Police Terror on Peaceful Demonstrators
(Amnesty International has forwarded information about an attack on Human Rights Defenders. This information has been sent to it by: INDIA CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND LAW, CVOA Jam High School 4th Floor, 84 Samual Street,. Dongri Mumbai. It has also received some information for the same case from SEWA in Ahmedabad. An edited version is given below -- Chief Editor.)
The State Reserve Police attacked the people, protesting peacefully, on 7th April at Umbergaon, against the proposed Maroli-Umbergaon Port Project in Gujarat; they were lathi-charged and tear gassed without any warning by the State Reserve Police. Leaders of the Kinara Bachao Sangharsh Samiti leading the protest were picked up by the police and brutally beaten up at the local police station.
The government of Gujarat is proposing to construct a mega industrial port at Umbergaon in Gujarat. The development rights for this port project have been awarded to NATELCO and UNOCAL Corporation (a U.S. based oil and gas company). UNOCAL Corporation has a deplorable human rights and environment record and is facing lawsuits within the United States.
The proposed port site is a breeding and spawning ground for fish and supports the fishing industry in the area. The land is agriculturally fertile. The locals of Umbergaon are opposing the port project as it will destroy fishing activity and the fertile land will be acquired for laying railway lines and roads and for the construction of warehouses and other port facilities. The locals have been carrying on peaceful agitation in protest of the port since over a year.
In November 1999, about 2000 SRP personnel were brought into the area to put fear into the people. The locals came out onto the beach in large numbers and remained there for fifteen days - they danced and sang on the beach and protested in a most peaceful manner.
On 7th April 2000, State Reserve Police (SRP) personnel were brought into the area again. The SRP tents were put up on private land. When the landowners protested this action, the SRP personnel and the police went on a rampage. Women and children who were present in large numbers were mercilessly beaten. This violence took place under the orders of the Mamlatdar i.e. the administrative head of the sub-district. A large number of people gathered peacefully in protest. At about 8.00 p.m. the police requested five persons to come to the police station for talks, later another five persons were called. When the police returned for another five persons, the crowd asked where the previous ten were. The police instead of answering the queries of the crowd surrounded the people and indiscriminately started beating them.
About 28 men and eighteen women were arrested and taken to the Umbergaon lock-up. Those arrested included the office bearers of Kinara Bachao Sangharsh Samiti. Around 1.30 a.m. they arrested Advocate Bhupendra Macchi and Colonel Pratap Save (President of Kinara Bachao Sangharsh Samiti) from their homes. Colonel Pratap Save, Chandrashekhar Sagar, Haresh B. Macchi, Harsh R. Macchi, Narhari Macchi and Advocate Ulhas Macchi were beaten by the police at the lock-up. PSI Zala and Dy. Superintendent of Police Narendra Amin beat the activists with lathis. Colonel Pratap Save was held by policemen and repeatedly struck blows with the lathi on his chest till he collapsed on the ground but the beating continued.
The activists were released on bail by the court on the next day but were detained under the law of preventive detention for another 24 hours. Colonel Pratap Save ultimately collapsed and had to be shifted to the hospital where he fell into a coma. on Sunday he was shifted to Bombay where he had to undergo an emergency operation for brain hemorrhage. He has not gained consciousness and his condition is extremely serious,
This is the violent manner in which the Gujarat government and police crush the voice of peacefully agitating people. The people are angered because on 28th April 2000, the Chief Minister of Gujarat Mr. Keshubhai Patel had invited the residents of Umbergaon to ascertain their reasons for opposing the port and despite assurances had ordered the SRP into the area with instructions to use force to assist the company.
We demand that the officials responsible for this brutality be immediately suspended. We urge like minded organisations and individuals to condemn this dastardly act and lodge protests with the responsible authorities.
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