A nine-member fact-finding team from Delhicomprising womenactivists, which had gone to take stockof the situation at the siteof Kanhar Irrigation Projectin Sonbhadra district on Monday, was forced to leave following aggressive stance taken by those in supportof the construction of the dam, workfor which has resumed since Sunday.
The members of the team, which included Kavita Krishnan (CPIL-ML politburo member) and Priya Pillai of Greenpeace, alleged that the mob supporting the construction of the Kanhar dam was sponsored by the state police which began harassing them from the moment they entered the district.
The administrationofficials said the mob threatened to getviolent and, therefore, the team had to be evacuated to safety.
Following violence twice in one week, adequate force continued to be deployed at the spot in Amwar village. The administrationhas assured relief to the villagers opposing the project.
Debadityo Sinha of Vindhya Bachao organisation, who was part of the fact-finding team, said: “After being subjected to multiple checks, we somehow managed to reach Duddhi (in Sonbhadra) by Sunday evening. The policemen consistently told us that Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code had been promulgated in the area. We somehow managed to reach the local hospital where at least 15 peopleinjured in policeaction were admitted.”
Sinha added that the team had barely spent 15 to 20 minutes when a mob gathered outside the hospital, calling them “bandh virodhi (opposers of the dam)” and demanding they leave immediately.
“We have videographed policemen laughing with the members of the mob. Why was there no Section 144 for them?” he asked.
On her twitter account Kavita Krishnan posted that the state policewas preventing the team from visiting the sitebecause “it was hiding things”. The team later met Sonbhadra DM and lodged a formal protest.
Sonbhadra Additional District Magistrate Manilal Yadav said: “We ensured that the team was taken out in time. The mob was getting angry and was shouting that they shouldleave. Workon the sitehas resumed. The administrationhas already accepted mostof the demands of the villagers who are going to be displaced. Even now, constant meetings are being held with them to ensure there is no communicationgap.”
Prabhu Singh, a senioroffice-bearer of the Kanhar Banao Sangharsh Samiti, said: “The locals feel that there are some NGOs that are against this project even though it is going to be beneficial overall to the entire area, which is dry. When the newsspread that ‘some NGOs’ had come to stall the project peoplegathered in large numbers to protest. Had the administrationnot whisked them out of the area to safety, anything could have happened.”
Debadityo Sinha informed that the team has
now reached Varanasiand it is likely that socialactivists Sandeep Pandey and Medha Patkar may visit the siteon Tuesday.
The first incident of violence on Kanhar Irrigation Project— which officially started in 1980-81 but picked pace only towards the end of 2014 — took place on April 15, in which an Inspector was badly injured and one tribal leader, Akku, sustained gunshot injuries.
On Saturday last (April 18), violence had broken out again when the policetried to remove those who were blocking the construction work. Two Circle Officers, an Inspector and two other constables, besides 17 villagers, were injured then.
On the same evening, however, a delegation had met the district administrationand presented a charter of demands after which the DM had assured affected villagers will be provided relief.