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Press Release: September 5, 2012

Activists storm M.P Bhawan demanding justice for the Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar Dam oustees  

A protest demonstration was organised by Delhi Solidarity Group (DSG) at Madhya Pradesh Bhawan in New Delhi today at 2:30pm demanding the Madhya Pradesh Government to take immediate action and lower the water levels of both, the Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar dams where 51 oustees have been standing in the dam water since the past 12 days. This protest was attended by more than 50 people who came together in support of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The activists shouted slogans held banners and photographs of the jal satyagrahi’s at the dam site asking for answers from the Madhya Pradesh Government. They demanded the Resident Commissioner, Snehlata Kumar to come out and address the concerns of the protestors, which she did. 

Prashant Bhushan, Himanshu Kumar, Bhupinder Singh Rawat and Vimal Bhai addressed the gathering. They gave an overview of the happenings at the dam site and said that land acquisition is not being done with consent of the people which is the reason for several movements all across the country. It was asserted that the government must address these issues immediately and rehabilitation should be carried out abiding the directives of the Supreme Court and High Court.. 

The main demands from the memorandum were also read out to the resident commissioner and urgency of the issue was stated.

The demands read were: 

  1. Immediate intervention and reduction in the water levels of both the dams in accordance with the Supreme Court’s and GRA’s directives in this regard.
  2. Provision for land for land and other rehabilitation rights as per Supreme Court Order to all the affected people.  

The memorandum with signatures of the protestors (pasted below) was submitted to the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan through the Resident Commissioner at M.P Bhawan. 

Sanjeev Kumar (09958797409),       Seela Manaswinee (09212587159)

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DELHI SOLIDARITY GROUP

MEMORANDUM

  5th September 2012

To
Sh. Shivraj Singh Chauhan,
The Chief Minister,
Madhya Pradesh,
India
(Through The Resident Commissioner, M P Bhawan, Delhi)
Sub: Demanding Immediate Justice for the Omkareswar and Indira Sagar Dam Oustees on Jal Satyagrah for last 12 days

Respected Sir,

Namaskar !

We, the citizens in Delhi from different movements, organizations and institutions  are extremely concerned about the ongoing situation of the fifty one Jal-Satyagrahis standing in the Omkareshwar dam water, Ghoghalgaon for the last 11 days. Many of them have developed blisters in their feet. Water has now reached up to their chin level & any increase in the water level would be fatal. We urge your immediate attention to this alarming situation.

We are shocked and dismayed at the initiative of the Government of Madhya Pradesh to raise the water-level in both Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar Dams without providing relief and rehabilitation to thousands of the project affected families respectively, which is in complete disregard of its legal mandate and in direct violation of various orders and findings of the Supreme Court of the country, as well as the specially appointed Grievance Redressal Authority.

The Government and the company Narmada Hydro Development Corporation (NHDC) who built these dams are violating the Orders of the High Court and Supreme Court by raising the water level in these dams, causing submergence of land and houses of thousands of oustees without rehabilitation.This is unjust and unacceptable. Last week around 4000 people from 250 villages of 10 districts like Indore, Dewas, Burhanpur, Harda, Badwani, Khargone, Bhopal & Dhar arrived to extend their solidarity to the Satyagrahi’s. They are not being allowed to the site where the satyagraha is taking place.

These important concerns for which the satyagrahis are staging their protests are not new at all, in fact people have been protesting since the past many years demanding rehabilitation.

Details of the issue:

OMKARESHWAR DAM: In May 2011, the Apex Court ruled that the authorities are obliged to allot land for land and a minimum of 2 hectares of land to be given well in advance of the completion of dam construction. However, even though an entire year has passed since the judgment, the State has failed to allot land to the over 2500 land-holder families. It must be noted that recently even the Grievance Redressal Authority has said in its orders that the rehabilitation policy has not been followed and all the oustees of Omkareshwar dam should be given land in lieu of land. Over 1000 families have still not been allotted house-plots. Various other rehabilitation entitlements still need to be provided.
Despite all this, the State Government and the project authorities have announced that they intend to raise the water level of the Omkareshwar dam to 193 meters from the earlier level of 189 meters and on 25th August, 2012 when the authorities raised the level of the reservoir by 1.5 meters, the oustees started Jal Satyagraha and are standing in the water of Omkareshwar dam since then.
In four villages of the Omkareshwar dam area namely Goggal, Bilawa, Bada Kailawa and Sukaya already more than 1200 acres have been submerged so far by the filling of the reservoir.

INDIRA SAGAR DAM: Similarly, in the Indira Sagar dam area also, thousands of oustees are yet to be given land and other rehabilitation entitlements. There are orders of Supreme Court and High Court that the water level in Indira Sagar dam cannot be raised beyond a level of 260 meters but it has been decided to increase it to 262 metres. Jal Satyagrah has been on in three places in the Indira Sagar dam area from September 1st, in villages Khardana, Badgaon Mal and Badkhaliya of Districts Harda and Khandwa.More than 191 villages are likely to be submerged in this area.

