Protests grow over activist Dayamani Barla's arrest in Jharkhand

Ranchi: Protests over the arrest of journalist and land rights activist Dayamani Barla are growing in Jharkhand. Ms Barla has been at the forefront of a protest by residents of the Nagri village, 25 kilometres from Ranchi, where the government wants to acquire over 200 acres of farmland for setting up a law university and a campus of the Indian Institute of Management.

Ms Barla has been in jail for over 20 days now. On October 18, she was sent to jail for a case dating back to 2006, where she was accused of leading a protest that caused a roadblock. Two days later, the land rights activist got bail in the case, but was immediately re-arrested and put back in jail in two other old cases where she is accused of disrupting law and order during a protest.

 "It is absolutely wrong to say the police is trying to keep her in jail. These are cases registered by magistrates. Whether the police will oppose her bail or not depends on the proof against her in these cases," said GS Rath, Director General of Police, Jharkhand.

However, the state government has been severely criticised for Ms Barla' arrest. Haribans, Editor in Chief, Prabhat Khabar, says, "This reflects a complete breakdown in the administrative machinery in the state."

Ms Barla's case is not an isolated one. In Madhya Pradesh, activist Medha Patkar spent three days in jail, after she joined a protest by farmers in the Pench district, where locals allege that the state government is acquiring land in the area to benefit the Adani group, which is setting up a power plant in the region. This has been completely denied by the Madhya Pradesh government.

"The work of Adani power plant has not even started, they are yet to get environmental clearance nor they seem prepared on the ground right now to start construction work. And the government has only agreed to give 0.75 percent of water to Adani for their plant," said Mahesh Chandra, Collector, Chindwara.

Ms Patkar was imprisoned in the Chhindwara district jail on November 4 and had gone on a fast, threatening to carry it on till she was released. She had demanded unconditional release from jail. A court ordered her release three days after her release.