Narmada Satyagraha Update

July - August 2001

The Satyagraha against the illegal and unjust submergence by the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) and against the Maan dam has started. The Satyagraha drew wide support from India and abroad. As the supporters and activists from all over India are joining the Satyagraha, appealing to the government to stop the work on the dams, the pro-dam elements are indulging in the cheap tactics of scurrilous defamation and demands for ban on the Narmada Bachao Andolan. Even after the favourable Supreme Court verdict, the government seems scary of the challenge to the dam and displacement. Justice Daud Committee report has mocked at the irresponsible verdict by the Supreme Court of allowing the unfettered work on the dam. The Satyagrahis are resolved to dare the swirling waters, barely one to two meters from the Satyagraha house in Domkhedi.


First Woman Sarpanch - Gita Vasave

Gita Vasave, from village Nimgavan, the first to pass class 12th among the tribal women in the Narmada valley, has been elected the Sarpanch (Chief of village Council) of Undya Roshmal Panchayat. Gita is also one of the main NBA activists in the tribal belt, participating in many protest actions and went to jails many times. Undya Roshmal is the biggest Panchayat in the Akrani tahsil, with 20 villages. In the recently held elections, NBA representatives have won 10 out of 13 seats in this Panchayat.


Corruption, Inefficiency Exposed: Public Hearing at Bilgaon and Kumri (Maharashtra villages)

Bilgaon

The Jan Sunwai (Public hearing) has basically been the follow-up of the 29th June Morcha at Dhadgaon. Several issues raised at Dhadgaon needed to be checked villagewise with the government records. The representatives from the government were Shri.Sonavane, Deputy Collector (EGS), Shri.Shirsaat, Tahsildar (Akrani), Shri. Patlia, DFO (Akrani).

Over 250 adivasi representatives from Maal, Sawarya, Gendar, Bhori, Kuvorkheti, Trishul, Neemkhedi, Rajkaradi, Selkvi, Khordi, and Bilgaon had gathered to question and seek answers about developmental activities, employment generation.

The people asked for all the cost-estimates and expenditure on the developmental activities done in the area, like construction of roads. But though being prior informed the engineer had not got any files regarding the work. The people have called again on 3rd August, 2001 a large meeting of all the villagers who worked on the road to testify and also check the muster and other accounts.

The villagers questioned the payments made for employment guarantee works by the forest department. Though Rs.30 crores has been given to Akrani Tehsil alone for drought related employment generation, the officials were accused of not performing their duty even though the people reeled under extreme drought conditions. The officials were silent.

Kumri

It was found that even after almost 2 years of the implementation of the Joint Forest Management (JFM) Scheme, not all the villagers were informed, or aware of their rights in the programme nor they were consulted on important decisions. The only work that was done was the plantation of 60 ha of land and this land was also reported as not in Kumri. It was revealed that out of almost 24,000 saplings planted, only 2 mango saplings survived. It was found that the participatory aspect of JFM was inflated by the World Bank, without any basis since it is the Bank funded scheme. It is more like an understanding between one or two villagers and the forest officials.


Youth camps

Domkhedi

A Youth Camp was organized on the 25th and 26th of July at Domkhedi. There were 50 to 55 participants from the Aadivasi villages along the Narmada and from Nimad region.

Friends from outside the valley and senior activists and village representatives led the discussions. Adivasi History And Culture, The History of NBA, World Commission on Dams, Sardar Sarovar Project and Land related documents and land-measurement techniques were some of the topics of discussion. Keval Singh, teacher of Nimgavan Jeevanshala, Keshavbhai and Shripadbhai veteran activists, Ravindra Suman, senior activist from Koyna Dam affected region and other senior activists of NBA led the discussions.

Kasaravad

Two youth camps were held in Kasravad. One on the 27-29th for girls and another 31st July 2nd August for boys. Around 30-40 youths from the Nimad region participated in both the camps. Dr.Sugan Barant, Sadhana Dadhich and other activists led the discussions. There too, they had an indepth study about NBA, the issues of Sardar Sarovar Project in particular and of mega dams in Narmada and elsewhere in general, gender issues, history of other movements and different ideological streams in the country.


