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BJP-inspired? Withdraw 'trumped-up' FIRs against Medha Patkar, others: NAPM

Counterview Desk 

Top civil society network, National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), has sought immediate withdrawal of what it has termed "trumped-up FIR" filed against Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar and 11 others, who along with Patkar, are trustees of the Narmada Nav Nirman Abhiyan (NNNA).
NNNA claims to be working for over two decades "in the interest of the displacement-affected adivasi and rural communities in the Narmada valley in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh."
Seeking wider endorsement, the NAPM statement says the "false cases, allegations and media trial" against Patkar and others "are part of a continuing spree of persecution against rights defenders, civil liberties activists, fact-checkers, students etc. who have been speaking truth to power, exposing the anti-people nature of this government and questioning the injustice being meted out to marginalized sections of our society."

Text:

National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) strongly condemns the FIR filed against social activist Medha Patkar and 11 other trustees of Narmada Nav Nirman Abhiyan (NNNA), under Sec 420 IPC at the Badwani Police Station in MP, as widely reported in the media.
It is indeed atrocious that a public-spirited Trust like NNNA (registered in Mumbai) which has been working for over two decades in the interest of the displacement-affected adivasi and rural communities in the Narmada valley in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, especially children, is having to face such bizarre allegations from vested interests.
It is learnt that the complaint alleging ‘misuse of funds’, ‘cheating’, 'financial irregularities’, ’anti-national activities’ etc. has been filed by one Mr Pritam Raj Badole, who, as per his public profile on Koo social media is an activist of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), student wing of the ruling BJP in Khargone, MP.
It may be noted that a few months back, a similar false allegation was leveled against Medha Patkar and NNNA by one Mr Sanjeev Jha, resident of Ghaziabad. Although sections of the media reported that an FIR was filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), no notice has been issued so far.
Through a clarification dated 6th April, 2022, NNNA already countered those allegations pertaining to 17-year-old financial transactions. NNNA has stated that all their accounts are up-to-date and the Trust is willing to co-operate in any process of inquiry. It is, however, clear that the BJP government is on an all-out attempt to vilify Medha Patkar and the organizations she is associated with.
All the persons named in the FIR dated 9th July, 2022 have been associated with people’s issues in Narmada valley for long. They include families affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project who have struggled for decades against unjust displacement, seeking fair rehabilitation, as per judicial orders. Other trustees have been supporters of the people’s movement for rights and justice in the valley and have facilitated constructive work on education, health etc.
It needs to be pointed out that there has been a long history to the persecution and vilification that people from Narmada valley and their supporters have faced from the Governments and vested interests.
Way back in 2007, the Hon’ble Supreme Court dismissed an ill-motivated petition filed by one Mr VK Saxena (current LG of Delhi), calling it a ‘private interest litigation’, imposing costs on him for the same and stating that the work of Medha Patkar was in the interest of rehabilitation of the dam oustees. (Judgement[1] dated 10 July, 2007 in National Council for Civil Liberties vs Union of India & Ors).
Despite many challenges from the state, Narmada Bachao Andolan has been working relentlessly for the past 37 years, within the framework of the law of the land and Constitution, through peaceful struggle and constructive means to organize the farmers, adivasis, fisher people and other communities for their rights, while also undertaking educational and other initiatives for the children in the interior adivasi regions, where the governments have miserably failed in extending basic entitlements.
Medha Patkar has always supported and strengthened people’s struggles across the country, over three decades. It is a matter of utter shame that the government chooses to criminalize well-meaning people working for the oppressed sections, instead of enabling their efforts.
There is no doubt that these false cases, allegations and media trial are part of a continuing spree of persecution against rights defenders, civil liberties activists, fact-checkers, students etc. who have been speaking truth to power, exposing the anti-people nature of this government and questioning the injustice being meted out to marginalized sections of our society.
NAPM condemns these vengeful actions of the BJP Government against persons working in public interest.
  • We call for immediate withdrawal of the FIR against Medha Patkar and all trustees of NNNA.
  •  We also warn the government to refrain from undertaking any coercive action through its investigative and law enforcement agencies.
  • We assert the constitutional rights to organize and the right to liberty of all activists who are facing state repression for their public-spirited work.

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