PRESS RELEASE FROM INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR JUSTICE IN BHOPAL
UPDATE FROM SARVADARSHI IN DELHI 4:59AM BST
Satish, one of the padyatris, was arrested last night after locking arms with Narmada activists in resistance against an approaching group of about 200 riot police. They were trying to prevent Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar and other hunger strikers being forcibly abducted by police against their will. Satish was taken to jail with 26 others after being kicked and beaten. He was released at 3:30 a.m.
Indian media continue to ignore the brutality of the police attack, which took place late at night under cover of darkness, when few bystanders and no photographers were around to witness it. Instead they report that the 27 who were arrested are to be charged with “rioting”. This is an old police tactic, well known in Bhopal.
In November 2002 Bhopal survivors and their supporters entered the derelict Union Carbide factory to begin a safe containment of surface wastes. They were arrested en masse, many were kicked, beaten and punched. The police didn’t realise they were being filmed. They charged the survivors with rioting. Later the charges were dropped and the Chief Minister was forced to apologise.
Reserve Inspector Chauhan of the Bhopal police, not knowing he is being filmed, caught punching a man in the face
In May 2005, women and children who had gone to a government office to ask why politicians were ignoring a Supreme Court order to provide them with clean drinking water, were beaten and kicked by police before being arrested. Once again, they were charged with rioting. This time many newspapers had harrowing pictures of what really happened. A man being dragged by his hair to a van. Goldman Prize winner Rashida Bee struck on the head and bleeding. Charges were dropped and the Chief Minister was forced to apologise.
India’s notoriously corrupt police (in Madhya Pradesh they are officially allowed to receive “gifts” of up to 500,00 rupees!) are universally feared and loathed by the poor because of their violence, their willingness to fake evidence and bring false charges against innocent people, their use of torture in police stations and their regular engineering of “encounters” in which people they dislike are shot and killed. They are a disgrace to the vision of Mahatma Gandhi who hoped that once India had won her independence, the police would “melt back into the people”. Gandhiji, thank God you never lived to hear these stories.
Police claims that Medha Patkar was not “arrested” are shown to be sophistry by the fact that when she leaves hospital they plan to charge her with attempted suicide. The irony, in a country whose freedom was won largely by the hunger strike and non-violent witness, is shaming to the Prime Minister and his political colleagues. For what he has done, Manmohan Singh should go to Medha didi’s besdide and humbly beg her pardon.
Medha Patkar on hunger strike yesterday
So far as we know, Bhopal.Net is the only news source carrying the full truth about last night’s attack.
JUST IN FROM NISHANT IN DELHI – 20:41 British Summer Time
About half an hour ago, 300 policemen under direct orders from the Prime Minister surrounded the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) camp at Jantar Mantar. All the five on hunger strike, including Medha didi, were forcibly removed and taken to All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to be fed against their will. Other activists on dharna were beaten up as they tried to block and resist the action. With 300 policemen with lathis and padded vests, they did not have a chance.
There are no words to express the rage and frustration. Is this really India, the land of non-violent resistance? Mr. Singh, have you no shame?
Indian Embassy: (202) 939-7010
Prime Minister’s Office: 91-11-23018939
Medha rejects PM’s call to end hunger strike
Medha Patkar’s condition worsens
Later press reports do not mention the violent use of force by the police, as witnessed by the Bhopalis on the other side of the road. bhopal.net coverage of the Narmada struggle is here
Medha Patkar and the Narmada Bachao Andolan
Campaigners of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Campaign) have been demonstrating in the capital, Delhi, right across the road from where the Bhopalis are staging their own dharna (demonstration).
The Narmada campaigners are trying to stop the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the river Narmada being raised even higher, leading to further losses of homes and fields. The Narmadans and Bhopalis are old allies and have been entertaining each other with songs and dances and generally keeping each others’ spirits up. Medha Patkar and a few others were on hunger strike. They have not eaten for around a week and two of the satyagrahis (hunger strikers) were reported to have been in bad shape.
This action by the government, apparently on direct order of the Prime Minister, is an intolerable blow against individual freedom in a country whose own national freedom was won largely by the hunger strikes and the non-violent protests of Mahatma Gandhi.
It seems the politics of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and the welfare of giant corporations that (fleetingly) rule the earth and fill politicians’ pockets, are closer to the heart of the Indian Prime Minister than his own people.
The freedom of all of us is challenged and insulted by this action. They will be coming for us next. And after that, for you.