Gujarat by Maharashtra police
while on their way to Manibeli. They were released after a few
hours only after it was found that police from Maharashtra could
not legally arrest persons in another state.
That day also in New Delhi, NBA leaders Medha Patkar and Dewran
Kanera began a widely publicized indefinite hunger strike to protest
the continuation of the project without an independent review,
which raised the level of tension between NBA and local officials.
June 4-6 HARASSMENT, THREATS: Police presence continued until
June 6. The wife of Hirubhai said that, while her husband was
away, she was visited by police and local officials for three
consecutive days and told that she would lose everything and be
denied a resettlement plot if she refused to affix her thumbprint
to an agreement to resettle. HARASSMENT OF WOMEN: Two women told
the NIHRP that, while all the men were absent, police officers
came to the stream where women were bathing and exposed their
genitals to them. This occurred on three occasions. USE OF FORCE
AND INTIMIDATION DURING SURVEYS AND ROADBUILDING Chimalkhedi
May ? BACKGROUND: Chimalkhedi is a village located about 15 k.m.
from the dam site on the Maharashtra side. The village is scheduled
to be submerged in the 1994 monsoon.
To facilitate logging and the transfer of residents to resettlement
sites, the state government -- which has never been much in evidence
in Chimalkhedi -- was attempting to build a road to connect the
village to a neighboring village. The May confrontation began
when about 100 police and a large number of workers attempting
to clear and grade a road met some 200 villagers protesting by
sitting in the path of the bulldozer. WARRANTLESS ARREST OF MISTREATMENT
IN POLICE CUSTODY. A villager, Bija Jugla Vasawa, 30, said that
the arrests began at around noon, when villagers sat down in a
line before the oncoming bulldozer. Some 80 villagers were arrested,
including seven women. The arrested were divided into two groups.
The others were driven away with threats. Bija's group was first
taken to Kevadia Colony, then to Mulgi, arriving about 3 p.m.
The other group to the Taloda jail, arriving about 5 p.m. In the
morning, Bija said, his group was given its first meal after 21
hours in police custody. Then the group was transferred to the
Dhule jail at 10 a.m. where they again were not served food or
issued blankets for another day, although some complained of cold
The next day, the group was taken before the Akkrani magistrate
and ordered held without charges for eight days and released.
Upon their return, they found that the road had been completed
in their absence. Shurpan July 25-31 Shurpan is a hamlet within
eyesight of the dam site, situated at the confluence of the Narmada
River and the Dev River, a tributary. Villagers there, unlike
those in Manibeli village just across the Dev River, had chosen
resettlement over opposition. However, eleven remained because
they either had not completed the move before the submergence
or had moved back from resettlement sites.
Those that remained were caught by surprise on the night of July
16, losing all their homes and most of their livestock to the
rising waters. Families were forced to relocate uphill to tin
sheds hastily erected by the villagers from piles of building
materials left there by the government.
Although Shurpan is just across the Dev River from Manibeli, it
is within the jurisdiction of another state, the state of Gujarat.
State authorities in Gujarat are especially hostile to NBA activists.
On July 25, three NBA volunteers attempting to do a house-to-house
survey of property losses due to submergence were detained by
Gujarati police in Shurpan. BEATING:On July 27, Milind, a well-known
Andolan activist working in Manibeli, returned to Shurpan alone
to complete the survey. According to Milind, he was met there
by the police inspector, who refused to allow him to conduct the
survey. But Milind insisted on continuing the survey. The inspector
consequently ordered four police to apprehend Milind and sent
a radio message to send the launch from the dam site. At this
point, Milind ran towards the tin sheds but was grabbed by the
police, thrown to the ground and beaten on the legs with the lathi.
They kept beating me on the Achilles tendon. They usually do this
so you can't walk. They said "We'll see to it that you cannot
reach Manibeli. You Manibeli people always come to Gujarat and
try to disturb law and order here and agitate against the dam."
Milind was held a few hours, but the police launch to take him
to the district jail across the river failed to arrive and ultimately
he was allowed to depart freely on the canoe from Manibeli.
On Aug. 30, Milind filed a formal complaint by messenger with
the magistrate in Kevadia Colony. The next day, the police inspector
came to Manibeli and took his statement. The case is pending before
WHICH COURT?. Poula and Pipalchowk August 13-16 Poula and Pipalchowk
are two villages about 30 kilometers upstream from the dam site.
