NBA Press Note

January 31, 2001

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
62, Mahatma Gandhi Marg,
Badwani, Madhya Pradesh

Mahila Sammelan Appeals to Help the Earthquake Victims; Women of Narmada Valley Vow to Save the Sacred River; Baba Amte reiterates Commitment to fight Destruction;

Today the chants of 'Narmada Mai Ki Jai' were ringing in the air on the banks of the Narmada at Kasarwad, as the women of Nimad ringed in the auspicious occasion of Narmada Jayanthi amid much joy, devotion and faith. More than 450 women from the villages in Nimad gathered at Baba Amte's house to celebrate this joyful event. Shri Madhukar Deshpande from Pune and Shri Nattubhai, from Turkheda Gujarat, were also present in the celebrations.

On this revered occasion, Baba Amte said, "To avert a bigger calamity, we need to fight all the more now." Explaining the context, he warned that large dams are a big catastrophe leading to the submergence and destruction of rivers and the villages on their banks and this needed to be fought against. He went to add that the further detrimental effects it triggers needed to be prevented and the only way left was to fight against the dam and such destructive developmental programs. He further said that in 1994, during the submergence he remained firm in his house inspite of the rising waters and concluded with the declaration, 'Nahi Chhodenge Narmada Kinara' (Will never leave the banks of Narmada).

Smt Sadhnatai Amte read out the Sankalp, which was taken by the women. The women took the oath stating, "We, the daughters of Mother Narmada, have been cradled in her arms for centuries. Mother Narmada is the basis of our lives and helps in the growth and nutures development of all in the villages in Nimad, Vindhya and Satpudas. Our lives, our body, mind and wealth are all with her and have an unbreakable bond with her. We will never let this strong bond be severed."

The women, calling to mind the large-scale devastation caused by the earthquake in Gujarat urged their sisters to help in whatever way possible. They immediately collected cash contributions in a 'chunari'. And committed themselves to collecting relief materials and money from the villages of Nimad.

Smt. Medha Patkar, addressing the gathering said that the dams are threatening to submerge the age-old cultures and traditions of the people and the river. She said that the river valley civilizations are the oldest civilizations and these are being destroyed. Solemnly recounting the destruction caused by the earthquake in Gujarat, she added, 'To help the brethren of Gujarat, who are in deep crisis, is as holy as fighting to save the sacred Narmada river.'

In the evening, the women walked down to the riverbanks shouting 'Jab tak behene zinda hain', Ma Narmada ko behena hain.' (As long as the sisters are alive, Mother Narmada will flow) Standing on the banks of the river, the women performed a puja and offered oil lamps to the Mother. With the centuries old Shiv Mandir in the background they offered obeisance to 'Ma Narmada' in the form of 'Chunari', 660 metres long, stretching from one bank to the other. People in boats carried the 'Chunari' from one bank to the other. This was held in the air and then lowered into the waters of the holy river. Thereafter, the women took the traditional cleansing holy dip in the river.

After the rituals on the banks of the river, the women proceeded to Badwani, the district headquarters, and took out a relief collection-drive for the relief work of those affected by the earthquake in Gujarat.

Kamala Yadav
Sapna Kanera
Rukmini Kaki