August 05, 2007

life in general: medha patkar's arrest & dangerous lack of justice

Even though I am a journalist (a financial one though), as a citizen I still write to 'letters to editor' columns of newspapers on non-financial issues occasionally.

This Thursday (August 2) was one such occasion when I emailed 8-9 newspapers my views on the arrest of Medha Patkar and the dangerous lack of justice in our country. I share it below. The update on the issue is that Medha Patkar was released yesterday.

Here then is the 'letter to editor':

Dear Editor,

Medha Patkar was arrested on Wednesday last week (July 25) near Barwani in

Madhya Pradesh along with her Narmada Bachao Andolan colleagues and scores of
Adivasi villagers who were staging a dharna for rehabilitation rights.

She has not been released yet. Is this a shining India or a dictatorial ugly
India? Minor technical violations of the law by strong personalities who demand
rights for the disfavoured people in the country, are acted upon by the
government with swift brute force whereas stronger violations by politicians,
religious fanatics and industrialists are not even considered for action.

Many media publications and TV channels, too, have become cowardly in their
coverage of the issues facing rural communities and wherever there is coverage
it is against the rights of the people and plugging on behalf of industry and
an industry-influenced government. I urge you to do justice to the profession
of journalism and ask questions to the Madhya Pradesh government and state
police as to why they have kept Medha Patkar arrested for more than a week for
minor violations.

I also exhort you to raise questions about the violations by the central
government of India and the state governments of MP, Gujarat and Maharashtra of
the 2000 Supreme Court judgement on the Narmada issue which clearly stated that
the Sardar Sarovar Dam height should not be raised unless the affected
villagers are given alternative equally-fertile lands and rehabilitation. And
this has not happened in more than 80-90% of the cases in all these years and
yet the dam height is being raised continuously.

The media should also seriously investigate the dangerous damage being cause to
the ecology and environment by Narmada Dam and various other so-called
development projects in the country. A cost-benefit analysis should be made
without getting influenced by governmental and industry bodies’ claims and
without being pressurised by threats of advertisement withdrawals. Government
and industry needs the media to advertise their programs and activities as much
as the media needs them for ad revenues. So, you don’t have to buckle under
their pressure.

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