HomeIndiaPatkar activist against Delhi LG Saxena: remembering a 2002 assault case

Patkar activist against Delhi LG Saxena: remembering a 2002 assault case

The Ahmedabad court, which earlier this week refused to stay the criminal trial against Delhi Lieutenant Governor (LG) Vinai Kumar Saxena, made its decision because the government had not requested “not to continue or to withdraw the trial.” Furthermore, since Saxena was not in office at the time of the alleged crime, “there is no legal position to stay the proceedings,” the court said.

Saxena, who took over as Delhi LG in May 2022, filed an application with the court on March 1, requesting that the proceedings in the case be suspended for the duration of her tenure.

Additional Metropolitan Chief Magistrate Pareshgiri Natvargar Goswami rejected his guilty plea on 8 May. The reasoned order of the court was published on Friday. The court noted that Saxena had entered her guilty plea just as cross-examination of the complainant, activist Medha Patkar, was about to begin, and there were still 71 witnesses to question.

The incident

On 7 April 2002, weeks after the post-Godhra communal riots in Gujarat, two peace meetings were convened at Sabarmati Ashram in ahmedabad — by the celebrated dancer Mallika Sarabhai, and the late Gandhi and Sarvodaya leader Chunibhai Vaidya.

A group of political and labor leaders came to the Ashram and allegedly assaulted Medha Patkar, who was then the head of Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), a social movement against large dams in Narmada. The mob also targeted Sarabhai.

A group of policemen led by then Deputy Police Commissioner VM Pargi, who was dispatched by his then boss Additional Police Commissioner Shivanand Jha to control the situation, tried to rescue Patkar and disperse the crowd. Several people were injured in the police charge, including journalists.

“My task was to get Medha Patkar to a safe place and control the crowd, which also had journalists, photographers, police officers and politicians,” said Pargi, who retired as Additional Director General of Police. the indian express. “If we hadn’t acted, there would have been bloodshed that day,” she said.

The assault

Activist Prakash Shah, who witnessed the violent incidents, told The Indian Express: “We saw Medha being brutally attacked, including by Amit Thaker (who was then National Secretary General of the BJPyouth wing)… Anything could have happened. Finally, the police took Medha out the back door and I think they took her to the airport.”

Sarabhai said she wanted “anyone interested in peace” to speak about ways to rebuild Gujarat and Ahmedabad, and that she deliberately did not invite Patkar because “she was aware of the hatred against her that had been created in the name of the Narmada dam.” . ”.

However, “on the morning of the meeting (the late activist and journalist) Digant Oza told me that Medha had come,” Sarabhai said. “There were people from all over the gathering and the Gujarati Muslim leaders had come out for the first time since the violence. The meeting was going well when, during lunch, Medha arrived. I asked him to leave out of fear that his presence would sideline the peace agenda,” Sarabhai said.

But “within minutes,” said Sarabhai, “a crowd entered the Ashram, violent and threatening and shouting anti-Medha slogans.” Sarabhai recalled “a man who grabbed Medha by the hair and slammed her head against the wall.” She herself was taken out of the Ashram by a colleague on her scooter, Sarabhai said.

Police action and cases

Two FIRs were registered at Sabarmati Police Station in Ahmedabad, following a complaint by Pargi and Patkar, under sections of the Indian Penal Code relating to Unlawful Assembly, Riot, Willful Harm, Undue Restraint, Intentional Insult with the intent to cause breach of peace and criminal intimidation.

Among the defendants named in both FIRs were Saxena, who was then president of the NGO National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL); current BJP MLAs for the first time, Amit Thaker and Amit Popatlal Shah (who was then a BJP councilor at AMC); and Congressional Leader Rohit Patel.

“He FIR TREE by the government was withdrawn later and the trial that is taking place is in the second Patkar FIR,” said Pargi.

Pargi himself was indicted by a committee headed by retired Gujarat High Court judge Justice Suhrud Deoprasad Dave and received a “notice” from the government warning him to “be careful in future”.

Patkar vs. Saxena

The case was sent for trial in 2005 before an Ahmedabad magistrates court. It took until 2013 to issue subpoenas to defendants. Only three defendants have been questioned so far.

The NCCL, which Saxena had founded in 1991, consistently opposed Patkar’s activism on the Narmada dam projects. Since 2000, Saxena and Patkar have fought multiple legal battles with each other.

Patkar had filed a defamation suit against Saxena for running ads against her and the NBA; Saxena had also denounced defamation by Patkar in television interviews. The two parties refused to accept a suggestion of a Delhi court to reach an out-of-court settlement on defamation cases. Saxena had offered to settle only if Patkar agreed to drop the Ashram assault case.

— With Leena Misra

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