Both are scheduled to be submerged in the 1994 monsoon. Pipalchowk
is about 2 kilometers upstream from Poula. Both are isolated riverbank
communities with no road access and historically little contact
or services from government; it takes about eight hours' hike
to reach the villages from the district center of Dhadgaon.
According to two witnesses, police came to Poula and then to Pipalchowk
to survey in mid-August. The state government is required to provide
resettlement to submergence-effected residents at least six months
before the submergence, and so pressure is on authorities now
to complete basic information about the numbers of families needing
to be resettled. However, project authorities cannot meet their
legal obligations without the consent of the villagers, who are
strongly against the project. As of late August, villagers continued
to refuse to give this consent to surveyors, in an attempt to
protest the project by obstructing resettlement efforts.
The August cases are typical of a pattern of escalating tension
and harassment. Typically, the pattern has been that police accompany
government surveyors to a village, attempt to do a survey, and
are repulsed by villagers; they subsequently come back in increasing
numbers until they outnumber the local population and can successfully
complete the survey without the consent of the local population.
Poula Keval Singh Vasavi, a villager from Poula, said he saw some
25 police arriving in motorboats at noon in the hamlet of Selagada,
4 kilometers. The next day, 40 police came by boat to Poula itself
and entered four houses near the riverbank. At the time, the household
residents were in their fields. Police entered and completed surveys
of those houses, but were stopped by a group of about 50 villagers.
The villagers told police they did not have permission to continue
the survey, and the police departed, apparently headed for Pipalchowk.
Two villagers reported that police stole several chickens during
The following day, some 60 to 70 police returned to Poula. As
they were erecting tents on the edge of the settlement, two villagers
went and told police that 250 village residents were ready to
march down to confront them if they didn't decamp. They decamped.
Three days later, on Aug. 17, some 150 police came from the dam
site on four boats, landing a quarter mile from the village. Some
250 villagers had massed near the access route, blocking their
path just outside the village. The following day, two vans and
roughly 100 police joined the 150 already in Poula. CAN YOU COMPLETE
THE NARRATION? DID THEY COMPLETE THE SURVEY? Pipalchowk Luharya
Patel, headman of Pipalchowk, said that about 22 police and revenue
department employees came to his village by boat on Aug. 13 at
2 p.m. Many had sidearms, but only five were in police uniform.
They told Patel their purpose was to do a survey. Patel told them
they would not be permitted to do a survey until the review period
was over and the villagers had had a chance to discuss the situation.
Submergence of Manibeli
At around midnight on July 16, the waters backed up behind the
dam rose suddenly in Manibeli, flooding into the lowest-elevation
houses. In about 12 homes, people remained seated inside until
they were pulled out by police. Many refused to budge even as
their cattle and goats drowned. Some 100 were arrested, including
70 Manibeli residents and 30 outside activists. INCIDENTS DURING
SUBMERGENCE IN VADGAM AND MANIBELI July 4 - 16 Vadgam is the village
the closest to the dam on the Gujarat bank of the Narmada. Most
Vadgam residents had elected to resettle, but some 21 families
returned in 1992 because of difficulties at the resettlement sites.
Since then, police and local authorities from Gujarat have been
applying increasing pressure on them to leave. Some 30 families
in the neighboring hamlet of Uppala Falia were also reportedly
subjected to similar harassment and warned to get out or face
Pressure increased at the beginning of the monsoon in July. On
July 4 at around 11 a.m., some 400 armed State Reserve Police,
accompanied by the Deputy Collector of Baroda, entered Vadgam
and sealed the area. Police began a house-to- house survey over
verbal protests of villagers. Residents told the NIHRP that police
pointed guns at them and forced them into signing forms stating
that they had agreed to leave voluntarily.
A similar confrontation occurred across the river in Manibeli
on the same day, when hundreds of police entered Vamipada hamlet,
in a house-to-house sweep to assist workers in making a pre-submergence
survey of area. Manibeli is firmly against resettlement, so police
rarely enter unless in sufficient numbers to overwhelm the local
population. Police surrounded each house in turn, entered homes,
beat on water vessels with lathis to scare people, and told them
that they were forbidden from further agitation against the dam
or against government resettlement.
