Medha Patkar forcibly shifted after 12 days of hunger strike over Narmada dam
Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar, who is on an indefinite hunger strike since July 27, was removed by police on Monday from her protest site in Madhya Pradesh’s Dhar district and shifted to a hospital in Indore.
The 62-year-old Patkar and 11 more people were protesting against inadequate rehabilitation and resettlement of families affected by the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada river.
“Today after 12 days, the government replied by arresting 12 of us. This is not how you reply to a non-violent struggle … Under the rule of Modi and Shivraj, no dialogue with us … just gimmickry of figures and use of force,” she said in an audio message uploaded on social media.
She blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and state chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan for the action.
The BJP-led state government made an offer for talks on Monday morning, saying a delegation of senior officials will meet Patkar. But she allegedly refused and as her condition deteriorated, authorities sent police to the protest site, Chikhalda in Dhar.
Her supporters formed a human barricade around her when police came. A scuffle was also reported and police used lathis to disperse the crowd. Authorities used camera-mounted drones to keep an eye on the situation.
Around noon, additional forces arrived. By evening, 12 ambulances and buses reached Chikhalda and the protesters, including Patkar, was removed.
NBA leader Rahul Yadav said the Madhya Pradesh government or the Centre made no attempt in the dozen days of the strike to talk to the activists.
“They have been asking us to call off the hunger strike, but no offer was made for a dialogue. Since morning, they mobilised police, broke the temporary canopy and lathicharged to arrest the protesters. Is this violent response justified in a democratic society?” he asked.
Yadav alleged that a dozen protesters were wounded in the scuffle and nearly 60 detained.
“They forcibly removed Medhaji and six of 11 people fasting here. Five people are carrying on with the hunger strike,” he said.
The divisional commissioner of Indore, Sanjay Dubey, said Patkar and six more people were admitted hospital as their condition was deteriorating.
“The state government had to do this because there was no option left. Their health became fragile and they needed medical attention,” he said.
Dubey also said six policemen were wounded and four vehicles damaged in clashes with the protesters.
The state government deputed spiritual leader Bhayyuji Maharaj from Indore and senior bureaucrats to hold talks with Patkar on Saturday and convince her to end her strike.
But the talks remained inconclusive as Patkar told them that the government should solve the problems of dam-affected people.
She and her supporters are demanding adequate rehabilitation and resettlement of nearly 40,000 families, who have lost their homes and fields in the flooded backwaters of the dam.