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Dam supporters questions
'true face' of NBA

A large advertisement in a leading national daily today pointed an accusing finger at the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA). The ad comes with the header: "True face of Ms Medha Patkar and her Narmada Bachao Andolan", and cites examples of how the NBA sent confidential letters abroad and built its funds with through
hawala transactions. Jitendra Verma and Shamya Dasgupta attempt to get to the root of the allegations

New Delhi, November 10

The battle is out on the streets. The supporters of mighty dams looming up on the Narmada river have come into the open with a loud and ferociously ungrammatical half-page advertisement in a national daily alleging that the Narmada Bachao Andolan is passing confidential documents related to the dam projects to what they call "the foreign people with sole objective to halt the progress of the nation" (sic).

When contacted, V K Saxena, president of the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), who brought out the advertisement, said, "We have concrete evidence that the NBA has been trying to pass on confidential information related to the project to foreign countries with the sole objective to halt India's progress."

As to the motive behind the NBA passing on the information to these "foreign people", Saxena said, "These countries don't want India to develop. The NBA is working with them to delay the development of our nation. People like Medha Patkar are playing into their hands and these foreign powers are using her like a pawn to suit their motives."

‘We have hundreds of documents that are evidence of the NBA's transactions and (we) will make them public’

Shripad Dharmadhikary, a senior NBA activist, called allegations misleading and challenged the NCCL to prove its contention. He said, "The document they have reproduced in the ad was prepared by the NBA itself. We are not denying it. It may be noted that it is only like the
government goes with the begging bowl to foreign agencies to ask for money for the project that the NBA also has to go to these agencies to stop them from helping the projects."

He went further and accused the government of "selling out to foreign powers". Dharmadhikary said, "The government itself is handing over all the resources of the country and putting very sensitive and critical industries like power in the hands of the foreigners."

Dharmadhikary added, "About 70 per cent of the share of the Maheshwar project is slated to be in the hands of foreign people. To get the foreign companies to fund or own any project, the government has to hand over secret and classified documents to these agencies. Thus, it is actually our government and our profit-hungry companies that are handing over confidential documents to foreigners, and not us."

The NCCL also feels that the NBA is guilty of having acquired their funds through
hawala transactions and foreign donations. Said Saxena, "We have hundreds of documents that are evidence of the NBA's transactions and (we) will make them public. The NBA is not a registered company and doesn't have any proof of their accounts, and they will have to accept that they got their funding from unlisted sources."

Saxena added, "Organisations like the Lok Samiti in Nashik, the Delhi Forum and others have given them money and we have documents to prove the same." The NCCL also feels that the NBA's claim of being a messiah of the masses will be hard hit by the allegations, because "it will be proved that the NBA has been cheating the masses all these years with its claims to altruism".

Dharmadhikary retorted to the accusation, saying, "The ad is very misleading and the allegations are absolutely false and baseless. Yes, we are an unregistered organisation, and that is for the simple reason that we are a people's movement and not a non-governmental organisation (NGO). A mass struggle like the NBA, which is challenging the government itself, can hardly expect government acknowledgement."

As to the source of NBA's funding, Dharmadhikary said, "There is absolutely nothing wrong in collecting money from the thousands of supporters in the country. We don't accept foreign money for our cause, and it is only Indian companies that fund us."

The ad actually came as a surprise to many, as the NBA has so far been accused of no more than running its operations on the strength of foreign donations. The ad in question completely ignores any reference to money being brought in from abroad and concentrates solely on financial input from Indian organisations.

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