|"Many energy companies have invested in closed or repressive countries -- arguing that their investment would help develop the local economy and thereby improve the human rights situation. But in this case, Enron has invested in a democratic country -- and human rights abuses there have increased. Enron hasn't made things better for human rights; it has made things worse."||
Ratnagiri: Violations of Human Rights 1997
Table of Contents
V. Ratnagiri: Violations of Human Rights 1997
Appendix A: Correspondence Between Human Rights Watch and the Export-Import Bank of the United States
Appendix D: Correspondence Between the Government of India and the World Bank
Targeting of Protest Leaders
During the 1997 protests against the Dabhol Power project, individuals identified as leaders of the opposition were detained through the use of preventative detention laws and targeted externment orders that have restricted their movement and prohibited their entry into areas where opposition to the project was most active. The logic of these measures has been to weaken resistance by forcing villagers to participate without leadership and to demoralize those most vocal in their opposition to the project.
In a democracy, you have a right for a civilized demonstration, [but] this does not exist at all. Meaningful agitation cannot be organized or sustained because the police, backed by the government, victimize the people... Section 144 [of the Code of Criminal Procedure] is always there: if you hold meetings, they can frame you. Now the police are bold, they will charge you with all sorts of things... It works like this. First you will get a notice that you are an agitator, spreading false information to the people, and inspiring people to riot and destroy things. And if anything happens, you will be held responsible.135
An excerpt from an order issued under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure on March 1, 1997, by T. Chandrasekhar, the district magistrate of Ratnagiri, the highest-ranking law enforcement officer at the district level, illustrates the intent of these orders. In this case, the prohibitory order was issued against environmentalist Medha Patkar and retired Bombay High Court Judge B.G. Kolse-Patil, two recognized leaders of demonstrations. The order states:
Whereas it has been brought to my notice that in Guhagar Taluka, Shri B.G. Kolse Patil and Smt. Medha Patkar, leaders of the Anti-Enron Agitation Group have been conducting meetings of the villagers in the Enron Power Project affected villages as well as in the surrounding villages of the Enron Project in Guhagar Taluka. It has also been brought to my notice by the Superintendent of Police, Ratnagiri, that these persons are instigating the villagers against the Dabhol Power Company (Enron Power Project) and proposed Land Acquisition by the M.I.D.C. and indulging in Rasta Roko, Morchas by violating prohibitory orders in violation of the provisions of section 37(1)(3) of the Bombay Police Act, 1951 and creating a law and order problem in Guhagar Taluka. It is apprehended that the activities of Shri B.G. Kolse Patil and Smt. Medha Patkar may cause a breach of peace and law and order problem during the ensuing Zilla Parishad Panchayat Samities Elections which are to be held on 2nd March 97. It is therefore necessary to prevent Shri Kolse Patil and Smt. Medha Patkar from entering into Ratnagiri District.136
The intent of the order was clear: to prohibit leading opponents of the Dabhol Power project from exercising their right to freely express their views in order to prevent opposition to the project from becoming an election issue.
Another incident involved Patkar and some of her colleagues from the National Alliance of Peoples Movements (NAPM), and took place in the town of Mahad, near the Dabhol Power project. Under the pretense of preventing damage to property and loss of life, police served Patkar with prohibitory orders under Section 144 on May 29, 1997 and then surveilled, arrested, beat, and detained the activistson the eve of her departing for Raigad and Ratnagiri districts with plans to lead a series of protests against the DPC project and other industrial projects. The incident merits detailed treatment. Due to its being subsequently investigated by the Indian governments National Human Rights Commission, it is unusually well documented and provides a close look at the process driving the issuance of prohibitory and externment orders.
The case of Ms. Medha Patkar deserves anxious attention...as some basic human rights issues are involved. In a free and democratic setup, the Fundamental Rights of individuals cannot be allowed to be infringed upon with impunity...State machinery should not be misused for ulterior aim and gains of the party in power, out to strangulate the voices of dissent.138
The commission determined, moreover, that the human rights violations committed by the police were due, in part, to an order given by Maharashtra Chief Minister Manohar Joshi to deal with the situation...firmly or else the wrong signal would be conveyed to the business world.139 At the time, Chief Minister Joshi was on a five-nation tour of Asia seeking to attract foreign investment and extoll the virtues of the business climate in Maharashtra.140 Consequently, Joshi called More, and More, in turn, ordered the district magistrate, R.S. Rathod, to prevent Patkarfrom entering the district and to stop Patkar and the other activists. The commission reported:
Apprehending trouble, the CM [chief minister] telephonically spoke to Shri Prabhakar Raoji More, Minister of State for Home and State Minister of Industries (known as Guardian Minister for Raigad district), to handle the situation. Shri More in turn asked Shri R.S. Rathod, DM [District Magistrate], to immediately intervene and see the withdrawal of the hunger strike and frustrate the entry of Ms. Patkar to the district. The DM sprung into action and in consultation with the SP [Superintendent of Police], worked out a strategy to prevent Medha Patkar from entering the district.141
According to Lata P.M., deputy director of the NAPM and former director of NAPMs field office in Ratnagiri district, the prohibitory order and the police brutality occurred just after NAPM had begun a development tour of the region on May 28.142 The purpose of the tour was to educate local communities about the environmental and social impacts of the Dabhol Power project and other large industrial projects in the area and to hold peaceful demonstrations against these projects.143 Lata detailed the basis of opposition to the Dabhol Power project:
Enron is symbolic of the impact of multinationals, globalization, and the right to information. How much displacement will there be? Will there be suitable rehabilitation? Fishworkers, farmers, mill owners, and local entrepreneurs would be impacted by the project. Already, local water is being taken by Enron. A jetty is being built and forests are being cut down. What is the environmental impact? What is the real price of power? What was the criteria of the arrangement? We worry about the impact of this and other mega-projects. 144
The tour began in the village of Chandva, Raigad district, where Patkar and other NAPM activists met with villagers and prepared for upcoming meetings andspeeches. Local villagers also decided to create an organization to oppose industrial development in the region.