The Courts

Defamation case against NCCL and Indian Express

A criminal case was filed in the Delhi Magistrate against the National Council for Civil Liberties, a Ahmedabad based organisation and Indian Express for publishing defamatory advertisements against NBA. In those advertisements, NBA was charged with Hawala transactions, stooges of foreign forces, violator of human rights in the Narmada Valley, letting loose the reign of violence against the project affected people and government officials and many other such baseless and deceitful accusations.

The case came up for hearing before the Patiala House Courts on July 17th. V.K.Saxena, the President of NCCL is ordered to be served fresh summons while non-bailable warrants are issued to the editor and publisher of the Indian Express. The next date of hearing is 20.11.2001.

Legal Notices are served to the Dy.Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Jamuna Devi, for defamatory accusations against NBA and other news papers who published the advertisement of NCCL.

Contempt of Court case: Order Reserved

(from NBA sources and PTI) Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activist Medha Patkar and noted writer Arundhati Roy on Aug.2nd (during the 2nd hearing) stood by the views expressed in their affidavits and dared the Supreme Court to proceed against them if it found the remarks "contemptuous". Taking exception to the tenor of their affidavits filed in response to the contempt notices, the Court had observed, "The tenor of the affidavits may itself be contemptuous". A Bench of Justices G B Patanaik and Ruma Pal, after hearing counsel for advocate Prashant Bhushan, Patkar and Roy in person, reserved orders on a petition filed by some advocates seeking action against them for allegedly raising derogatory remarks against the judiciary and judges of the apex court during a dharna by the NBA before the apex court last year.

The Supreme Court has taken contempt proceedings against Prashant Bhushan, Arundhati Roy and Medha Patkar on the basis of a frivolous complaint filed by three Delhi lawyers. They alleged that the three respondents raised derogatory slogans against the Supreme Court, during a dharna in front of Court on December 13. First hearing was on 23rd April. Medha Patkar, Arundhati Roy and Prashant Bhushan asserted their right to criticize the Supreme Court while maintaining that they raised no derogatory slogans on that day.

The court, on Aug.2nd, has asked the Additional Solicitor General whether the affidavits filed by the three amounts to any contempt. Initiating the arguments, Additional Solicitor General Altaf Ahmed, whose assistance was sought by the court, read out portions from the affidavits which he felt were "improper and sermonising the court". He cited one para of Medha's and 2 paras of Arundhati's as contemptous. The para from Medha's affidavit is,

(Para no.24) "The Superior Courts have recently shown a disturbing tendency to use the power of Contempt against persons who have been criticizing the Courts and their judgements. A judiciary which insulates itself from criticism by using the power of Contempt, is bound to become insensitive to the people that it is meant to serve. This does not bode well for the future of our republic".

Shanti Bhushan, who appeared on the behalf of Medha argued that what she wrote is justified since the notice issued was a frivolous one and the registry should not have accepted the case at the first go, due to technical errors. But added that if they feel like they can take any action and that she is ready to face the consequences.

Roy, who argued for herself, said, "I find the issuance of notice insulting to me. I stand by my affidavit. If you (the court) think it is contemptuous, please proceed against me". That was all she argued in her defense.

When the Bench asked Bhushan as to why the assertions made in Patkar's affidavit "be not taken as an affront to judiciary", the counsel replied she was of the opinion that she had the right to protest against all organs of the state including the judiciary. The court said "There are positive assertions in the petitions, which if established and proved will no doubt amount to contempt".

The Bench, while reserving orders, said if it felt that there was nothing against the respondents, the notices against them would be quashed. However, if it were of the view that an inquiry was needed to establish facts, it would order so. On the other hand, if the court found any of the respondents' remarks made in the affidavit as prima facie contemptuous, separate notices would be issued against them.

The court had simultaneously warned the petitioner advocates - J R Parasher, Umed Singh and R K Virmani - that if the allegations they have made against the respondents were found to be false, "You may also be sent to jail".


Programs Ahead...

Martyrs Day and Independence Day...

'Piha' (Bansuri flute) to slogans in the Satyagraha express the cultural roots and commitment to life. Only the assertion of people's sovereignty, rights and vision can bring a fundamental change in the undemocratic, exploitative policies and destructive plans. Enron and Sardar Sarovar Project, we believe, are the two sides of the anti-national conspiracy of the dishonest politics and profiteers' economy, against the simple living communities, living with nature and human power.

