They were staging jal satyagraha to demand land compensation and reduction in reservoir water level
People protesting displacement caused by the Indira Sagar dam on the river Narmada got a shock on Wednesday when the Madhya Pradesh government used police force to crack down on them. The dam oustees were holding a jal satyagraha by sitting in neck deep water and were hoping that their grievances would be redressed as happened in the case of Omkareshwar dam oustees downstream.
But the government did not relent in their case and imposed Section 144 of the CrPC, banning public gatherings, at the protest site in village Khardana. On Wednesday morning, some 150-200 agitating dam oustees were arrested from the site and taken to the Harda police station, informed Alok Agarwal of Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), a people's group spearheading the protests.
The oustees were staging a jal satyagraha against the government’s move of raising the water level in the dam reservoir from 260 metres to 262 metres in violation of the Supreme Court order. They were also demanding land compensation in lieu of the land submerged by the dam reservoir. The raised water level has submerged several hundred hectares of land, much of which was not even included in the submergence area of the dam in the first place, and has turned several villages into islands which are cut off from surrounding areas. In some places, houses have also been submerged, said Agarwal.
“Some 20,000 dam oustees have been denied land for land compensation in Indira Sagar's submergence area,” said Agarwal, adding that the recent rise in water level, having submerged additional areas, has displaced many more people whose number is not known. “We want that government should take back the illegal step of raising the water level and engage in democratic dialogue with the oustees on their demands,” the NBA activist said.
Sources state that force was also used to stop the agitation at Barkhalia village in Khandwa district. In view of the police action, NBA has decided to withdraw its agitation. “We are now going to move court against the government for violating Supreme Court order,” said Agarwal.
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