A local court in Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday granted bail to social activist Medha Patkar and 17 of her supporters arrested allegedly for protesting against the upcoming Pench river project in the district. The court of chief judicial magistrate DR Gurjarkar ordered their release from the local jail on furnishing a personal bond of Rs1,000 each.
Patkar and other agitators were arrested on November 4 under sections 151 (unlawful assembly) and 188 (defiance of government order) of the IPC from the residence of a local advocate after they arrived here to protest against the project which is coming up in Chhindwara and Seoni districts.
The under-construction project, which is expected to provide water for irrigation purpose and an upcoming power plant, has displaced around 300 farmers from 32 villages, while as many as 116 farmers from two villages have sought additional compensation for their submerged lands.
The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activist said she would stay put in the district for some time and would continue raising the issue of affected farmers belonging to the state and other parts of the country from here.
The jail authorities said formalities are being completed to release her. Earlier Patkar's supporters gathered outside the court premises demanding her immediate release, apart from filing a habeas corpus petition was today filed in the Madhya Pradesh High Court against her "illegal" arrest by the Chhindwara police.
Filed by social worker Anurag Modi, the petition alleged that Patkar was arrested on Tuesday from the residence of advocate Aradhna Bhargava in Chhindwara, where she had gone to pay her condolences following the death of the lawyer's mother.
Patkar's arrest was "illegal" as the police had not given any reason for their action, Modi said in the plea.
As the NBA leader was taken into custody from Bhargava's residence, there was no question of her having violated provisions of CrPC Section 144, which is in force in Chhindwara district, Modi's counsel Raghvendra Kumar said. The petition was filed with the HC registry and the matter would be listed before an appropriate bench on Thursday, he added.
Meanwhile, a report from Chhindwara said Patkar, lodged in a jail, has not eaten anything since her arrest. Doctors are regularly examining her health condition. Patkar has demanded that she be released unconditionally from the jail and action be taken against police officials who "misbehaved" while arresting her.
The veteran activist said she should be allowed to visit Pench river project site, where a dam has been planned, and sought adequate compensation for the project-affected people.