August 9th Kranti Din (martyrs day) is the Day to strength our commitment and voice the protest. Farmers, tribal and others will come together in hundreds in Domkhedi-Jalsindhi to do so, while paying homage to the tribal martyrs including Rehmal Vasave of Surung village and soldiers of the first freedom struggle.

The Independence Day this year can't be celebrated without a voice raised to reject globalisation to centralization. Beyond struggle, it's Reconstruction, Regeneration and Recreation that can bring in true prosperity. We will come together on the eve of Independence Day, August 14th to evolve and assert our will and vision. We will hoist the flag on the 15th of people's sovereignty towards this end and have its reflection in the Gram sabhas.

Join us, one and all, in this effort to link struggle in Narmada to a nationwide agitation for life and livelihood, saving not just Narmada and its people, but our country and humanity.

Jeevan Yatra

Along with the men and women of the Narmada valley children have always been integral part of the struggle and effort to challenge injustice and save the valley from devastation. This monsoon brings the threat of submerging Jeevan Shalas - schools started and run by the Andolan. Jeevan Shalas symbolize Valley's aspiration for sustainable and equitable society; hope for the future... It is in this context that the 'Jeevan Yatra' of the children becomes significant. The children of 'Jeevan Shalas' (schools set up in the valley with local expertise and innovative syllabus) will travel from the Satyagraha venues to Delhi proclaiming their right to childhood, education and life itself. The children will invite the President of India to visit the valley and see for himself the truth. They will present him children's manifesto together with a basket of life containing symbolic representation of all that the valley holds dear, and may lose forever.

The Yatra will start from Kasaravat (MP), to be flagged off by Baba Amte. Travelling via Indore, Bhopal, Gwaliar (Madhya Pradesh) Agra and Mathura (Uttar Pradesh), the Yatra will reach Delhi and return to the valley via Jaipur, Bisalpur and Udaipur (Rajasthan).

These children are representatives of hundreds and thousands of children from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat states of the Narmada valley, who have refused to accept injustice and forced displacement in the name of development.

Appeal.....

We call unto you to be with us in the valley, during this Satyagraha. Only with your active participation in it, along with supportive actions in your place, can this struggle reach the goal.

Please confirm with our Badwani / Baroda offices about your participation.

Need for volunteers who can spend any period of time in the valley is urgent. They can share various responsibilities - from the village organisation, actions, constructive work to data and research, office work etc. Sensitivity towards people and their issues, readiness for sharing their life and willingness for roughing out are the only 'requirements'.

Contribute and encourage your friends to generously donate to NBA. It is surviving from the contributions from friends like you, from within India. Please draw cheques / drafts in favour of Narmada Bachao Andolan and send it to Ms.Pervin Jehangir, 261 Jupiter Apts., 41, New Cuffe Parade, Mumbai 400 005.


Case against ten officials of the Tehri Dam

Tehri, 21 June: Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a case against Ten officials of the Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC) in addition to a company involved in Tehri dam construction for irregularities of about Rs. 110 million in connection with construction of Tehri Dam Project. CBI has already filed a case earlier involving corruption in this project and it is also investigating half a dozen cases involved millions in corruption. The FIR charged ...... ten officials had misused their positions and conspired with the Jai Prakash Industries and had cause loss of Rs. 10,74,61,058.

Excerpts from English Translation of Press Report in Hindi Daily 'Dainik Hindustan' on June 22, 2001.

Dam waters add to flood in east India

By ANGUS DONALD
A severe flood in the east Indian state of Orissa that has affected 6 million people worsened yesterday as the authorities were forced to release water from a dam into the low-lying coastal region. More than 40 people have died, 7,000 villages have been submerged and about 500,000 people have been cut off by the flooding. A further 200 villages were flooded yesterday when water officials were forced to open the gates of the overflowing Hirakud dam, near Sambalpur in the north of Orissa, to prevent structural damage. "The more water that has to be released from the dam, the more dangerous the situation becomes in the coastal regions," said Hrishikesh Panda, Orissa relief commissioner.

Excerpts from The Financial Times; July 21, 2001