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NAPM Condemns Action Against Coke Agitators

by National Alliance of People's Movements

National Alliance of People's Movements condemn the arrest of noted social activist and Magsaysay award winner Dr. Sandeep Pandey along with hundreds of social workers yesterday at Mehandiganj, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. Pandey was leading a padyatra (foot march) from Sihanchawar in Balia district to Raja Talab in Varanasi district of eastern Uttar Pradesh.

On the final day of his foot march Pandey along with around 400 social workers, women and villagers were arrested by the police when they were on their way to the gate of the Coca Cola company to stage a protest meeting and dharna (sit in). The police resorted to lathi charge (beating by cane) and later arrest on the peacefully assembling social workers, women, children and villagers.

Those arrested include Nand Lal Master, the leader of the anti coke protest at Mehendiganj, Arvind Murti, the State Coordinator of National Alliance of Peoples Movements (NAPM), Dwijemdra Vishwatma a member of state working committee of NAPM, Anoop Sanda and Sanjay Singh of Loktantrik Samajwadi Party, women activist Bindu Singh, Chanchal Mukherjee of Samajwadi Jana Parishad and hundreds of other people demanding the closure of coke plant.

During his foot march during November 15 to November 24 Pandey was demanding closure of Coco Cola bottling plant at Raja Talab. His contention is that due to the uncontrolled extraction of under ground water by the plant the water level in the vicinity of the plant has gone down dramatically causing serious ecological threat and hardships to the local poor communities. According to the campaign literature issued by the activists the plant is drawing close to 25 lakh litre water everyday. The soft drinks company is also releasing toxic waste on the fields of farmers causing tremendous damage to their crops. He is demanding public accountability of actions of the cola multinationals as it is not producing anything that is good for the society.

NAPM demands that all the agitators must be unconditionally released, proper medical care to be provided to the injured and should immediately address the issues raised by the people rather than resorting to inhuman practices.

Prof Vinod Prasad Singh, National President Samajwadi Jana Parishad said, this kind of barbaric action on the people who are raising the issue of life and livelihood is a blot on the those who are ruling the state in the name of socialism."

Sandeep Pandey has alleged that this is a Coke sponsored arrest as they were not even allowed to reach the site of the meeting and arrested before the proposed direct action against the plant could actually start. He also claimed that the coke company has given huge sums as bribe to the local state administration machinery and the local press as the press people were not there when the arrests was taking place.

©heal toxics, 2003
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