Shankerbhai, a Vadgam village leader and Andolan supporter, recounts
how problems began in his village:
A lot of police came to the village one morning, about 35 to each
house. They came with their rifles and pistols and scared us.
They counted us and noted down everything in our houses. They
said "You have been given your land already. So you have
to go back, you're not going to get any other." The waters
begin to rise Police departed Vadgam and Manibeli and returned
a week later in force the day before the river rose to its highest
point. Their intentions were to remove families, forcibly if necessary,
from the flood zone to safety. July 11 On July 11, some 400 police
returned to Vadgam along with the Additional Superintendent of
Police Sanjiv Bhatt and the District Collector of Baruch, Mr.
Agarwal. Police set up their camp on the hill next to the lowest-elevation
house in the village. At noon, a revenue official of Rajpipla
served an eviction notice on Bhulabhai. Bhulabhai twice refused
to accept the notice, and so the revenue official stuck it on
the door of the house. At the time, the water was approximately
five feet below the level of the house. WARRANTLESS ARREST, FORCED
EVICTIONS: At 5:30 p.m., police began arresting people. Bulabhai's
entire family of six were grabbed and forcibly moved into a waiting
truck. Four others present -- Shankerbhai and Daman, both Vadgam
family heads, and two NBA activists, Badra and Nandini -- were
also taken. Police told them they were not being arrested, but
were simply being moved inland to Koti Village.
At the same time, Rajubhai, Bhulabhai's neighbor, and his family
were also forcibly evicted. In the melee, Rajubhai's wife Kamliben
was reportedly struck with the lathi
That afternoon, two NBA workers attempting to reach Bhulabhai's
house were reportedly stopped by police and interrogated by the
police superintendent, a Mr. Waghela. When they insisted on continuing
up the hill, they were arrested and taken to Kevadia Colony. One
of them, Nikhil, 20, reported that he was kicked in the stomach
and bitten by a police officer while sitting in the back of the
jeep to Kevadia. Four villagers who verbally protested the police'
action were also arrested and taken to the Kevadia Colony lock-up;
they were Vikram, 27; Rasik, 35; Chhandu, 31; and Sena, 22. The
next day they were released without charges; however, police claimed
they were drunk and brought them to the clinic for blood- alchohol
tests, which came up negative. July 12 The next evening, July
12, waters began to rise and submerged the vacant homes of a village
leader, Bhulabhai; a neighbor, Rajubhai; and those of 32 other
families. Shankerbhai, a resident on slightly higher ground, had
also returned to his home. At noon, his home and nine others were
surrounded by a total of about 200 police. At 6 p.m., the families
agreed to leave. All of them, including a number of children,
were forced to walk five hours to Koti Village. July 14 On July
14, some 35 displaced Vadgam residents, along with some 160 NBA
supporters, staged a peaceful sit-in in Kevadia Colony opposite
the resettlement office. Roughly 60 police came and arrested them,
pushing more than 100 into police vans.
One NBA activist, Manesh, 19, from Nimar, was reportedly whipped
with a lathi. Witnesses said police grabbed him by the hair and
whipped him on the lower back in front of the Vadgam protestors.
He was not bleeding and did not receive medical attention.
The arrested group was taken to a school in Raj Pipla. That evening,
they were driven back to Koti village and released. No charges
On July 18, residents of Vadgam were again arrested by a group
of 7 to 8 police along with Assistant Police Inspector Sanjiv
Since July, NBA activists have been prevented from entering the
submergence area of Vadgam. Some 150 police have set up permanent
camp in the village. MASS ARRESTS DURING "JAL SAMARPAN"
PROTEST August 2-8 BACKGROUND:As many as 800 supporters and suspected
supporters of the NBA were arrested in the first week of August,
most for periods of hours to several days. The government claimed
that the arrests were justified to prevent widespread unrest and
possible loss of life.
There was some truth to the government's assertion. In July, the
NBA had announced plans to engage in a jal samarpan, or "sacrifice
by drowning," to protest the government's refusal to permit
a genuine review of the dam project. The protest was scheduled
for August 6, and four NBA activists, including NBA's founder
and popular leader Medha Patkar, had made widely publicized vows
to drown themselves in the Narmada. However, the site of the drownings
was not announced, leading authorities to mobilize police all
along the riverbank on either side of the dam site extending to
five riverbank villages in Gujarat and 36 in Maharashtra.