The district administrations statement is false and misleading: The statement issued by the Collector of Khandwa stating that compensation has been given to all Omkareshwar and Indra Sagar dam affected people and that the state owes them nothing, is not just false but misleading. It is surprising that during the meeting Officers of Narmada Hydro Development Corporation (NHDC), the company building the dams, spoke only about compensation and not about the rehabilitation of the affected people in accordance with the Rehabilitation Policy.

Court Orders
According to the Supreme Court orders the affected people need to be given not just compensation but land for land and other rehabilitation entitlements as per Rehabilitation Policy and this must be done 6 months prior to submergence. The Supreme Court, the High Court and recently even the Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA) has clearly stated in their orders that NHDC and the State Government have not adhered to the Rehabilitation Policy. Recently the GRA in first 225 orders has asked the state to give land for land to the displaced people. Therefore, the statement of District Administration is in direct violation and contempt of Supreme Court orders. Also in both these projects thousands of houses still have to be acquired and in the Indra Sagar Project, in 38 villages the back water survey has also not yet been done.

On August 31, 2012 the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) passed an interim order directing the government to ensure the safety of the oustees.

The Narmada Water Scheme – 1980 and 1987  has authorised and rather mandated the Narmada Control Authority chaired by the Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources to monitor and coordinate all the projects, in the Narmada Valley. The Narmada Control Authority must take a firm position on the demand for “No submergence without rehabilitation and compliance as per measures”, here and now!! Any further delay would cause a great human tragedy. The Madhya Pradesh Government which is responsible for the resettlement and rehabilitation of the oustees has the primary responsibility and must live up to its constitutional mandate.
We want you to know that the affected people have turned to the authorities exercising their legal rights. They have put their lives at stake and have been homeless and have lost all their belongings. Urgent decisive action from your part is THE WAY OUT.

We demand that the government:-
1. Immediately intervenes and reduces the water levels of both the dams and abides by the Court’s and GRA’s directives in this regard.
2. Provides land for land and other rehabilitation rights as per Supreme Court Order to all the affected people.

Yours’ Sincerely,

Sanjeev Kumar (09958797409),       Seela Manaswinee (09212587159)

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Sangharsh to UPA: Ensure Land Rights: Stop Land Acquisition and Displacement
Struggle for right to life and development intensifies
Gram Sabha Divas and Bhumi Haq Satyagraha before August 31st

New Delhi: August 5 – Amidst heavy rains and scorching heat and worsening political climate, thousands of adivasis, farmers, labourers, forest dwellers, fish workers, hawkers, small traders, urban and rural poor from across fifteen states and over a hundred grass root movements across India stayed put at Jantar Mantar for the past three days, challenging the ‘aam aadmi ki sarkaar’ and demanded their right to life and development as also immediate end to the historical injustices inflicted upon the nature based, marginalized and disadvantaged communities.

From Assam to Gujarat and Himachal to Karnataka, India’s ‘aam janta’ rocked the national capital with a singular demand for a Comprehensive Development Planning Act, with inviolable decision making rights to the Gram Sabhas And Basti Sabhas. There was unanimity among people that although, decades of struggle has resulted in the Rural Development Ministry, accepting some of the significant demands of people’s movements, nonetheless, the new Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Bill, 2011 fails to address the core concerns flagged off by the struggling masses for years.

Some of the major concerns that remain are: abuse of the concept of ‘public purpose’, unreasonable minimum stipulation of 100 acres land for applicability of R&R, no guarantee of compulsory and time-bound land and livelihood based rehabilitation etc. The very approach to consider urbanization and industrialization as ‘inevitable’, but not social justice and equity as necessary is deeply disturbing and unacceptable.  It is also widely felt that there is an imminent need for a complete halt to acquisition and diversion of farmland across the country (just multi-cropped irrigated land) or at least to the bare minimum, where inevitable for a real public purpose.

A delegation of senior Sangharsh leaders including Medha Patkar, Ashok Chowdhury, Vimalbhai, Dr. Sunilam, Anand Mazgaonkar and others shall meet Mr. Montek Singh Alhuwalia and other members of the Planning Commission later in the afternoon today. Alongside informing the Commission about the ground realities of defective ‘development’ models being pushed by it in virtual every sector, be it urban or rural development, energy, health, education, housing, PDS etc. the team shall also impress upon the Commission the ‘inevitability’ for recognizing the primacy and role of the Gram Sabhas / Basti Sabhas in the entire planning process, which must infact be the thrust of the XII Five Year Plan.