[A]nd whereas I have satisfied myself that it is necessary to take speedy steps for immediate prevention of damages to prevent human life, disturbance of public peace and tranquility, riot or affray and to maintain the law and order situation and industrial peace and the grounds brought on the record lead me to treat this as a case of emergency and accordingly to pass ex-parte order.
Therefore, I do hereby u/s 144 of Cr.P.C. order and direct that you should not enter into the boundaries of Raigad District from the date of this order, i.e. 28th May, 1997 to 30th June, 1997 (both days inclusive).146
On the evening of May 28, the superintendent of police, V. Lokhande, ordered Special Deputy Police Officer Vijay Singh Jadhav to serve Patkar with the order and to ensure that she did not enter the district or participate in any demonstrations or other events.147 On May 29, at approximately 7:30 a.m., Jadhav took two female police officers, one sub-inspector, and ten male officers to theTolphata Highway Trijunction near the town of Mahad and waited for Patkar to approach. In addition, two police officers were sent to Chandva village to cover the movement of Ms. Patkar and her activities covertly.148
The police stopped the jeeps at Tolphata, a quiet place near the Mahad-Bombay highway which heads towards the Konkan highway. There were about thirteen male and two female police that attacked us, and about twenty or twenty-five more police were in accompanying police jeeps and vans.149
Jadhav told them that they were prohibited from holding a public meeting under Section 37 of the Bombay Police Act. When the activists protested, Jadhav informed them that they were under arrest.150 The National Human Rights Commission determined that the arrest was illegal, since Section 37 was not operative in Mahad.151 Lata told Human Rights Watch:
The special deputy police officer, Mr. Jadhav, led the police. He asked people to get out of the jeeps to be checked. He told us that we had been arrested and to get into the police vans. I asked him to show us a warrant for their arrest. He refused to produce any warrant. I asked him, Why are you arresting us since we are going to a meeting? He said that I should not ask any questions and that he had the authority to arrest us under the Bombay Police Act.
People refused to go into the van, people were standing around. One woman was sixty years old, one woman had her child with her, and three college-aged girls were there. Some were standing, some were sitting in the jeep. We told the police that we wanted to wait for Medha, because we thought she had already been arrested.152
Lata tried to flag down a truck in order to ask the driver to inform Patkar or their associates in Bombay of their arrest. The police intervened and told the driver of the vehicle to leave, then the police started motioning vehicles to drive on. Lata and the other activists then staged a sit-down and asked the police to provide the grounds for their arrest. In response, the two female police officers grabbed Lata by her hair and throat, smashed her head against the police van, and beat her with their lathis and fists on her head and legs.153
When we were on the bus, two goondas [thugs] and police entered the bus and told us to get off the bus. Sub-Inspector Vijay Kadam and four female officers came. They first caught the men, then the women. One of the police officers started slapping and beating Prita, a nineteen- or twenty-year-old college student. Vijay Kadam was using the scarf of her salwaar kameez [a dress with a tight pant and loose top and scarf] to strangle her and was trying to tear her clothes off. Pritas sister started crying when she saw this, and then the female officers started to beat her as well. They threw Medha from the bus. I tried to save Medha, but the police grabbed me and started banging my head againstthe steel handrail in the bus. They started beating me on the head, which made me dizzy and disoriented. They were beating everyone on the head, and one girl was being beaten with a lathi. During this time, we kept on asking the police to produce court orders proving they had grounds for the arrest.157
After beating the activists, police arrested them; they were detained in the lockup at the Mangaon police station. Seven women were placed in one cell and twenty-five men in another. The police offered them food, but the activists refused. Lata told Human Rights Watch:
We were taken to jail around 3:00 [p.m.]. Even the sixty-year-old woman, Vijaya Sangvai, was literally thrown into the cell. We were kept in the cell for hours. The women were in serious pain, they were dizzy and vomiting from the beating. We were detained in a filthy ten-by-ten-foot cell. When men wanted to use the latrine, they were handcuffed like common criminals and led to the toilet.158
Patkar told the National Human Rights Commission that the lockups were filthy and that the toilets could not be used. She said that even women who required sanitary napkins were denied these requests by police. They were not allowed to see a doctor or a lawyer.159 In fact, the National Human Rights Commission determined that although the activists lawyer, Ms. Surekha Dalvi, made twelve phone calls to the station, police repeatedly refused to allow her to speak to her clients and then kept the phone engaged so that no one could call the station.160
A doctor and magistrate were brought to the jail. When we told him how we were treated, the magistrate told us that I dont have time tolisten to this. He refused to hear Medhas whole story and would not accept any oral or written statements by the arrested.161
The doctor concluded that these injuries could not be possible due to assault. (Later, another doctor examined the ex-detainees in Bombay and determined that they had all suffered from trauma, and found injury marks probably due to lathi assault, fists, etc.162) The magistrate ordered the protesters remanded to custody for fourteen days.