At the end of July, local authorities imposed Section 144 of the
Criminal Code in riverbank towns of Gujarat and Maharashtra near
the dam site. The vast majority of arrests were made under the
Although governments are arguably within their rights to prevent
individual acts of suicide, in several cases noted below, the
NIHRP found that police and local authorities used unnecessary
force in making arrests and abused police powers in engaging in
large-scale arrest of residents and activists who were in the
area not to drown themselves, but merely to express their opposition
to the project. The enormous scale of the police presence and
restrictions on movement and association in residential areas
near the dam appeared to violate basic rights to movement, free
association and peaceful political protest.
The NIHRP is concerned that authorities imposed Section 144 not
only in the immediate vicinity of the riverbank, but in populated
areas outside the submergence zone, in Kevadia Colony and Dabhoi
(CORRECT?), which must be passed to gain access to Manibeli from
the Gujarat side; and in Koti Village, where anti-dam activists
were known to be gathering.
Beginning on August 2, police started stepping up their presence
along the riverbank villages of Manibeli and Vadgam, and in and
around Kevadia Colony.In the next four days, police arrested some
650 people, most of them presumed supporters of the NBA. But the
arrested also included dozens of elderly people and children and
several journalists. They included some 200 taken from the villages
of Manibeli and Vadgam; as many as 365 from the towns of Koti
and Kevadia Colony; and between 90 and 100 in the city of Baroda.
On August 2, police found Manibeli almost deserted -- most of
the residents and a group of 160 NBA supporters had fled to the
forest to avoid arrest prior to the Aug. 6 protest date -- but
there were still 22 activists inside the NBA office in the otherwise
empty hamlet of Vamipada. They were arrested, as were any other
residents found in the village over the next four days.
On August 4, journalists arriving in Kevadia Colony -- the main
access- point to the river -- found it in a state of siege. Thousands
of police had been put on alert, police boats were patrolling
the river, and house-to-house searches were on both the township
and the surrounding villages. Police had strict instructions to
prevent anyone, including journalists, from crossing the river
in Gujarat to reach Manibeli. All private boats, down to villagers'
log rafts, had been confiscated, and the NBA rowboat had been
confiscated. MASS ARRESTS:At around 9 p.m. that night, some 400
to 500 police swept into Koti village, on the border of Kevadia
Colony township, and raided the NBA office. They arrested some
400 -500 NBA supporters from villages in Nimar, dragging and pulling
those who refused to cooperate into 20 waiting police vans. The
group had come in from Madhya Pradesh on 13 trucks earlier that
day for a demonstration scheduled for the next day. Police took
objection to journalists' recording of the event; five journalists,
two photographers and a documentary film-maker were detained and
photographic equipment was destroyed by police.
The group was divided in two, one group to Raj Pipla jail and
the other -- with more than 300 individuals -- to Baroda jail.
All were released Aug.7.
Reports said several hundred more supporters from Madhya Pradesh
were held at the border on the road to Kevadia Colony.
Late on the night of August 5, the jal samarpan was called off,
and Medha Patkar presented herself to the Baroda Superintendant
Tappan Ray to announce that the program was cancelled. However,
arrests begun on the 2nd continued, and by August 6, more than
800 had been taken in to police custody for periods ranging from
a few hours to 6 days. Some 150 were arrested in Manibeli on August
6 itself, and some activists were beaten as they attempted to
reach the water's edge. Arrests in Manibeli, Vadgam August 2 WARRANTLESS
ARREST:At approximately 8 a.m., a group of 22 NBA activists and
local villagers were sitting inside the hut used by NBA, while
two activists cooked breakfast. At that time an estimated 500
police entered the hamlet and surrounded each hut, entering and
arresting any occupants.
Some 25 approached the NBA hut. Rukmini, an activist from Nimad,
approached one of them and demanded to know why the group was
being arrested. "We've got orders from above to arrest all
of you," the officer reportedly answered. The officer said
they were being arrested to prevent them from drowning themselves.
