Introduction to this website
SARDAR SAROVAR
THE MAHESHWAR DAM
Links To Press Clippings
Other Resources On The Web
Read the latest NBA Press Releases
Images
Contact Information

Return To The Front Page


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 Panel

October 1993

2025 I Street, N.W., Suite 522
Washington, D.C. 20006
U.S.A.
Tel. (202) 466-8191
Fax (202) 466-8189


FORWARD

INTRODUCTION

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)

CONCLUSIONS 28

FORWARD

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

INTRODUCTION

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 harassment.

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 beat her.

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 there:

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 hospital.

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 colony:

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 move.

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 villagers.

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 Manibeli.

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 were dismantled.

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 several times.

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 and hunger.

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 incident.

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 flooding waters.

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 were filed.

On July 18, residents of Vadgam were again arrested by a group of 7 to 8 police along with Assistant Police Inspector Sanjiv Bhatt.

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 regulations.

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. August 7-8

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." (Article 3).

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 site.

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 laws.

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 and movement.

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 of Maharashtra.)

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 released.

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 anti-dam activists.



Contents copyright ©1995-8 International Rivers Network. Reproduction by permission only