Farmer leaders, church heads and civil society condemn conviction of Medha Patkar

In several statements issued since the “unjust conviction of Medha Patkar, several organisations representing farmers, environmental activists and church leaders have called the conviction in a 23 year-old case and a disproportionately high fine of 1 million “a travesty of justice”; the AIKS has also called for justice to the “victims of the Narmada project”

The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), church leaders, environmental and civil liberty activists have expressed deep concern and dismay –and also condemned – the punishment of 5 month imprisonment and Rs.10 lakh (1 million) fine against Medha Patkar in a defamation case filed by the present Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, VK Saxena.

Medha Patkar, a renowned human rights activist, was sentenced by a metropolitan court in the national capital New Delhi on July 1 in a case filed by the current Delhi Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena in 2001. The court directed Patkar to pay Rs.10 lakh in compensation to Saxena, is a senior bureaucrat with the Delhi administration run under the aegis of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In the controversial order, the Delhi HC stated that “Patkar tried to associate Saxena with illegal and unethical financial dealings without providing substantive evidence,” the court noted in the order. “This is an attempt to malign his [Saxena’s] financial integrity,” the court said. Patkar has filed a bail plea pending an appeal and the sentence will be suspended for 30 days until the plea is heard by the court.

The defamation case was first filed in an Ahmedabad Court in 2001 and on the direction of the Supreme Court was transferred to Delhi. VK Saxena, as an official of JK Cement and Adani group since 1990, had opposed the movement for rehabilitation of Adivasis, Dalits, Workers and Peasants of the 244 villages affected by the Narmada Dam. In 2000, Saxena had published an advertisement against Medha Patkar and Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and motivated articles were published against her allegedly at his behest. He had also filed a PIL against her in the Supreme Court which had been dismissed with a comment that it is a “Personal Interest Litigation” and had been fined Rs. 5000. He is also allegedly an accused in a physical attack on her at a meeting at Sabarmati Ashram, which is a pending case since 2002.

Church leaders have slammed jail term for Indian activist

Church leaders have also condemned an Indian court order to jail for five months a well-known social activist at the centre of a 23-year-old libel suit. “Convicting Medha Patkar is a travesty of justice,” activist priest Father Cedric Prakash stated on July 2. After all, it is a 23-year-old case, Prakash noted.

AIKS issues strong statement

It is a mockery of justice that a renowned social activist is punished on the basis of fabricated materials while “corporate forces succeed in misusing their power positions” stated AIKS in a statement issued on July 3. The AIKS extended solidarity with Medha Patkar and called upon the people to expose the corporate forces and the BJP which together are suppressing the voices of people fighting for protecting the livelihood rights of the poor.

The AIKS also condemned successive state and union Governments for failing to ensure justice to the tens of thousands of victim families affected by the Narmada Project. Even after the Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013 was enacted by the 2nd UPA Government under the pressure of prolonged struggles unleashed by the farmers’ movement, the right of the farmers and rural workers in the Narmada Valley for compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement was not ensured by the BJP-led State Governments of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Finally, the AIKS demanded that the BJP led NDA Government provide justice for the victims of the Narmada Project by ensuring them employment and livelihood support through rehabilitation and resettlement.


In 2000, Saxena, who headed an NGO in the western Indian state of Gujarat, published an advertisement against Patkar’s Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), a movement that opposed the construction of dams over the Narmada River in western India. After the advertisement, Patkar issued a statement in which she alleged that Saxena was “mortgaging the people of Gujarat and their resources before Bill Gates.” Subsequently, Saxena filed a libel suit against her in a Gujarat court in 2001. The case was transferred to Delhi in 2003 on the orders of the Indian Supreme Court.

Patkar “spoke the truth” and her statement does not constitute defamation, Father Cedric Prakash said to the media. “The conviction order reeks of vindictiveness,” said the Jesuit priest, based in Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat which is also Modi’s home state. “She doesn’t deserve this kind of harsh punishment. The court must reconsider the order.” Patkar has been associated with the protest against the Sardar Sarovar Project, a terminal dam on the Narmada River in Gujarat due to be completed in 2025. According to the government, the project will provide drinking water to 30 million people. However, Patkar said it would displace more than 100,000 people in 245 villages.

Incidentally, late last month, Saxena also gave the green signal to the Delhi police to file charges against author Arundhati Roy in a 14 -year-old case, relating to remarks she made at a conference on disputed Kashmir in October 2010.  Currently, India is ranked 159 out of 180 nations in the press freedom index, published by Reporters Without Borders.


Narmada Bachao Andolan activist Medha Patkar convicted in 23-year-old Defamation case filed by VK Saxena; the Saket court sentenced Patkar to 5-month imprisonment

Activist Medha Patkar convicted in defamation case filed by Delhi LG VK Saxena after 23 years



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