Narmada Bachao Aandolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar and her supporters were set to stage an indefinite hunger strike from Thursday noon at Rajghat, the Gandhi memorial on the banks of the Narmada river in Barwani, Madhya Pradesh. The Barwani district administration said that the memorial was relocated to a new site in the wee hours of Thursday, hours before Patkar’s scheduled demonstration.
A spokesperson from Patkar’s NGO told The Quint that this dismantling was done “without conducting a gram sabha or taking permission of the local committees.”
Patkar’s hunger strike was in order to protest against the building of dams on the Narmada, and to demand the proper rehabilitation of the people affected by the projects.
An official statement by the Barwani district administration claimed that three urns, containing the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi, his wife Kasturba Gandhi, and his secretary Mahadev Desai, which were taken away during the dismantling of the memorial, will be relocated to Kukri village, approximately 2 km from the present site.
Himshi Singh, associated with the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) – has been working with the NBA since April – also said that the dam-affected villagers gathered at Rajghat village, only to find “heavy police presence”. Nearly 450 people led by Patkar staged a protest against the statue’s dismantling, for over an hour and a half.
Following the protest, the police agreed to return the memorial to its original site in Rajghat around 8 am on Friday. However, Singh claimed that soon after, the memorial was allegedly taken back to its new location.
In the scuffle that ensued between the protesters and the district administration, 2 NBA activists were injured. Singh added that the protesters were assaulted by the police and taken into custody. However, they were released soon after.
The Gandhi memorial had been installed by Gandhian Kashinath Trivedi in 1965, who had brought the ashes of Gandhi, his wife and his secretary to Barwani.
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