Ms. Medha Patkar is a known environmentalist and has been touring the Konkan region, to create awareness amongst the people about environmental and pollution problems created by various industries/plants. She feels that multinationals entered this area with the aim to grab government land and other concessions and make quick money. This further compounded the situation. These plants have seriously endangered the ecological balance and led to ruthless exploitation of the locals who are being inhumanely evicted without proper resettlement and rehabilitation. During the course of hermeetings, she had also exposed various acts of corruption alleged to have been committed by the Ministers of the party in power, out to personally benefit from the deals. Her meeting evoked widespread response from the local people, especially the womenfolks.
The police, in utter disregard to the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Constitution, roughed up and humiliated peaceful and unarmed social workers, fighting for a benevolent cause. Even the women (young and some elderly) were not spared.164
The commission also found the actions of District Magistrate Rathodwho had issued the prohibitory order against Patkarto be prejudiced, biased, and not based on judicious discharge of his duties, as a public servant.165 The commission was especially critical of Special Deputy Police Officer Jadhav, reporting, His conduct was reprehensible, he took sadistic delight in committing atrocities on the unarmed and peaceful activists with the help of his subordinate police staff... and it recommended legal action against Jadhav.166 The commission did not, however, recommend an investigation into the role of Chief Minister Joshi or Minister More for their role in the events. As of October 1998, none of the commissions recommendations had been adopted by the state government. The commission has no power to impose punishment, and their findings remain non-binding.167
Externment orders: 1996-97
Arrests at Guhagar police station: January 1997
They wanted to arrest us because we were prominent citizens of Guhagar. The police knew that we were respected leaders of the community. In fact, Satoshes daughter was being tutored by one of the people he arrested, Gajannan Dixit, a local schoolteacher.174
Sadanand Pawar was arrested under Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure on two occasions. On January 29, 1997, he was among the men arrested by the Guhagar police when they went to notify the authorities about a rumored bomb threat the next day. Before he was arrested, Pawar told us, the district commissioner of police threatened to kill him if he participated in the January 30 demonstration.
The applicant/accused is protesting against the Enron project and is a leader of the anti-Enron movement. They [the police] alleged that the applicant spread false information to the public which is against Enron... and the applicant met voters and urged them to boycott the Z.P. [Zilla Parishad] elections. Therefore, to keep the peace in Guhagar taluka, he should be remanded for 14 days...
Taking in to consideration all the circumstances, the applicant should be released forthwith on the condition that he should not enter within the limits of Chiplun and Guhagar talukas till 31-3-97 and not to create any problem affecting law and order.176
While Pawar was in custody, Circle Inspector Desmukh let him know that his custody was specifically related to his participation in protests against the Dabhol Power project. Pawar recalled for Human Rights Watch :
Desmukh asked me, How do you feel, will you continue the agitation? They wanted to see how strong I was mentally, since I had never been in jail. I told them that I would continue agitating, it is my birthright. I was put in a terrible cell with bad smells and filth. Desmukh said, This is what it is like in jail and if I wanted to agitate, I must face these things. I refused food and told them [the police] I was not a criminal and would begin a fast in the cell itself. After two or three hours, he assigned a constable to clean up the cell. He wouldnt put me in a clean cell because he wanted to intimidate me. He would say, You are a professor, you earn well, why do you want these headaches?177
137 National Human Rights Commission of India, Enquiry Report-Alleged Human Rights Violation of Ms. Medha Patkar and Other Activists, July 1997, p. 17. This incident, to the knowledge of Human Rights Watch, is the only case related to the DPC project that has been investigated for human rights violations by any government agency.
170 Human Rights Watch interview with Mangesh Chavan. Chavan is a local activist from Ratnagiri who has documented all of the arrests, beatings, and detentions due to protests against the Dabhol Power project.
175 Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure states: (1) A police officer knowing of a design to commit any cognizable offence may arrest, without orders from the Magistrate and without a warrant, the person so designing, if it appears to such officer that the commission of the offence cannot be otherwise prevented. (2) No person arrested under sub-section (1) shall be detained in custody for a period exceeding twenty-four hours from the time of his arrest unless further detention is required or authorised under any other provisions of this Code or of any other law for the time being in force.