The Alirajpur district administration has decided to release of group of 38 adivasis who were arrested in Jobat tehsil on Sunday for raising crops on government land.

The group, which claims that they lost their land to the Sardar Sarovar Project in neighbouring Gujarat and the Jobat Dam in MP, had been farming on public land in Dehedla since 2010. In 2011, they had launched a Zameen Haq Satyagraha following which the police had filed an FIR against “100 to 150 unknown persons” under several sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act. Farming has continued here with an assurance from the Narmada Control Authority of rehabilitation of those affected by the dams.

On January 5, police raided the spot after the peasants did not obey eviction notices and arrested them for unlawful assembly. They were also booked under the FIR filed in 2011. The peasants, organised by the Narmada Bachao Andolan, had replied to the notices saying that the land offered to them as compensation in Pangula was already under illegal occupation by locals. They refused to take bail as they said the charges are false and have remained in jail since then.

Several activists of the NBA have been protesting at the Alirajpur collectorate since January 8. On January 10, their leader Medha Patkar met collector NP Dehariya who agreed to drop the charges of unlawful assembly and that bail would be granted for all other charges on Monday.

“Only 20 of them are project affected persons. The rest are either ordinary encroachers or those from the same villages of the affected. We gave them land but they did not want it. Adivasis live in clans and are very scared to live outside the clan, even if you offer them a golden house. They said they will get killed by non- tribals if they live in their villages as they have no relatives there,” Mr. Dehariya told The Hindu.

Ms. Medha Patkar told The Hindu that a Jail Bharo agitation would be launched if the administration did not start the rehabilitation process, which includes a fresh survey of the 13 submerged villages of the Jobat Dam, by January 30.

“The real culprit is the Narmada Valley Development Authority which has stalled the surveys and is not parting with land for rehabilitation. Not a single family has been rehabilitated here with alternative means of livelihood. These people did not oppose that dam, yet the condition they have been left in is absolute hell,” she told this reporter over phone.

The MP government has taken a hard line on opposition to water works, particularly on the Narmada valley. Last year, the state cracked down on the NBA’s Jal Satygaraha arresting hundreds of people which forced the organisation to call off the stir. Opposition to eviction by adivasis near the Kharak Dam in Khargone was also met with police force.