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The battle returns to the valley

Pix courtesy: Harikrishna/ Friends of River Narmada
Medha Patkar during a satyagraha in the valley

After the Supreme Court's supremely anti-people judgement, Medha Patkar has returned to the
Narmada valley, where she and the aftermath of
this phase of the battle for survival belong, says Damandeep Singh, who has been covering the
issue on the ground

New Delhi, October 19

Do not go gentle into that night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light
Dylan Thomas

Last reported, Medha Patkar was heading towards
the Narmada valley, which is where she truly belongs. Battling the police and authorities of three states and negotiating a hostile terrain for nearly 12 years, she has trekked up and down this beautiful valley innumerable times mobilising support and explaining complicated government documents to thousands of tribals who
were about to be rudely ejected from their world.

A world they alone know, feel, live and breathe. A world where the authorities had not bothered to provide them with electricity or drinking water - but at least the hills
and forests were familiar, they bore them fruits and food. A world where the first road to be constructed was one meant to evict people from their homesteads.

Medha had made this her world, too. She strayed out every now then to occupy the office of the Union Minister for Environment and Forests, or Madhya Pradesh government offices, or to sit on dharna in the Capital
or in Mumbai. On several occasions, she went abroad
to receive awards (on behalf of the Narmada Bachao Andolan) or to campaign against several foreign governments who were funding the series of dam on
the river Narmada.

Medha's tears
weren't the tears
of a loser, they
were the tears
of rage,
of sadness

She also stirred out on a fateful day in 1994 to file a public interest litigation challenging
the further construction on the Sardar Sarovar Project, the biggest of the dams on the river.
The stunning judgement, slam-dunked by the Supreme Court
yesterday, left everyone numb and moved Medha
to tears.

I know Medha, I have spent several days travelling
with her in the valley, so let me just say that they
weren't the tears of a loser, they were tears of rage,
of sadness. The tears also might have been of acknowledgement the fatal error the NBA made in
going to court with their grievances.

One seriously needs to ponder why one of the most successful social movements in the country after Independence chose to go this way. A movement that had inspired scores of dedicated activists, in the face
of police repression, to give up lucrative jobs and careers to shift base to the valley. A movement that is supported by lakhs of people in the valley and is emulated as a role model by several new groups. A movement that forced one of the most powerful global institutions, the mighty World Bank, to withdraw from a project. The Bank now openly acknowledges that its new Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy has been framed following
lessons learnt from its involvement with the Sardar Sarovar Project.

Sonia Gandhi
Chhota Rajan

Sushmita Sen

strologer Uma Shankar Shukla
will be providing
a weekly health
guide for the
Zodiac signs

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