Mr. Singh had infact written to the Chief Secretaries of all the states before the XI Plan, that Gram sabha plans should be the basis for all development planning and called for such plans, but that never happened and the XI Plan was pushed, without this. This ‘disaster in planning’ should not be repeated once again. By inviting only a few NGOs and selected activists / researchers, the Govt. is doing enormous disservice to the people.  Gram sabha are the direct democratic units, and as constitutional bodies, above the Planning Commission. This bottom-up approach must be reflected in the new Bill as well, which much move towards development planning and not acquisition of land and R&R alone. Sangharsh shall also present the alternative paradigm in urban housing, water, energy and other sectors, which must ensure equity and justice, beyond addressing climate change alone.

Earlier in the day, more than a thousand people marched upto to the Parliament Street, with banners and buntings, screaming slogans ‘Lok Sabha ke Upar Gram Sabha aur Basti Sabha’. Braving the police and the barricades, the gathering reflected the nation’s mood today: of anger and anguish against increasing inequality, injustices and corruption. As a mark of protest to the government’s weak anti-corruption law, the people broke up 10 pot-heads representing corruption in virtually every sphere of socio-economic life; such as education, rationing, health, forest rights, access to natural resources, livelihood and NREGA, corruption from the Panchayat to the Parliament; Janpad to the Judiciary. The present government draft does not cover the actual corruption and atrocities faced by the poor and downtrodden day in and day out and the Government must fulfill basic needs and ensure basic rights, without corruption, the women and men said. A Sankalp (Resolve) against corruption was also taken that the struggle for a true ‘Janta ka Lokpal’ Bill shall continue.

A delegation comprising Kavitha Srivastava, Clifton Rozario, Sr. Celia, Subhash Lomte, Kailash Awasya, and others met the Union Minister for Food and Civil Supplies, Mr. K.V. Thomas today afternoon and conveyed the collective concern on the Government’s proposed ‘Food Security Bill’ and demanded immediate universalization of the Public Distribution System and rejection of the ‘cash transfers’ approach. Campaigners of the Right to Food Campaign including Biraj Patnaik and Madhuri Krishnaswamy also spoke at the Dharna today, demanding a strong pro-poor and pro-people Food Security Bill.

Displaced by dams and canals, threatened by thermal and nuclear plants, evicted from urban bastis and hawking spaces, coastal development and tousirm projects, removed from forest lands; the real India posed tough questions and demanded justice. Tens of toiling women and men, both from villages and cities across India demanded a fair share and rights in return for their hard work entitlements to various schemes such as housing, rations, pensions etc. not as schemes but as non-negotiable rights. There was also a strong demand for effective implementation of the Unorganized Sector Workers Act.

Over the past two days, various delegations also met Environment Minister, Ms. Jayanthi Natarajan, Social Justice Minister, Mr. Mukul Wasnik, Rural Development Minister, Mr. Jairam Ramesh, Tribal Affairs Minister, K.C Deo, Urban Development Minister, Mr. Kamal Nath, amongst others and strongly placed before them the demand for a comprehensive development planning act (instead of piecemeal legislation) that would also link up the various functions these Ministers are presently performing. Sangharsh also demanded that the Rural Development Ministry call for a National and regional consultations on the Bills for receiving maximum feedback to the proposed draft.

The people shall return back to their states today evening, with a resolve to continue and intensify their struggle. In various states, Gram / Basti Sabha Divas and Bhumi Haq Satyagraha shall be observed in the coming weeks and resolutions passed demanding a comprehensive legislation and an end to displacement. Movements shall also hold consultations at various places, disseminate the Bill further and solicit widest possible response before the Bill is introduced in the Parliament. As people themselves rightly put it, the Government should minimize displacement and maximize development, and since it has failed to do so over the past 60 years, it is time for the State to give the Gram Sabhas and Basti Sabhas a real chance ‘develop’ and sustain their own lives.

———————————————————————————————————————————–

Sangharsh is a process comprising of various people movements and organisations working against anti- people policies and working towards a just and egalitarian society.

