Dhar (Madhya Pradesh): Narmada Bachao Aandolan (NBA) founder Medha Patkar and 11 others, who have been on an indefinite hunger strike since July 27 demanding rehabilitation of 40,000 families displaced due to increase in height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD), were on Monday forcibly evicted by the Madhya Pradesh Police from Chikhalda village in the state's Dhar district.
The state government deployed heavy contingent of police at Chikhlada village (around 60 km from Indore) where Patkar was continuing her fast despite her deteriorating health conditions.
Additional security forces from adjacent Dhar and Barwani were rushed to the protest venue only to be met with stiff resistance by the protestors. After a scuffle of around one-and-a-half hours, the police managed to take Patkar and her aides away from the protest site in ambulances to unknown places.
A team of doctors reached the site for examining Patkar's health at 5pm but were denied access by the local protesters. Thousands of dam oustees had gathered at Chikhlada as a mark of protest against the Madhya Pradesh government's rehabilitation policy.
As Patkar's health condition deteriorated, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan conveyed messages of dialogue which was summarily rejected by the NBA leader as she wanted direct communication with Chouhan. On Saturday, spiritual leader Bhaiyyu Maharaj met Patkar along with Indore Commissioner Sanjay Dubey and Additional Secretary Chandrashekhar Borkar but Patkar was unmoved. On Monday, district collector Dhar Shriman Shukla also reached the protest venue and urged Patkar to end hunger strike only to be given the same response from the 62-year-old.
With the closure of gates of Sardar Sarovar Dam and increasing its height to 138 metre, several areas in Dhar, Barwani and nearby districts will be submerged under water. Keeping in view the situation, the state government has asked the residents living in the area to move to safer places by July 31. However, expressing its concern over the improper rehabilitation of the displaced and fudged figures, NBA leader Patkar started an indefinite fast on July 27.
After heavy police deployment, beating up, breaking the pandal @medhanarmada arrested by police, 12 fasting protesters left untouched pic.twitter.com/wKiGNM9FmX— NarmadaBachaoAndolan (@NarmadaBachao) August 7, 2017
According to the NBA, 40,000 families of 192 village would be rendered homeless in the last leg of rehabilitation while activists have criticised the government over insufficient amenities in makeshift colonies meant for the oustees. NBA and opposition parties are also accusing MP government of making meek surrender on Sardar Sarovar Dam issue before the Gujarat government.
Congress chief spokesperson KK Mishra dubbed at the forceful removal of NBA activists from Dhar as "undemocratic". "This was undemocratic gift to women of the state by CM on Rakshabandhan," Mishra said adding that Congress would continue to fight for the oustees.
On the other hand, BJP spokesperson Dr Hitesh Vajpayee alleged that there was no space for any dialogue as the presence of opposition parties at the protest site indicated that the protest was used by them as an instrument to target the state government politically. However, he claimed that state government was committed to resolve the rehabilitation issues by all means.