Rukmini denied that he or the others were going to drown themselves,
but were simply cooking breakfast.
They took all of us, all 22 of us, to the tin sheds on the top
of the hill and made us sit there. They didn't give us any food.
They said we had to wait till the launch arrived from Kevadia.
They kept us there like cattle, all packed together with guards
holding lathis surrounding us. After several hours, the group
was taken by police van to the district headquarters in Akkalkuwa
where they were presented to the magistrate and charged with intent
to commit suicide. They were then brought to Dhule jail. They
were released four days later on the night of August 6.
Shortly after the arrests, police returned to the house. According
to the owner, Jatrya Mangan Vasavi, 40, police warned him not
to allow NBA activists to return or police would return to throw
out all his belongings. August 3 WARRANTLESS ARRESTS: Police arrested
five individuals on August 3, including three men and two girls.
The men told the NIHRP they were apprehended at 10 a.m. while
they were cooking breakfast in the NBA office in Vamipada, Manibeli
to bring up to villagers who were hiding in the hills. The three,
who were NBA supporters from Madhya Pradesh, were taken to Dhule
jail and held several days on charges of violating Section 144.
Two village girls told the NIHRP that they were arrested when
they also came down from the forest to get some food to bring
back for their families. They said police caught them while they
were inside their house. They were Manggi Keshu, 15, younger daughter
of NBA supporter Keshubhai; and Diwali Jhattrya, also 15. No charges
were given and they were released at midnight that night. August
5 WARRANTLESS ARRESTS: Vadgam residents Shankerbhai and 10 others
reported to the NIHRP that they were arrested at about 3:30 p.m.
on August 5. Most were taken from inside their homes, by a mixture
of Gujarat and SRP police and local officials. Among those apprehended
were a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old child. MASS ARREST: Thirteen
trucks carrying an estimated 400 anti-dam protesters from the
project-affected zone in Madhya Pradesh (Nimar Village) arrested
and detained at about 9 p.m. (see narrative above, p.20). Some
80 women from a women's union in Bhopal were arrested on their
way from the Baroda train station to Kevadia Colony and taken
to Baroda jail. August 6
After four days hiding in the forest, some 164 activists and villagers
came out of their hiding places and attempted to march down to
the riverbank. An activist who was beaten while attempting to
reach the water's edge said no one intended to drown themselves,
because the group had no idea whether the jal samarpan was still
on or had been called off. They merely wanted to show the police
their resolve by standing by the water's edge. EXCESSIVE FORCE
DURING ARREST:Milind, a 23-year-old activist, said that at about
12 a.m., the group approached the police camp shouting slogans.
Roughly 70 unarmed police in a line tried to stop them. But the
164 managed to pass and approach the police camp, which they had
to pass in order to reach the water's edge. Some 250 police were
waiting, blocking every access to the riverbank.
Milind and his group were met by Police Inspector Kadambande,
who told them that the river was a prohibited area and they could
not proceed. Milind, who was by this point held by four policemen,
requested to speak with a senior officer. He was met by Circle
Inspector Jagtap (the officer supervising police inspectors),
who confirmed that the area was sealed off. The rehabilitation
secretary of Maharashtra, Satish Triparti, and the Additional
Deputy Inspector Patanya, who were also present, showed Milind
the prohibition order under Section 144 preventing entry. Milind
was told that he was under arrest and that force would be used
to stop him and others if they attempted to pass.
After several minutes of discussion, Milind said he and others
would refuse to stop. Milind ran 300 feet -- halfway to the riverbank
-- before he was apprehended by four officers and beaten:
They started beating me. They beat me in the stomach with their
feet and fists. I received seven kicks in the stomach. The beating
lasted about five minutes. I was just lying there on the ground,
not resisting. Nikhil, an activist from Bombay, and Mirsingh,
a villager from Junana, were also beaten.
Two of the police officers told him that if he would walk, he
wouldn't be dragged. Milind told them "This is my way of
protesting," and continued to refuse to move with the police.
At that point, he said, he was dragged on the ground towards the
launch. As he was being dragged, he attempted to hold his knapsack
under his back to protect himself from abrasions. He said the
Inspector Kadambande ordered the officers to remove the sack.
Milind said he heard the inspector tell the officers to "Just
remove the sack so it'll hurt more."