Akhil Gogoi – Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, Assam ; Arundhati Dhuru, Sandeep Pandey, J P Singh, Manesh Gupta – NAPM, UP ; Ashok Choudhary, Roma, Munnilal – National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers ; Bhupender Singh Rawat, Nanu Prasad – Jan Sangharsh Vahini & NAPM-Delhi ; Bilas Bhongade – Gosi Khurd Prakalp Grasht Sangharsh Samiti & NAPM – Maharashtra ; Chitranjan Singh – INSAF ; Dayamani Barla – Adivasi Moolwasi Asthitva Raksha Manch, Jharkhand ; Dr. Sunilam, Adv. Aradhna Bhargava – Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, MP ; Gabriela Dietrich, Geeta Ramakrishnan – Pennuruimai Iyyakam & NAPM-Tamil Nadu ; Gautam Bandyopadhyaya – Nadi Ghati Morcha, Chhattisgarh ; Guman Singh, K Upmanyu – Him Niti Abhiyan, Himachal Pradesh ; Rajnish Gambhir, Ramchandra Rana – Tharu Adivasi Mahila Kisan Manch & NFFPFW, Lakhimpur Khiri, UP ; Manju Gardia – Nawa Chhattisgarh Mahila Sangathan & PSA – Chhattisgarh ; Mata Dayal, Rani – Birsa Munda Bhu Adhikar Manch & NFFPFW-MP ; Medha Patkar – Narmada Bachao Andolan & National Alliance of People’s Movements ; Prafulla Samantara – Loksakti Abhiyan & NAPM Odisha ; P Chennaiah, Ajay Kumar, Ramakrishna Raju, Sarasvathy Kavula – APVVU and NAPM Andhra Pradesh ; Rajendra Ravi – NAPM, Delhi ; Shanta Bhattacharya, Rajkumari Bhuyian – Kaimur Kshetra Mahila Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti & NFFPFW, UP ; Shaktiman Ghosh – National Hawkers Federation ; Simpreet Singh – Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan & NAPM-Mumbai ; Sister Celia – Domestic Workers Union, NAPM – Karnataka ; Sunita Rani, Anita Kapoor – National Domestic Workers’ Union & NAPM, Delhi ; Ulka Mahajan, Suniti S R, Prasad Bhagwe – SEZ Virodhi Manch & NAPM – Maharashtra ; Vimalbhai – Matu Jan Sangathan & NAPM-Uttarakhand; Niketan Palkar, Tata Dharangrasth Sangharsh Samithi; Subhash Lomte – National Campaign Committee for Rural Workers; Janaklal Thakur, Chattisgarsh Mukti Morcha

for information contact :
Seela Mahapatra: 9212587159, Madhuresh Kumar: 9818905316, Vijayan M J: 9582862682
c/o: 6/6, Jangpura B, Mathura Road, New Delhi – 110014   # 011-26680914, 26680883
email : action2007@gmail.com Web : http://napm-india.org/node/326

Contacts:
Vijayan – 9582862682 / 9868165471,
Madhuresh – 9818905316
Joe – 9871153775
———–

For daily updates on the dharna: http://sangharshblog.wordpress.com/
For Podcasts: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/sangharsh-dharna-aug-3-5-2011
Follow us on Twitter: #sangharsh
For images: www.flickr.com/joeathialy
For higher resolution photos of dharna, contact:  +91-9871153775

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25 years of Struggle and Reconstruction in Narmada Valley

Invitation : October 22-23, 2010 in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh

Narmada has been a witness to the 25 years long struggle by the communities reared in its laps over generations. Adivasis in the mountain ranges of Stapuda and Vindhyas, farmers, labourers, fish-workers and potters in the plains have stayed put and challenged Sardar Sarovar, other large dams and canals destroying prime agricultural land, the rich horticulture and hilly as well as densely populated habitats. The saga that began in 1985 has completed 25 years of the battle which came to question, not only dams but development, displacement and disparity growing with the presently imposed paradigm of development. Our battle and navnirman (reconstruction) has continued through the Jeevanshalas (life schools), through micro-hydel projects, bio-gas plants, organic farming and raising issues of rights and responsibilities. Over these years we have driven away the World Bank and many other international financiers from the valley, and compelled the governments to rehabilitate thousands of adivasis with land, and contributed to the building of alliances such as National Alliance of People’s Movements.

Much water has flown through Narmada in spite of many dams being built at enormous human and environmental costs, but over estimated benefits remain unattained and the mockery of rehabilitation exposed. The undemocratic state using the ‘divide and rule’ policy, corrupt nexus of agents-officials, money and market continues to push the destruction, violate laws, manipulate the processes of sanctioning and monitoring, yet the Dam remains stalled at 122 mts and the people continue in the movement mode, resisting the atrocities, fighting prolonged battles in the courts from local to Supreme, and surviving the continued betrayal over two decades and more of various governments. The life flows in these villages as the river Narmada in full jest and gaiety. The struggle for justice has spread over to Maheshwar, Omkareshwar, Maan, Jobat, Indira Sagar, Veda dams and canals areas.

We the Adivasis and farmers, with activists and all our supporters have to come together this far and look back and look forward at this juncture of 25 years completion. It can’t be a mere celebration when the sword is still hanging, full justice is still to be achieved, large dams are still being pushed and challenged. We can’t even get over our grief since Ashish, Sanjay, Shobha and others colleagues have left us forever. Yet, however, we can’t but take the torch forward … which was lit by them, carried by thousands and thousands of people across the country and beyond borders.

People in the Narmada valley would like to come together with you all who have joined us on the long path during last 25 years at some point during our actions, testing times, crises and celebrations. All those who stood by us, spread the message and extended support are invited to the valley on the occasion of ‘Reflections from Narmada : 25 Years and Beyond’.

