Statement Condemning Arrest of Medha Patkar and other activists

The Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) is extremely concerned about the slew of arrests of activists Dayamani Barla, Medha Patkar, S.R. Suniti and others with them. Not only have they been raising issues of concern to the poorest of people, they have done so through modes of peaceful democratic protest within the constitutional framework This is clearly an arbitrary and illegal means of suppressing any voice of democratic protest especially when it affects commercial and corporate interests .

Medha Patkar, National Convener of National Alliance for Peoples Movements was in Chinwara to support Kisan Sangarsh Samiti in their on-going protests against the acquisition of land for the construction of a dam under the Pench Water Diversion Project. This project was initially set up for irrigation purposes and now the water is being diverted to Adani power plant. The acquisition processes and government clearances are incomplete. The fact that Aradhna Bhargava and Medha Patkar along with several others were arrested from the residence of Aradhna Bhargava when they were not even at the protest site reveals the extent to which the State will go, to protect corporate interests even at the cost of democratic rights and civil liberties.

Dayamni Barla, National Co-Convener of the National Alliance of People’s Movements has been in Jail since 16th October. Her offence is protesting against the acquisition of fertile agricultural land for building universities. This land had been acquired under urgency clause in 1957-58 for building a seed farm for the Birsa Agricultural University, which did not get built, and was later allotted, to IIM and NUSRL by the Jharkhand Government. Every time she is given bail, she is immediately rearrested and is currently in Hotwar Central Jail facing her third set of charges.

S.R. Suniti, National Convener of National Alliance for Peoples Movements and other women were arrested in Pune while protesting against the illegal submergence caused by Wand Marathwadi dam, the illegal acquisition of tribal land in the Lavasa hill city area and the non regularization of resettlement colonies of project affected people of the Tata Dam in Lonavla area.

These events though in different parts of the country are a part of a deliberate attack on citizens claiming their right to protest and dissent against the current mode of development. The highly contested land acquisition bill is under consideration in parliament. These are cases of blatant violation of rights of those being displaced for commercial projects. Instead of their questions and concerns being addressed, the few who speak out are being arrested and repressed. It is vitally important spaces of dissent are preserved in a democracy and people’s movements, themselves committed to democratic principles are given the same legitimacy that the political class seeks for itself.

Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Lal Singh, Bhanwar Meghwanshi, Narayan and Shankar Singh, (for the MKSS)

10th November 2012

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