Milind showed the NIHRP his torn and ragged clothes and a sack
that he had tried to use to protect himself while being dragged.
On August 7, Medha Patkar and 3 other NBA leaders were arrested
at 2 p.m. during their second attempt to travel to Manibeli via
Kevadia Colony. Their passage was blocked by group of about 40
men and police claiming to be pro-dam activists at the mid-way
point of Dabhoi. Patkar was served with prohibitory notice on
entry to the town of Dabhoi. The notice was dated Aug. 4.
On August 8, authorities announced a blanket restriction on Medha
Patkar's passage through Gujarat riverbank villages under the
Official Secrets Act. Penalties for little-used regulation are
3 to 10 years.
ABUSES OF POLICE FORCE AS A VIOLATION OF INTERNATIONAL LAW
The NIHRP believes that the incidents described above form a pattern
of violations of national and international human rights standards
wgucg protect individuals against unwarranted arrest and detention
and against excessive use of force during arrest. Article 22 of
the Constitution of India calls for "protection against arrests
and detention in certain cases," stating that:
No person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without
being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest,
nor shall he be denied the right to consult, and to be defended
by, a legal practitioner of his choice. (Para.1). Article 9 of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which the Indian
government is signatory, also states that "no one shall be
subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile."
Paragraph 2 states that:
Every person who is arrested and detained in custody shall be
produced before the nearest magistrate within 24 hours of such
arrest, excluding the time necessary for journey from the place
of arrest to the court of the magistrate, and no person shall
be detained in custody beyond the said period without the authority
of the magistrate.
While in most cases, magistrates Moreover, in forcibly evict tribal
residents through the widespread use of arrest, the Indian government
violates evolving international human rights standards which enjoin
states from forcibly evicting citizens. Its actions fly in the
face of its own public condemnation of the principle of forced
eviction. Most recently, on March 10, 1993, India was a party
to a unanimous resolution by the United Nations Commission on
Human Rights that called forced eviction a "gross violation
of human rights." Excessive Use of Force During Arrest
The UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials states that
"[l]aw enforcement officials may use force only when strictly
necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their
duty." Its Commentary adds that the use of force should be
"in accordance with a principle of proportionality."
The UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law
Enforcement Officials states that:
Law enforcement officials, in carrying out their duty, shall,
as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to
the use of force and firearms. Furthermore:
[i]n the dispersal of assemblies that are unlawful but nonviolent,
law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force, or where
that is not practicable, shall restrict such force to the minimum
extent necessary. (Principle 4) However, in several instances
reported above, police used excessive force to drive individuals
away or during arrest. In a number of cases, police whipped individuals
with cane lathis or dragged victims for long distances on stony
ground to the extent of causing injury or intense pain. In one
instance, hand- cuffs were used, in contravention of Indian law.
Throughout, women faced the special threat of rape. In one reported
case, police and local officials allegedly attempted to rape a
local activist during her arrest; in still others, women reported
being threatened with rape while in police custody. The author
also notes a number of cases prior to the time-frame of this report.
SUPPRESSION OF PEACEFUL DISSENT The Official Secrets Act The Official
Secrets Act (OSA) was originally intended to apply to military
installations and other non-civilian areas the government deemed
critical to national security. However, since October 1988, in
an unprecedented move, the OSA was extended to a civilian public-works
project and residential areas surrounding it. The enforcement
area includes 12 villages in the submergence zone, the town of
Kevadia Colony, and other residential areas near the dam construction
The OSA makes it an offense for anyone to be in the prohibited
area "with the purpose of creating an obstacle." Communicating
information about the project -- even from outside the prohibited
area -- also constitutes an offense under the OSA.
The act carries with it rather extreme punishment -- imprisonment
of anywhere from three to 14 years -- for conviction. But the
Act has only been enforced three times in the dam-affected area
since its inception. Still, its heavy potential punishment has
contributed to anxiety among activists. The wide and enormously
vagueness of the act also contradict the spirit of fundamental
rights to free expression enshrined in Indian and international
In ..., labor activists trying to unionize the dam construction
workers were barred from entering Kevadia Colony and workers'
residential areas nearby.
