Saga of Narmada
An appeal to the conscience of civil society


August 24, 2000

Dear all,

The Narmada valley calls unto you for a special occasion on August 24, at the Satyagraha place.

As you know, for the last fifteen years, the struggle in the Narmada valley has not only been against a dam, Sardar Sarovar. It has been a struggle for a sustainable and a just water, energy, and development policy. The adivasi, peasants and other people in the Narmada valley have raised the issue in the valley at national and international forums. It has been a test of their strength and commitment, even by putting their lives at stake, by confronting the unjust submergence and displacement. On each front, we had to, and still have to, encounter the forces of corruption, capitalism and the Market. We have seen their insensitivity in violating and degrading the communities, dependent on their natural resources and the natural resources itself. We have tried to bring to the notice the conflict between the village and metropolis, the modest utilisation and the rampant consumerism. We have strived to point out the need for a balanced relation between Nature and human beings and the needs of a sane, just development. We have been exploring humane, just ways of utilisation of the land, water and forest on the basis of people's power. Here in this beautiful corner of the world with thousands of years of history in its womb, on the banks of Narmada we are prepared to take on the challenge of the cruel game by the vested interest against the people and Nature, with equanimity, determination and humility.

The saga of the struggle of the valley is quite long, so is the path that lies ahead. The final goal is still far ahead, but it has become so as an intimate and inalienable part of life. We cannot see it but we can feel its existence, its inevitability very much near to us. That's why we are here to confront the rising waters of the Sardar Sarovar dam - in our fields, houses and villages, in the ranges of Satpuda and Vindhyas, in the plains of Nimad. We have been constantly explaining the kind of destruction this dam is going to cause for the people, their resources, their heritage and their future aspirations. We have explained with infallible data, analysis the fallacy of the Governments' claims about the benefits and resettlement. We have been appraising all of you about our thoughts, emotions and our dreams.

The Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT), during its ten year investigations, did not probe into the fate of the valley, it did not hear our voice. However, throughout this period, number of prominent persons in the civil society, the artists, the academicians, researchers and political-social activists have heard and understood what we want to say. They have also made known, using their own medium and means and ways, on which side of barricade they are: the state power or the people's power. Many have understood this basic challenge being with us.

Still there is a need that the power-holders and the people in general should hear the saga of the people in the valley. They should know and understand its basic ideology and the present situation; put their doubts and questions to us so that we can respond to them. Those like you, who know and measure the pulse of the social reality, would be able to do justice to this need of the hour.

It is all the more necessary in the present situation in the Narmada valley, at a time when the half-built suspended dam has caused devastation in the villages. Some villages are submerged, some are being evicted under the threat of imminent submergence. Those displaced could not be resettled properly; there are serious problems in the resettlement sites regarding land and livelihood. On the other hand, hundreds of families in the villages on the banks of the river are opposing the displacement, braving the loss of land, houses due to submergence. However, hundreds of villages and thousands of families are yet to be displaced. The governments have no land for resettlement and yet they are filing patently false affidavits in the Supreme Court while claims are made of 'model resettlement' through their publications and statements. Andolan is confronting this falsehood also, in and outside the court.

It becomes imminent for the sake of the rights of the people in all parts of India, to expose the claims regarding the benefits and resettlement in Sardar Sarovar and other 29 large, 135 medium proposed dams in the Narmada valley. It has to be realized that the true and lasting solution for the drought is the decentralised water management and not the large dams. It is necessary to initiate and continue serious discourse about the alternative energy and water policy.

How can all this be told and to whom? We feel that we could interact on these issues with you. You represent the assertion and morality of the civil society. It is all the more essential that this should happen BEFORE the imposition of the destitution and devastation on the valley and us.

The Satyagraha of year 2000 is continuing here in Jalsindhi (Madhya Pradesh) and Domkhedi (Maharashtra). It is understood that the floods would commence late. Submergence would definitely occur and this time it may be severe than the last year. The people would confront the submergence waters in their villages and houses in Domkhedi and Jalsindhi.

We wish that before this happens, you should hear and tell us and to the world, whether what is happening is right and just, in the light of human values and sensitivity? Is it just, in the context of the law, the Constitution and the rights of the people? Whether the people's will, their opposition and struggle are in right direction? Which way to proceed: for us, you and the larger society, for the adivasis and other villagers? How we can contain the arbitrariness in politics, the foreign agenda of the economy and the consequent distortions of the development process?

We expect you to give moral judgement on these issues. One thing is certain. Whatever happens with the Narmada struggle, so would be the fate of the hundreds of people's movements in India.

Therefore, we request and appeal you, representing the conscience of the civil society, to be present on August 24, 2000 in the SAGA OF NARMADA (Narmada ki Pehchan) programme. We wish to share our concerns and aspirations of our life with you. We await for you, on the bank, in the war between life and death.

Sincerely Yours,

Noorji Padvi; Bawa Muhariya; Rukmini Patidar; Medha Patkar


Please confirm your presence with our Baroda (Tel: 0265-282232) or Badwani office (Tel: 07290-22464)
Camp: Satyagraha Houses, Jalsindhi and Domkhedi
Email: medhapatkar@vsnl.com or baroda@narmada.org