Monday April 3, 2006
Non-violent struggles are being ignored, says Arundhati Roy
Such tactics by the Government send dangerous messages to those fighting peacefully
EPITOME OF STRUGGLE: Booker Prize Winner Arundhati Roy [PHOTO: SHANKER CHAKRAVARTY]
NEW DELHI: Warning that the country was facing "a kind of most serious situation," author and human rights activist Arundhati Roy on Sunday said the Government these days was neither respecting nor listening to those raising their voice via non-violent means. Instead, it was inviting those leading violent struggles for talks.
Joining other social activists, writers, scholars, politicians and students at the Jantar Mantar here to express solidarity with Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar sitting on a fast-unto-death with two other activists, Jamsingh Bhai Nargave and Bhagwatibai Jatpuria, for the past five days, Ms. Roy said: "All such tactics are sending a dangerous message to those who are fighting peacefully."
"The Government is taking undue advantage of the situation, but it must realise that it is doing so at its own peril," the author warned. The NBA activists had no option but to fight for their rights like many others who were now finding a common cause with them, she said, referring to families displaced by the removal of slums in Delhi and Mumbai.
"People are being displaced in millions, but they cannot go to cities, slums or villages. Then where will they go? There has to be an answer to this. In India, unlike other developed countries, those in majority are affected due to wrong Government policies and planning. If this continues, there will be some kind of a breakdown. It would be better if it happens because of a political struggle or due to an apolitical movement," she added.
At a demonstration to express solidarity with Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar who is on a fast for the fifth day at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Sunday [PHOTO: SHANKER CHAKRAVARTY]
Fight for justice
NBA activists drawn from affected areas of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat were joined by slum-dwellers of Delhi and Mumbai on Sunday in their fight for justice.
During the day, a public hearing (jan sunvai) was held at the Jantar Mantar, where affected people narrated their woes. Several social activists, scholars, writers and students expressed their solidarity with Medha Patkar. These included Prabhash Joshi, Joy Sen, Nandini Sunder, Sanjay Kak, Surendra Mohan, B. D. Sharma, S. A. R. Geelani, Kamal Mitra Chenoy, S. P. Shukla, Jayati Ghosh, Nirmala Deshpande, Shabnam Hashmi and Nandita Das.
In a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, they condemned the decision of the Narmada Control Authority to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam to 121.92 metres without rehabilitating over 35,000 affected families.
"There is total violation of Government laws, policies and agreements laid out by the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal Award, judgment of the Supreme Court and High Courts and fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution of India in carrying out the rehabilitation of lakhs of displaced people," the memorandum said, urging the Prime Minister to immediately halt construction at the dam site and ensure proper rehabilitation of displaced people.
In the evening, the activists and their supporters tried to march towards the Prime Minister's residence, but were stopped mid-way by the police.
Former Prime Minister V.P. Singh and Communist Party of India leader D. Raja also met Ms. Patkar at the dharna site to express their solidarity. Mr. Raja reportedly said he had spoken to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, urging her to intervene in the matter so that proper rehabilitation of displaced people could be ensured.