Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare announced on Tuesday that he would start a campaign for social activist Medha Patkar’s release if she was not freed by the Madhya Pradesh Police unconditionally. He said this while participating in a civil society protest outside the Madhya Pradesh Bhawan here against the arrest of Ms. Patkar and several others on Sunday night in the Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh. They were arrested as part of a police clampdown on farmers’ protest against land acquisition for the Pench Water Diversion Project in Chhindwara.
A petition on behalf of Ms. Patkar is expected to come up before the Jabalpur High Court on Wednesday.
“The government should withdraw the false cases on Dr. Sunilam [a Kisan Sangharsh Samiti leader], Medha Patkar and others and listen to the demands and concerns of the farmers. If these demands are not fulfilled, I will sit with the people of Chhindwara in their struggle,” Mr. Hazare said before submitting the memorandum to the Resident Commissioner of Madhya Pradesh Bhawan.
Demanding to stop to the ongoing land acquisitions in Chhindwara, Mr. Hazare said: “The M.P. government should also take action against police officers who were behind the farmers’ massacre in Multai on January 12, 1998.”
Mr. Hazare, who was protesting along with Justice (retd.) Rajinder Sachar, also condemned the arrest of Dr. Sunilam, who was leading several farmers’ protest against forcible land acquisitions in several parts of the State including at Chhindwara where the local administration was about to start the process of acquiring the land for Pench water project.
The protesting activists said that Ms. Patkar went to Chhindwara after the State administration arrested Dr. Sunilam on “fabricated” cases in order to weaken the farmer’s agitation in his absence.
“The project planned in 1984, which never took off, is now being resurrected on the basis of an invalid environmental clearance mainly to provide water to the Adani Thermal Power Plant, which is under scanner for environmental violations already. The arrestof the KSS leader is to suppress the strong resistance in Chhindwara against the vested corporate interests,” Mr. Justice Sachar said.