In January 1989, the government of Gujarat charged 18 activists
with violations of the OSA. The activists, including several eminent
academics and human rights lawyers, were arrested while staging
a protest with the aim of protesting the imposition of the Official
Secrets Act itself. After coming under severe criticism, the government
dropped the case in March 1989.
The OSA was brought to life again on August 3, 1993, when the
Gujarat state government declared Kevadia Colony and five villages
as "protected" and "prohibited" areas in light
of the planned protest activities of the NBA. Activists and human
rights lawyers fear that now that homes are actually being submerged,
the OSA will increasingly hang over them in their political organizing.
The OSA, when applied to a public works project and applied to
peaceful political opposition, appears to be so wide as to violate
national and international protections on free speech, association
The Constitution of India provides the right to freedom (Article
19 (1)) and states that all citizens have the rights:
(a)to freedom of speech and expression; (b)to assemble without
arms; (c)to form associations or unions; (d)to move freely throughout
the territory of India; among others. Likewise, numerous international
instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
unequivocably enjoin signatory governments to protect individuals
from arbitrary interference in their homes and privacy (Article
12); protect the right to free movement and residence (13); and
to free association (20). Suppression of Free Association in Gujarat
The OSA is only one of a number of government actions which appear
to compromise rights of free association, expression and movement.
Suppression of activities perceived of as critical of the dam
has been especially severe in Gujarat, the state located downstream
from the Sardar Sarovar dam which is expected to be the main beneficiary
of the project. BACKGROUND: Gujarat is the most industrialized
state in India, and it continues to aggressively promote itself
as an industrial and agri-business haven. But Gujarat's industry
and farmland face chronic water shortages, which are expected
to be considerably eased by the provision of hundreds of miles
of irrigation canals from the Sardar Sarovar dam. Meanwhile, the
state is expected to make the least sacrifice to the project.
Only 19 villages are slated to be submerged by the dam within
the boundaries of Gujarat, compared to 193 in Madhya Pradesh and
36 in Maharashtra; and Gujarat stands to lose only about 5 percent
of the total land to be submerged. Incidents in Ahmedabad Ahmedabad
is the capital of Gujarat. Located some 250 km from the dam site,
inside the target area of projected irrigation schemes, Ahmedabad
is home to the project's most zealous supporters. Their prime
spokesman and political point-man is Gujarat's Chief Minister
and Congress Party leader, Chimanbhai Patel.
Since taking public office, the Chief Minister has staked his
political future on completion of the Sardar Sarovar project.
He has invested an enormous amount of energy in lining up party
ranks in public displays of support for the project; and he has
painted the anti-dam group, NBA, as enemies of the public good.
His attacks on the group's leader, Medha Patkar, have been especially
charged and personal.
Patel has called on Gujaratis to expel anti-dam activists from
the state as "traitors." He reserves particular ire
for those he calls "outside activists" (Medha Patkar
and several other leaders of NBA are from the neighboring state
The incidents described below are only the latest examples of
similar incidents over several years of conflict. But rhetoric
against dam opponents appears to have escalated in the four months
since the World Bank pulled out of the project. Just as dam opponents
were riding high on their victory, in Ahmedabad, Chimanbhai and
pro-dam forces were whipping up public wrath against the NBA.
Tension increased after June 30, when anti-dam activists succeeded
in persuading the central government to form a panel to reassess
the project. The pro-dam contingent responded with carefully orchestrated
public shows of anger.
Numerous incidents of harassment by pro-dam protestors who claimed
to be Congress Party members occurred in July and August. In one
incident witnessed by the NIHRP, a group of roughly 50 men accompanied
by police and bus escort obstructed Medha Patkar as she attempted
to enter the dam zone on August 7. On another August 10, some
50 alleged members of the Gujarat Congress Party burned a paper
effigy of Medha Patkar in a demonstration at a public park in
the center of Baroda, Gujarat's second city and home of the main
NBA office. Suppression of Political Debate Activists say Minister
Chimanbhai, through his control of the party and with support
from business elites, has stifled opposition to the dam within
Gujarat, and particularly in Ahmedabad.
Chimanbhai's stand against the NBA is supported by the industry
and agribusiness lobby in Gujarat, who stand to gain the most
from the irrigation systems. Most of the press in the local language
is owned by leading industrial and agribusiness families from
the Patel caste. A 1989 study of Gujarati media has shown that
positions by dam supporters have been given ample space in the
local media, while opposing views are notGet citation from Lori.