Come be with us at opportune moment with your colleagues, comrades and friends on

· October 22nd at Dhadgaon, district Nandurbar, Maharashtra and

· October 23rd at Badwani, district Badwani, Madhya Pradesh.

Reach Dhadgaon on 21st evening or 22nd morning and your journey from Dhadgaon to Badwani, through the river in boats would be our responsibility. Rallies and public meetings at both the places amidst adivasis of Nundurbar, Alirajpur and farmers in the plains of Nimad would be graced with your presence and reiterate our commitment to the common cause. We are also planning other initiatives on this occasion and would urge you to take lead in marking our struggle in your own areas, regions, countries, institutions, organisations or wherever in any befetting manner. You will be hearing from us over this in next while… 

Narmada has been a witness to the 25 years long struggle by the communities reared in its laps over generations. Adivasis in the mountain ranges of Stapuda and Vindhyas, farmers, labourers, fish-workers and potters in the plains have stayed put and challenged Sardar Sarovar, other large dams and canals destroying prime agricultural land, the rich horticulture and hilly as well as densely populated habitats. The saga that began in 1985 has completed 25 years of the battle which came to question, not only dams but development, displacement and disparity growing with the presently imposed paradigm of development. Our battle and navnirman (reconstruction) has continued through the Jeevanshalas (life schools), through micro-hydel projects, bio-gas plants, organic farming and raising issues of rights and responsibilities. Over these years we have driven away the World Bank and many other international financiers from the valley, and compelled the governments to rehabilitate thousands of adivasis with land, and contributed to the building of alliances such as National Alliance of People’s Movements.

Much water has flown through Narmada in spite of many dams being built at enormous human and environmental costs, but over estimated benefits remain unattained and the mockery of rehabilitation exposed. The undemocratic state using the ‘divide and rule’ policy, corrupt nexus of agents-officials, money and market continues to push the destruction, violate laws, manipulate the processes of sanctioning and monitoring, yet the Dam remains stalled at 122 mts and the people continue in the movement mode, resisting the atrocities, fighting prolonged battles in the courts from local to Supreme, and surviving the continued betrayal over two decades and more of various governments. The life flows in these villages as the river Narmada in full jest and gaiety. The struggle for justice has spread over to Maheshwar, Omkareshwar, Maan, Jobat, Indira Sagar, Veda dams and canals areas.

We the Adivasis and farmers, with activists and all our supporters have to come together this far and look back and look forward at this juncture of 25 years completion. It can’t be a mere celebration when the sword is still hanging, full justice is still to be achieved, large dams are still being pushed and challenged. We can’t even get over our grief since Ashish, Sanjay, Shobha and others colleagues have left us forever. Yet, however, we can’t but take the torch forward … which was lit by them, carried by thousands and thousands of people across the country and beyond borders.

People in the Narmada valley would like to come together with you all who have joined us on the long path during last 25 years at some point during our actions, testing times, crises and celebrations. All those who stood by us, spread the message and extended support are invited to the valley on the occasion of ‘Reflections from Narmada : 25 Years and Beyond’.

We are also planning other initiatives on this occasion and would urge you to take lead in marking our struggle in your own areas, regions, countries, institutions, organisations or wherever in any befetting manner. You will be hearing from us over this in next while…

Come be with us at opportune moment with your colleagues, comrades and friends on

· October 22nd at Dhadgaon, district Nandurbar, Maharashtra and

· October 23rd at Badwani, district Badwani, Madhya Pradesh.

Reach Dhadgaon on 21st evening or 22nd morning

and your journey from Dhadgaon to Badwani, through the river in boats would be our responsibility. Rallies and public meetings at both the places amidst adivasis of Nundurbar, Alirajpur and farmers in the plains of Nimad would be graced with your presence and reiterate our commitment to the common cause.

As always you are welcome to come and spend more time with us, work with us, volunteers with us or just be travel with us in this journey.

Reach Dhadgaon on 21st evening or 22nd morning and your journey from Dhadgaon to Badwani, through the river in boats would be our responsibility. 

Rallies and public meetings at both the places amidst adivasis of Nundurbar, Alirajpur and farmers in the plains of Nimad would be graced with your presence and reiterate our commitment to the common cause.

The Celebrations will be followed by the 8th Bi-annual Convention of National Alliance of People’s Movements at Badwani, MP from October 24th to 26th. Do stay with us for this important occasion too. We are sending you the invite for the same separately. napmindia@gmail.com | http://www.napm-india.org | 9818905316

Do inform us of your arrival, so that we can make adequate arrangements … You can reach us by phone or write to us on nba.badwani@gmail.com , 25yearsofnba@gmail.com

In Solidarity,

Devram Bhai Kaneria, Kailash Awasya, Mohan Patidar, Noorji Padvi, Kamla Yadav, Bawa Mahariya, Yogini, Chetan, Bhagirath, Siyaram, Ratan, Shrikanth, Medha Patkar and many others…

 

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National Consultation on the Proposed Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill and Resettlement & Rehabilitation Bill (draft)

September 23, 2010, Indian Social Institute, New Delhi

Dear Comrades / Friends / Colleagues,

Greetings !

