NBA Press Release
  07 April 2006
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Central Ministers' team tastes Narmada valley;s anger and resolve; ten days of fast and increasing nationwide protests and vigils to express support

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As the indefinite hunger strike by Medha Patkar, Jamsinghbhai and Bhagwatibai from the Narmada valley entered into the 10th day on Friday (April 7), there is increasing support from every nook and corner of India and from the International arena to stop construction on the Sardar Sarovar dam.

Meanwhile, on Friday the three member central ministerial team got a perfect taste of the Narmada valley, as thousands of people compelled them to visit the villages, presented the real picture of displacement and rehabilitation and reiterated their demand to stop the construction work on the dam. The three Union ministers Minister for Water resources, Mr. Saifuddin Soz, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Smt. Meira Kumar, Minister of state in PMO Mr. Prithviraj Chavan were compelled to break their official itinerary and visit the villages where people exposed the government's hollow claims, regarding the resettlement. The Ministers' team had to go to Avalda, Piplud, Avali and Nisarpur. The police mercilessly beat the activists and villagers at Avalda.

The people pointed out that the Madhya Pradesh government tried to force the cash compensation with police intimidation and they refused and made the police and officials retreat. They proved that the state government had prepared totally false and ex parte reports of resettlement, even when they refused to accept the cash compensation. Even the lone supporter of the dam, an old BJP worker, called for immediate stoppage of the construction work, as he sees no possibility of resettlement. Barring this isolated incident, the people made it clear that they were not ready to move out, without any credible evidence that they would be resettled with equally fertile and productive land, in a community and with all the resources necessary for living, as was put in the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal's Award. The outspoken ex-Minister Smt. Jamuna Devi invited the ire the people in Nisarpur by her intemperate remarks.

People time and again castigated the Ministers for the Union government's support to the infamous Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, by helping his politics of raising the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam. They expressed their resolve not to be cowed down by fraud or intimidation and assert their right to life and livelihood.

In Delhi, an indefinite fast by Medha Patkar, Jamsingh Nargave and Bhagwatibai has entered the 10th day on Friday (April 7). Medha and Jamsingh have continued their fast in the hospital where they have been detained by the Delhi police. On the dharna place Bhagwatibai, was joined by the two villagers-activists from Gujarat. Students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University and other institutions and organizations have been streaming up to express solidarity. The President of JNU students Union and other leaders, along with Prof. Kamal Mitra-Chenoy joined the fast as a mark of protest.

In Maharashtra, protest rallies, demonstrations, token fasts were held at number of places. In Pune, there was day long dharna on April 2, with number of organizations joining in. On April 6, three activists observed token fast and over 30 organizations and progressive parties joined them in dharna. The Communist Party of India, All India Janwadi Mahila Sabha, CITU, republica Party (Athavale group), Rashtra Seva Dal, Maan Bachao Sangharsha Samiti, Construction workers, Dalit, Adivasi and women's organizations, environmental groups, organizations working for alternative development and displaced people from various projects joined the dharna. The villagers of Maan, who have led a successful struggle against usurpation of their lands for IT park, observed the Black Day on April 6, as they saw the police brutality in Delhi

Similar protests took place in Aurangabad, Kolhapur, Sangli, Dhule and Mumbai. In Kolhapur, the CPI, Peasants and Workers' party, Janata Dal joined the protests along with Vigyan Prabodhini and other groups. Everywhere, they demanded the central government to stop the construction on the dam, while calling the Maharashtra to rescind its consent for raising the dam height. In Mumbai the organizations decided to hold demonstration every day at different locality, till the central government team announces its report. In Bangalore, a candle light vigil was held, attended by 300 people.

It was after a long struggle, perseverance as well as life and death situation, that the GOI was compelled to send 3 ministers (Water resources, Social Justice and MOS from the PMO) to the Narmada Valley to inspect the ground realities against claims made by 3 BJP led state governments as well as by its own officials, who were entrusted the duty of monitoring all aspects of Rehabilitation in the context of the Narmada Tribunal Award. Every one knows by now that the visit of the officials and by the R&R sub-group, that is legally binding and has to be done quarterly, has not taken place for the past 5 years. The visit of the Minister of Water Resources was planned because of the PMO's directives in November 2004. After the struggle reached its peak, ministers were finally sent, but this only marks the beginning of the government's compliance with its own directives as per resettlement and rehabilitation in the Valley.

Medha Patkar and Jamsinghbhai, both hospitalized at AIIMS, are continuing their fast. No IV has been given and nimbu pani continues to be their only intake. Both would like to thank all supporters in the country who have expressed their solidarity to the cause of development with unjust displacement and warn the Government that if they betray the people of Narmada, no community in this country will ever have faith in Rehabilitation and no project should be allowed to proceed presuming displacement without facing a radical challenge. If justice is denied after all this struggle, then justice will die.

Deepti Bhatnagar
Sanjay Sangvai
Kamla Yadav
Yogini Khanolkar