The local press, activists have argued, selectively fails to publish
letters to the editor which are unsympathetic to the project or
critical of state pro-dam policies.
Under Chimanbhai's eye, law authorities have denied anti-dam groups
permits to stage peaceful rallies and protests in Ahmedabad. Authorities
questioned by the NIHRP insist that permits are only denied and
processions are obstructed simply to protect NBA activists from
violence by dam supporters. Indeed, during the summer of 1993,
there were several such incidents.
In one reported on July 17, police in a suburb of Ahmedabad denied
anti-dam protestors a permit to stage a peaceful lunch-hour protest
at a public square. The permit was denied without explanation
after a local police official had already tentatively approved
the permit. Police commissioners interviewed by the NIHRP responded
that the permit was not issued because of concern about traffic.
However, activists contend that the square, a wide-open site surrounding
a statue of Ambedkar, a contemporary of Gandhi known for his grassroots
activism, is routinely used for rallies.
Police also cited concerns for the anti-dam activists' security;
however, the protestors said they experienced no difficulties
with the public when they went ahead staged the protest without
the permit later that afternoon. Soon after the rally began, however,
some 63 were arrested and detained for several hours before being
In another case investigated by the NIHRP, a gang of 50 to 60
men armed with metal bars violently dispersed a conference on
water in Ahmedabad. NBA leader Medha Patkar was known to be a
scheduled speaker that day. NBA leaders said police and local
authorities were forewarned about threats after the school principal
who lent the space to conference organizers received anonymous
telephone threats. Reporters who followed the men claimed they
went directly to the Chief Minister's residence after the incident.
The NIHRP is disturbed by reports that police failed to deter
violence or to protect conference participants. Police were forewarned
about threats to the conference organizers, but failed to show
up for 40 minutes, well after the violence had succeeded in ending
the event. Officially Incited Violence Against Protestors
More troubling, NIHRP has been shown evidence that Patel and his
wife, Urmilaben Patel, have participated more directly by proxy
in the suppression of anti-dam events. of party members -- generally
single young men -- to physically harass activists and break up
peaceful political protests and events by the NBA. Journalists
interviewed by the NIHRP provided evidence that, in at least one
case, links a gang to the Chief Minister's wife. In another case
witnessed by a NIHRP member herself, police mingled with a supposed
pro-dam contingent, bused in at the behest -- and expense -- of
Congress and Youth parties.
While such links remain to be proven in a court of law, there
is little doubt that the Chief Minister's verbal attacks on NBA
and its leaders have created a climate in which violence against
the group become increasingly likely. RECOMMENDATIONS
The NIHRP holds the government of India and the state governments
of Gujarat and Maharashtra responsible for the violations noted
in this report. Both federal and state governments are enjoined
to prohibit abuse of police powers. But it is the central government
which has the greatest power to curb abuses. Inaction on the part
of the federal government has emboldened state government to extend
police powers from the legimate exercise of state power -- for
the purpose of preventing crimes -- to the outright suppression
of local residents' Constitutionally and internationally enshrined
rights to political dissent.
State government has used force and intimidation against unarmed
individuals, and against supporters of a movement that is widely
known to be committed to non-violence. In light of this, the government
should take immediate action to hold local law enforcement figures
accountable for the cases of beatings, rape, intimidation and
harassment noted in this report.
The government should not forcibly evict residents. Forcible evictions
are a clear sign that the government has not met its legal responsibilities
towards the residents it seeks to relocate, not, as is sometimes
presumed, a sign of "external manipulation" by dam opponents.
But the federal government is not merely enjoined by international
law to to prevent abuses. Human rights standards also enjoin signatory
governments to take positive, pro-active steps to protect and
affirm civil and political rights.
In light of this, the NIHRP finds the enforcement of the Official
Secrets Act troubling. The OSA, applied to a civilian works project
and to populated and market areas, appears to contravene national
and international laws protecting the freedom of movement and
association. The NIHRP encourages India to withdraw the OSA from
its application to the Narmada Valley, and to protect peaceful
and democratic protest. The government should look into allegations
that political leaders in Gujarat are encouraging violence against
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