|"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
Arrests of Protesters
According to three Indian human rights organizationsthe Center for Holistic Studies, the All India Peoples Resistance Forum (AIPRF), and the Committee to Protect Democratic Rights (CPDR)120 protesters were arrested between January 13 and January 18, 1997. The protesters came from the villages of Anjanvel, Ranavi, and Veldur and had demonstrated at the DPC site in groups of twenty-five. They were released on personal bonds.
· The protest at the Guhagar police station, involving more than 1,800 people, was dispersed by police after a barricade was broken. Police arrested approximately 450 of the participants and charged them with violating prohibitory orders and unlawful assembly under Section 37 of the Bombay Police Act.115
· In front of the MLAs home, police did not arrest the demonstrators. Surendra Thatte, a recognized community leader and a candidate for the lower house of Parliament, participated in this rally. According to Thatte, police concentrated their attention on the third demonstration:
We were not arrested even though we staged a road roko [road block] with 400 people. But the people, almost 2,000 at the company gates, were arrested. They were singled out for teargassing and a lathicharge.116
· About 1,500-2,000 protesters had marched from Guhagar village to the site of the Dabhol Power project. The protests largely consisted of shouting slogans and chants in front of the company gates. The police response was out of all proportion: protesters were beaten during a lathicharge, teargassed, and then arrested. Ms. Snehal Vaidya, head of the village council at Anjanvel, described the protest to an AIPRF fact-finding team led by retired Bombay High Court Justice S.M. Daud:
At 9:30 in the morning as we started out in a morcha [protest march], shouting slogans against Enron, MNCs [multinational corporations], and the Alliance Government, the police tried to surround us and obstruct our progress. However, due to our massive numbers they were unsuccessful and we reached the site of the main demonstrations. Here, however, there was a huge police force deployed and even as we were peacefully shouting slogans, they began pushing and obstructing us... Suddenly, without warning, began a brutal lathicharge. Many of the constables were armed with freshly cut branches of trees, others with lathis, with which they indiscriminately beat up all those who had gathered.117
Ataman More, a local leader of protests from the fishing village of Veldur, described the actions of police when we interviewed him on February 14, 1998:
We were stopped at the [DPC] site. We told the police that we were peaceful demonstrators and we would go to a predetermined,preannounced site to hold our rally. If anything happens, the leaders will take responsibility for them. Despite our request, the police fired teargas shells and lathi-charged us at around 11:00 a.m. They were shooting teargas right into the crowd. Then the men and women police started beating people with lathis. I was hit with a lathi on my left thigh. People scattered and were running in all directions with the police chasing them. The ones caught by the police were dragged into police vans.118
Snehal Vaidya also noted that protesters were beaten and then held within the gates of the Dabhol Power Corporation by police. She told the AIPRF fact-finding team:
A number of aged men and women were not spared, including Arkatte, Mastan, Bangi (in their seventies) and eighty-three year old Chiplunkar. Totally seventeen women and five men were severely beaten. Ms. Parvati Saitavadekar, Bangi and the severely paralyzed Gurav, who were injured were pushed into the company compound and left without medical treatment for hours... [W]e were forcibly pushed into the police van, and minutes later, the police began firing tear-gas shells.119
According to the AIPRF fact-finding team, approximately forty canisters of teargas were fired and several rounds of ammunition were shot in the air. The police reportedly threw stones at fleeing protesters. In total, police arrested 679 people and charged them under Section 37 and Section 135 of the Bombay Police Act. The protesters were presented before the magistrate at Chiplun on January 30 and 31 and were released on personal bonds. Many of the cases, however, were still pending in October 1998.
On May 15, 1997, Medha Patkar and approximately 178 other villagers were arrested for violating prohibitory orders by participating in a sit-in near the gates of the Dabhol Power project.126 Some of the demonstrators were beaten by police near the companys gates. Following a judicial hearing, all were released the next day.127
After an hour, the police told us to go. We knew we were going to be arrested, so we held hands. They pulled me by the hair. The police molested many women, so they started yelling at the police which made the police more angry.129
Around 11:30 a.m., the protesters were taken in the vans to Guhagar police station. The police finished their paperwork by 2:00 p.m. The protesters were transported to Chiplun at around 5:30 pm and produced before the magistrate. Because the courts were closed for the day, they were held in custody overnight. The police wanted them to stay in the open, but they refused. Finally arrangementswere made to keep them at the community hall. There were no sanitary facilities, and they received food only at 1:30 a.m.
There is a popular feeling that the Guhagar police act as employees of Enron and not guardians of law and order on behalf of the state. Not only the local police, but the local courts were colluding with Enron. Whatever the treatment we got from the time we were arrested was to please or appease Enron. The state, police, and courts were extremely harsh to show Enron that they were serious.130
A well-known politician with the Janata Dal, a major political party, Mrs. Mrinal Gore, led a road roko in Guhagar, along with thirty other protesters, on May 16, 1997. They were arrested by police and charged under Section 37 and Section 135 of the Bombay Police Act and wrongful restraint under the Indian Penal Code.131 They were remanded to magisterial custody (kept in custody in jails near the court) and released on May 31. Two of the female protesters were minors and were illegally kept in the Kalyan jail.132
I was involved in the May 17 demonstration. Our crime was taking part in an assembly of more than four persons. This happened around 11:00. We were arrested around two or three in the afternoon. At about five in the evening, we arrived at Chiplun and were taken before the magistrate. The magistrate said that we violated prohibitory orders and remandedus to fourteen days custody. Fifty women were sent to Kholapur. Sixteen men and fifty-four women were taken to Sangli, which is about four hours by bus. We were treated well in custody and kept away from undertrials and goondas [colloquial term for habitual criminals]. After fourteen days, we were brought to the magistrate and released.133
The same day, May 17, approximately 3,000 people from villages in the district gathered to demand that work be stopped at the Dabhol Power project site. Police did not arrest anyone at the gates. On June 3, however, the police filed a First Information Report charging 1,200 of those demonstrators under Section 37 of the Bombay Police Act. Their cases were still pending in October 1998.134
116 Human Rights Watch interview with Surendra Thatte, Guhagar, February 14, 1998. Lathicharge refers to a group of police forcibly dispersing a crowd by storming the crowd while beating them with police batons.
117 S.M. Daud, A. Gajbhiye, V. Karkhelikar, and Stephen Rego, In the Service of a Multinational: How the Indian State Deals with Popular Resistance to Enron, a fact-finding mission for the All India Peoples Resistance Forum (AIPRF), April 1997, Bombay, p. 13.