Struggles against Land Acquisition have in fact become the most common phenomenon of our times. People across the country have been opposing efforts by the state and corporates to dispossess and displace them from the natural resources, esp land and forests, they possess. Movements have been also struggling to retaining the right over the land they have occupied, resisted attempts at evictions or displacements due to large infrastructure projects, submergence by dams or deprivation / landlessness by any means. The demand for a comprehensive Development planning legislation, that will not have forced displacement has been ongoing for close to two decades now. Despite that, there has never ever been a serious effort by the Government to bring about a national legislation that will replace the colonial Land Acquisition Act nor bring about a new era where people will not be made oustees in their own land.

There has been numerous consultations, meetings, dialogues, demonstrations in Delhi and all across the country however, the government has failed to address the genuine concerns in all these years. In the wake of the recent protests by farmers against unjust acquisition of land in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, there has been again a vociferous demand made by different political parties to bring in the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, and Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill.

However, it needs to be noted that the agitation by farmers in Aligarh and elsewhere in Uttar Pradesh are not isolated incidents. Struggles against unjust land acquisition have been intensifying across the country. The only response of the government has been a brutal suppression of these struggles using its police force. In July this year, the Government of Andhra Pradesh fired at, killing three persons, and lathi-charged hundreds of peaceful protesters in the Sompeta Mandal of Srikakulm district, who were resisting the forcible and unjust acquisition of land for the 2640 MW thermal plant by Nagarjuna Construction Company Ltd. In mid August then private goons of Jindal Steel and Power Ltd. beat-up villagers who were peacefully protesting the forcible acquisition of land, in Tapranga, Raigarh district of Chhattisgarh, by the company for coal mining. There are innumerable instances of such acts of harassment, exploitation, dispossession all across the country. In the whole adivasi belt of central India, land acquisition is being masqueraded by anti-movements repression and the infamous ‘Operation Greenhunt’.

The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill and Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill were tabled by the UPA government during the winter session of 2007 and just a day before the monsoon session of 2009 ended. Introduced purportedly to strike a balance between the ‘need for land for development’ and other purposes and protecting the interests of the persons whose lands are statutorily acquired, both the Bills in fact facilitate the handing over the land, rivers, forests, minerals to the big corporations, both public and private, for mining, big dams, thermal, nuclear and other power projects, SEZs, etc., without effectively addressing the fundamental issues that have been raised by the resistance movements that are raging across the country. If enacted, both the Bills will have far reaching impact on the lives on millions of people across the country, their livelihood and access to natural resources—land, water and forests.

The issues of both Land Acquisition and Resettlement and Rehabilitation have been discussed and debated for several years now. The government has brought forth several policies, especially on the latter issue. However no process of thorough stock taking has yet been initiated by the government. In fact even the most basic information, which is crucial for determining the areas and direction in the laws and policies that need to be formulated and amended, is not available.

The earlier consultations by several civil society groups and movements culminated in a draft that was later used by the National Advisory Council to form the basis for the ‘National Development, Displacement and Rehabilitation Bill’, which was passed by the NAC in 2006. Since then the draft remained pending with the Central Cabinet on the excuse that there were questions and barriers to be faced and clarified, before it could get its sanction. Further, the present draft Bills were introduced in complete negation of this draft and the consultations with people’s movements and groups at different levels.

We do hope you will be able to join us for a National Consultation on September 23rd, Thursday, at Indian Social Institute, Lodi Road, New Delhi with your colleagues in the movements and groups so that we can discuss all these issues in detail and work on a better draft of the Comprehensive Act.

In solidarity,

Ashok Chaudhary, Prafulla Samantara, Medha Patkar, Gautam Bandopadhyay, Sandeep Pandey, Anil Chaudhary, Dr. Sunilam, Ajit Jha, Dayamani Barla, Guman Singh, Mamata Kujur,  Simpreet Singh, Roma, Vimalbhai, Rajendra Ravi, Anand Mazgaonkar, Bhupendra Singh Rawat, Vijayan M J, Madhuresh Kumar and others…

Delhi Contact: 6/6, Jangpura B, New Delhi – 110014; Mob: 9818905316/ 9582862682

Ph: 011- 26680883/26680914; Email: napm.madhuresh@gmail.com; bipincc@gmail.com

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AN OPEN LETTER & APPEAL

I am a fresh lawyer coming from a tribal family of Jashpur, Chhattishgarh. I finished my law graduation in year 2008, got enrolled with Chhattisgarh Bar Council and started working for poor and underprivileged. For which I had a commitment since my college days. I started learning basics of human rights litigation at Delhi office of Human Rights Law Network and very recently had come to Chhattisgarh to do research for right to food case which is going on in Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and for this. I went to Dantewada, and met Mr. Himanshu Kumar, Director of Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, who has done some study on this issue and taking information, his advice and guidance. I was also providing some legal assistance to him during my stay in Dantewada.

