In a dramatic swoop late Wednesday night, Delhi police arrested Medha Patkar, leader, Narmada Bachao Andolan and took her to a hospital, following extreme deterioration in her condition. Patkar has been on an indefinite hunger strike for the eighth day.
Patkar was first taken to Ram Manohar Lohia hospital and then shifted to AIIMS, police sources said.
The sources added Patkar was arrested on the charge of attempting to commit suicide and shifted to All India Institute of Medical Sciences, along with two other NBA leaders Jamsingh Nargave and Bhagwati Patidar who were also on a fast. The hunger strike was undertaken to protest a decision to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam and demand rehabilitation for the displaced people.
Since she began her fast on March 29, Patkar has refused food and medical treatement.
The scores of NBA activists who clashed with the police, shouting anti-government slogans and protesting Patkar's arrest were also arrested on charges of rioting. They were taken to the Parliament Street police station.
To arrest a weak Patkar, police had to broke the cordon of these activists, who had surrounded her; she was lying on a bed on a pavement near Jantar Mantar. This was confirmed by Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Kamal Mitra Chenoy, who was present at the site.
Even an hour after the arrest, several activists continued to protest and the area has remained tense.
Deepti Bhatnagar, another NBA activist, alleged, "The might of the state has been let loose on those who are holding peaceful and democratic protests."
Among others present at the site Wednesday night were Janatal Dal (Secular) secretary Kunwar Danish Ali and Shabnam Hashmi, sister of late Communist Party of India (Marxist)'s theatre activist Safdar Hashmi.
Patkar has steadfastly refused to call off her hunger strike, despite requests from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh conveyed to her through three union ministers who had met her on Tuesday.
Even on Wednesday, the Union cabinet at its meeting, urged Patkar to end her strike and decided to send a three-member ministerial team to the dam site for proper rehabilitation for oustees. Earlier in the day, as the failing health of Patkar evoked concern, her supporters met Congress president Sonia Gandhi, seeking her immediate intervention to stop the construction of the Narmada dam.
Gandhi is understood to have voiced concern over Patkar's health and assured the acitivists that she would take up the matter with the government.
Former prime ministers V P Singh and I K Gujral also made a joint appeal to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to 'freeze' construction work on Sardar Sarovar Project till a group of Union ministers tour the area and submit a report on rehabilitation of the project-affected families.