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Press Note: 5 July 1999

Major Announcement of Struggle on 12th July : Nationwide Protests Planned
MEDHA, BAWA, SITARAMBHAI AND SIX OTHERS START FAST AGAINST INJUSTICE



As a mark of intensifying the non-violent struggle in the Narmada valley, nine representatives started fast on the fifteenth day of the Satyagraha on Sunday, July 4. In a large public meeting at Domkhedi on Sunday (July 4) Medha Patkar, Pankya Vasave (Vill. Surung, Maharashtra.), Bawa Mahariya (Jalsindhi, M.P.), Govindbhai (Pichhodi, M.P.), Sitaram Patidar (Kadmal, M.P.), Tarabai Patidar (Chhota Badada, M.P.), Ms. Komal (Piplaj, M.P.), Ranjit Vasave (Nimgavhan, Mah.) alongwith the supporters' representative, Philip Mathew (Kerala) announced their fast. Medha Patkar will be observing Moun (silence) during the period of the fast. On July 11, there will be a meeting of the representatives of the Narmada valley villages and on July 12, thousands of people in different parts of the country would undertake a token fast in solidarity with the Narmada Bachao Andolan and the issues it has raised. On the same day, there will be an important announcement of the next step in the Satyagraha.

The fast was started as mark of protest and against the betrayal, falsehood and injustice by the government and also as an appeal to the people all over the nation. This is also a warning to the government that the struggle will be intensified further. The announcement was preceded by a rally of about 1500 people who took an oath on the banks of Narmada to fight against the intimidation and submergence.

A number of organisations were represented on Sunday's important meeting of the Satyagraha. Hundreds of representatives from tribal villages in Maharashtra and M.P., Nimad areas and Gujarat resettlement sites, colony affected people participated in the meeting. People's organisations like Dankuni Mines Virodhi Sangharsha Samiti, (Anti-Mines struggle), Hawkers Union, Shramik Parishad, Anti-Resorts Committee and other organisations associated with National Alliance of People's Movements (all from Bengal), Pennurimai Iyakkam (Tamil Nadu), Students' Christian Movement (Kerala), Rashtriya Yuva Sangathan, Smile (Delhi), Samnvay (Ahmedabad) alongwith supporters from Nashik, Bangalore, Mumbai, Baroda were present.

In an appeal to the nation on that day, the nine activists made it clear that "The Satyagraha launched on June 20, will be a decisive battle. The battle is on behalf of the exploited and downtrodden people who have been sacrificed in the name of development for the benefit of the few and that too for a few years. The people will be confronting the submergence imposed upon them through the interim order of the Supreme Court, while still expecting justice from it. We do not see it as a a pressure tactic but an assertion by the people. It is a dream of the new, free society on the basis of a value system that has evolved through the years of struggle. The fast is to challenge the socio-political system throguh which such destructive development is imposed on the nation and the people and observance of 'moun' (silence) is for self introspection and for inner strength", they asserted.

Work on the Sardar Sarovar Project was suspended for about four years. However, the concerned governments have misguided the court about rehabilitation with false affidavits and wrong information. The court had allowed an increase in the height from 81.5 meters to 85 meters with 3 meters of humps. This would result in the submergence of an additional 2500 tribal families from about 50-60 villages in Gujarat, Maharashtra and M.P. The government's claim in the affidavits that all the affected people have been resettled is nothing but patent falsehood. It has been now established beyond doubt that there is no land for the resettlement of ALL the oustees from the three states according to the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) or Supreme Court's directives. Moreover, almost all the basic issues raised by the people's movement regarding the 'public purpose', cost-benefit and socio-political aspects of the dam have not been addressed. The government is trying to suppress all these issues and flush out the people with the threat of the submergence. In such a situation, the people have no option but to protect their life, resources and rights.

Joe Athialy
Nandini Oza