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An eyewitness account
of Medha's magic

Shamya Dasgupta joins the Narmada Bachao Andolan leader on a tour of villages and watches a spirited
and skilful orator at work

Barwani, October 23

Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar today toured all the villages near Barwani and personally intimated them of the rally here. She began the day with a meeting with the bigwigs of Anjad and Barwani villages. She then despatched activists to various parts
of the region, as she would be unable to visit all the
areas herself.

Her first words after meeting me, in a Maruti 800 that would take us out of Barwani and to a waiting jeep just outside the town's boundaries, were, "They haven't done any resettling in 25 years. All they have done is relocate 20 per cent of the Project Affected Families (PAFs). Did you hear what I said? I said 'relocate', not rehabilitate. They are incapable of doing anything towards the welfare of these people."

In the vehicle were also an environment student from Kerala and five people from nearby villages, also involved in spreading word of the rally.


Patkar's spirit and enthusiasm, and
what must be oratory skill worthy of a miracle worker, was what eventually got the village to raise their hands together in acceptance of the rally. She accepted that the ruling had come as a huge
blow for the
the people

"Do you know why I had to meet these people in the morning?" she said. "When, on October 10, the Deputy Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Jamna Devi, conducted a rally in Barwani, these people led a protest movement against her. These people are influential in these areas and can get things done faster than anybody else can. They had organised a bandh in Barwani and Anjad in protest against her rally and everybody joined in on their request."

Gopalpura is among the few villages that have been allotted a bit of land for the inhabitants' resettlement.
But the land, as Mohan, a local resident pointed out,
"is not enough to be home to all of Gopalpura and is
very barren so we won't be able to do any farming there.
" The villagers had all dispersed because of the delay
in Patkar's arrival and had to be called back, using the loudspeaker that had been set up for the occasion.

Sitaram, a senior citizen of Gopalpura, said, "The Supreme Court and the government is blind. They have not considered anything that affects our well-being. All they are concerned about is how they can make money and how they can submerge us in the process. And how can they talk of relocating us? They don't even have an accurate count of how many families there are in Gopalpura. The land they have allotted for us is not even enough for a half of our village."

In his address, Sitaram went on to talk about how,
"The onus is now on us. We have to take action. The government has done the wrong thing. Only we can decide what is best for us."

Another senior member of the village, Gajanan, accused the Supreme Court of selling out. Gajanan said, "All the villages should be made to come together and fight the situation together. The ruling affects all of us equally and we should be together in our fight. The government should see our strength."

Patkar's spirit and enthusiasm, and what must be oratory skill worthy of a miracle worker, was what eventually got the village to raise their hands together in acceptance of the rally. She accepted that the ruling had come as a huge blow for the aspirations of the people. But, "if we have fought for so long, how can we give up the fight at this stage?" she called out to the villagers, "Have you all lost your spirit? All of us thought that we would win the judgment. Everybody knows, the world knows that we are right and the construction shouldn't proceed. We will still try our best to continue our fight."
 








A
strologer Uma Shankar Shukla
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a weekly health
guide for the
Zodiac signs


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