On 10 December, 2009 at about 2:30 P.M. the Thana Incharge (TI) of Bhairamgarh Police Station Mr. K.S. Nand in civil uniform came to the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA) situated at Katiyarraas accompanied by approximately more than 25 SPO’s in 5 cars. Director of VCA, Shri Himanshu Kumar and few other volunteers of VCA were present. I was also present there. TI spoke to Himanshu Kumar about taking Kopa Kunjam, s/o Lacchu Kunjam, resident of village Alnaar, Block – Geedam, P.S. Dantewada, who is a volunteer of VCA stating that they need him for some interrogation by the Superintendent of Police. He said, “SP Sahab ne bulaya hai, kuch puch tach karni hai”. No notice was served for this. However on being asked by Himanshu Kumar to give some written notice about it, the TI Bhairamgarh immediately wrote on a piece of paper that, “Prati, Kopa Kunjam ! Apse thana Dantewada me kuch poonch thanch karna chahta hoon. Kripya ap mere sath sadar P.S. kotwali chalein.” (I want to do some investigation with you at Dantewada Police Station. Please come with me to P.S. Kotwali). Being an Advocate present at the spot, I thought it to be my duty to accompany VCA Volunteer Kopa Kunjam to Dantewada police station.

With the consent of Himanshu Kumar, Director-VCA I went alongwith Kopa Kunjam. At Dantewada police station we were asked to sit down. After making both of us wait for about half an hour, we were asked to come and sit in a vehicle . Thinking that we were being taken to the S.P. Office, we sat in the vehicle. As vehicle proceeded, I introduced myself to the IT Bhairamgadh saying that I am an advocate, having done my law course from Hidayatullah National Law University , Raipur and am associated with Human Rights Law Network. When the vehicle crossed Dantewada, we became suspicious and asked as to where we were being taken now, to which TI, Bhairamgarh, replied, “Kopa Kunjam is now being taken to Beejapur District”. Kopa Kunjam refused to go further as he was not informed about being taken to Beejapur earlier. I also objected to it, stating that the police should follow necessary procedures under the law and should act as per guidelines of the Supreme Court and that they cannot take Mr.Kopa to Beejapur without giving any notice in this regard. By this time Kopa Kunjam came out from the Bolero vehicle and I also got out of the vehicle.

The TI along with 2 others got hold of Mr.Kopa and with the help of around 15 S.P.O’s bundled Mr. Kopa into another vehicle which was also coming along with them. When I again resisted to such behavior saying that it was illegal to behave in this manner, two S.P.O.’s started abusing and slapping me and bundled me also inside the car.  Before being bundled into car, I somehow managed inform  my senior Lawyer, colleagues and friends in Delhi about this incident. Noticing this two SPOs, started slapping and beating me and tried to snatch my mobile and, but I didn’t give my mobile, but after this they force me inside the car and did not allow me use the mobile phone.

At about 5 P.M., we reached Bhairamgarh police station. The IT, Bhairamgadh asked me to give my mobile phone and also asked to switch it off and we were asked to sit there inside the police station. We were kept at a place inside police station with two S.P.O. keeping an eye on us. At about 8 p.m. we were taken for dinner in a nearby Hotel, from where we came in 15-20 minutes. At about 8:45 P.M. the officials of Bhairamgarh police station called me inside a room and tried to ask about the reason of me deciding to accompany Mr.Kopa. About three minutes later TI of Bhairamgarh started addressing me in an extremely rude and disrespectful manner and soon became violent and abusive. He started abusing me with slur and offensive language, which was followed by beatings with a thick bamboo stick and with a hard rubber cane, continuously slapping me while pulling my hair and kicking severely. After sometime he went out and started beating Kopa Kunjam. Kopa Kunjum was brought into the same room and both of us were beaten severely for 30 minutes by the TI Mr. Nand and an assistant constable Banjara, while some 15 other police staff & S.P.Os surrounded both of us. TI Mr. Nand  also said that ” No Advocate in Bastar dares to speak in my presence and you talk a lot. Now show me how much you can talk!  Show me how much law you know?” Later I was taken to a separate room and was questioned about the purpose of my stay in Dantewada and association with VCA. At around 10 PM, I listened someone saying that , “Sala Bada Admi hai , Delhi se Sahab ka phone aya hai.” Soon after this I was asked to write in a paper that I was brought to Bhairamgadh and as it has become late evening and there is no mode of transport and since the area is a very sensitive and unsafe, I  decided to spend the night at Bhairamgarh station, where I am safe. In Bhairamgadh Police Station, they said that that Himanshu is a Naxalite and whoever is working with Himanshu is a naxalite and who stays with Himanshu it a Naxal supporter.

