Medha Patkar, firebrand leader of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, faced sharp criticism on Sunday for allegedly terming the holy river as a prostitute that’s being abused by private companies.
During a recent interaction with the media, the activist had complained that several private firms were abusing the river like a vaishya (prostitute). She alleged that the state government was supplying 172 crore litres of river water to private firms every day.
Enraged by her remark, members of a non-descript organisation – the Maa Narmada Bhakt Mandal – approached the Barwani Kotwali police to register a formal complaint. Local BJP leader Amrit Lal Agrawal also joined the protesters. “The people of Madhya Pradesh – not just Barwani – treat the Narmada river as their mother. Patkar has insulted our mother, and that’s unacceptable,” said Agrawal.
However, the Barwani Kotwali police refused to lodge an FIR – stating that the onus was on the Bhopal police to take action.
Patkar had launched an indefinite strike at Rajghat on Saturday for the poor people reportedly affected by Gujarat’s Sardar Sarovar dam.
Later, members of the mandal decided to seek legal opinion from lawyers to file a private complaint against Patkar in court.
District superintendent of police Siddharth Bahuguna said he asked the protesters to first submit an application narrating the entire episode – so a police probe could be initiated.
Patkar said she was quoted out of context by the media. “They gave a distorted version of what I said,” she told HT over the phone. “I am ready to apologise if I’ve hurt anybody’s sentiments. I also treat Narmada as my mother.”
When asked if she had used another word to describe the exploitation of Narmada water, the activist replied: “I spoke without giving it a thought. I am sorry.”