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Maheshwar power project: Masses rise against people's movement - [May 5,1998] - The Hindustan Times
May 5,1998
New Delhi


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Maheshwar power project: Masses rise against people's movement
BHOPAL, May 4 (HT Correspondent)

The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), locked in battle with the Madhya Pradesh Government and the S. Kumar's group over the construction of a dam in the Khargone district, has a new challenge to deal with.

The famous peoples' movement is being advised by a massive group of people from Khargone areas to eschew violence and confrontation to help maintain peace.

In an unprecedented move, as many as 25,000 people from different walks of life, including noted social workers, freedom fighters panchayat representatives, farmers, voluntary organisations, students, women, poets and journalists have appealed to the Narmada Bachao Andolan leaders to adopt a conciliatory approach instead of confrontation, which is destroying peace in the area.

The NBA has been opposing the construction of a dam for the Maheshwar hydro-power project in the Khargone district by the S. Kumar's group, known to be close to Chief Minister Digvijay Singh. Earlier this year, a large number of NBA supporters had captured the dam by laying sedge around the construction site.

The seige had lasted for more than a fortnight after which the government announced setting up of a task force to review all the Narmada Valley projects, including Maheshwar.

However, since the suspended civil work at the dam site restarted in March, the NBA held a massive rally last month. The rally turned violent with the district administration using force and rounding up close to 800 900 NBA activists. The NBA charged that Chief Minister Digvijay Singh had come back on his words and ordered to restart the work on the dam's wall under pressure from the S. Kumar's.

On the forefront of the people's group is one of the most revered social workers of Khargone's Niwali village, Ms Kantaben Tyagi who has recently been conferred the Padmashree. The Nimar Paryavaran Bachao Sangathan, the Kasturba Gandhi Sewa Trust, Umesh Goswami of Nimar Sarvodaya Manch, famous Nimari Singer Tarachand Yadav and a number of Panchayati institutions' representatives have signed the appeal. The appeal, however, does not mention the dam at all.

"In the larger public interest, we are constrained to oppose the Narmada Bachao Andolan which is drifting from its aim and is breaking peace of the area", the appeal said.

The people of Nimar hoped that the NBA would ensure that peace was maintained in Mandleshwar and other areas of Khargone and the course of confrontation would be given up, the appeal said.