Mr. Kopa was very badly beaten and had received serious injuries on his chest, back and leg, due to which he was even unable to walk and sleep properly. I have got injuries on front portion of elbow of right hand, biceps and back causing severe pain and swelling. I was even not able to move my hands and back due to severe pain. I spend whole of night shivering and in pain, speculating what next is to happen.

On 11 December, 2009 at 9:30 a.m. I was send to Dantewada police station accompanied by 4 S.P.O.’s in a vehicle and one head constable of Bhairamgarh police station, while Mr. Kopa was kept detained. When they reached Dantewada Police Station, two volunteers of VCA were called and I was handed over to them.

After being released, next date day, I went to Ambedkar Hospital, Raipur to get a medical examination done, however I was asked make a compliant before the police and I was informed that the police will come after I make the complaint and then MLC will be conducted in the presence of police. I thought of going back to Dantewada to lodge the F.I.R. but because I was scared of being implicated in any false case this time, I did not go there.

However, being very much concerned about the trend of even lawyers not being allowed to function freely and being beaten up like this, I have no other option except to write this open letter-cum-appeal addressed to every body so that the issue could be taken up by the society itself. I have been subjected this kind of brutality for working for poor and powerless. It is against law, against democracy and even against morality to do this to an advocate. If such kind of treatment is given to young lawyers who want to work towards a better society, young generation will loose hope.

Kindly take appropriate step against those who have abused power vested in them to beat and insult me in this gruesome manner and help restoring the faith of young people in the democracy and rule of law.

Yours Sincerely

Alban Toppo
Advocate

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Press Release 15th December 2009

Campaign for Justice to Vikram Buddhi challenges the US Court’s sentencing of Vikram for 57 months; Demands fair trial for Indian student in US –

Vikram to appeal to Higher Court; Reaffirms innocence

In a case of a gross injustice, Vikram Buddhi, an IIT-graduate working on a double PhD at Purdue University in the United States, has been sentenced to four years and nine months for a crime he did not commit. He was charged by the US Secret Service of having circulated emails, nstigating Iraqis to kill US President and bomb infrastructure in USA. He was initially picked up for interrogation by the US Secret Service in January 2006 only to be cleared in three days time and released. The Secre Services also then cleared him of all suspicions after rendering a formal report on 3rd Feb 2006. The report clearly stated that Vikram was no threat to any US Secret Service Protectees, including the President. However, he was mysteriously picked up again on April 14, 2006 and then after invalid indictments (charges), unfair trial and guilty verdict, he has been held in jail since June 2007.

Invalid Indictments: Despite the fact that the crime Vikram is accused of committing has to do with posting offensive messages on the internet, the indictments are worded without any references to the messages and simply state that Vikram threatened to kill the President, Vice President and others.

Unfair Trial: The trial was unfair for the following key reasons:

1)      The Judge, James T. Moody refused to instruct the jury on the law

2)      When the court-appointed defense attorney tried to link the evidence on record to the relevant law, the judge threatened to embarrass him in open court and shut him up

3)      When the jury asked for clarification on what they believed was a contradiction in the Judge’s instructions, they were sent another refusal and summarily told to continue their deliberations, though without any basis.

Other Anomalies: Additionally, there were several other problems with the investigation and trial. The evidence that supposedly proved that Vikram sent the messages is the Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) table which has been admitted to be poisoned (admitted in affidavit by the prosecution). This allows for the possibility that hacking took place. To assist the defense attorney in discussing the technical matter in detail, Vikram’s father, Dr. BK Subbarao was present during the trial but was prevented from participating by the prosecution who named him a government witness, in a clear case of professional misconduct.

Vikram’s sentencing was scheduled for Dec 10, 2009. As per the schedule, the hearing started and Vikram himself fought for 7 hours and the sentencing was pushed for next day. On Dec 11, 2009, Vikram filed 17 pages motion for subpoena of alleged victims’ impact assessment reports and the deliberations continued. Prosecution was pressing for 35 years of imprisonment. Finally the court sentenced Vikram to imprisonment of 57 months (4 years and 9 months) and 3 years of probation.

Finally, the Indian Government has demonstrated its complete unwillingness to help its citizen jailed wrongfully in a foreign country. Concerned citizens, including Adv. Somnath Bharati, met Shri S.M. Krishna, but no action was taken, though he expressed during the meeting that the indictment (charge) was invalid and the matter of how the trial was conducted was ‘fishy’.

v     In this case, we demand that the Government of India keep up its promise as made by the Minister for External Affairs that they will intervene in this matter and make sure legal support is provided to Vikram in a fair trial process.

v     We also demand that the Government of India send a letter to the US Attorney General and Government asking him to review the details of the case.

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