Press Note July 12, 1999
PEOPLE DEMAND REVIEW OF SSP WITH NEW TRIBUNAL, PUBLIC HEARING
"Jal Samarpan" Inevitable If Dam Work Allowed Further
Reasserting that the people in the Narmada valley would face the
submergence this monsoon, Medha Patkar of Narmada Bachao Andolan
declared that the people will be compelled to resort to 'Jal Samarpan'
(Sacrifice in water) if the work on the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP)
was allowed without deciding about the comprehensive review of the
project with a new tribunal and with public hearing on the contentious
issues. The decision will depend on whether the work on the dam is allowed
above the present height of 88 meters, according to the time and situation.
This was declared at on Sunday (July 11) at a public meeting held in
Domkhedi (Maharashtra), where the Narmada Bachao Andolan has been
continuing Satyagraha (non-violent mass action). She asserted that the
political and judicial processes in this country will have to take
cognisance of the rights of the depressed classes, the tribals, Dalits
and the issues emanating from their struggles. She also wanted that the
Courts of India question the projects and their 'public purpose' which
are meant for the vested interests of elite section with the fictitious
estimates of cost-benefits violating the Constitutional, democratic and
human rights of the people.
Hundreds of men and women from all parts of the Narmada valley affected
by the SSP gathered at Domkhedi to express their resolve to oppose the
submergence and displacement. Apart from representatives from villages
in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Nimad, Gujarat, the representatives of
the oustees on 'resettlement sites' in Gujarat and Maharashtra too were
present. Before the statement was read out by Medha Patkar, the
seven activists broke their seven day old fast. Sitarambhai Patidar,
Pankiya Vasave, Philip Mathew, Tarabai Patidar, Ranjit Vasave, Komalbehn
and Medha ended their fast in Domkhedi. Gulabsinghbhai and Bawa Muhariya
were on fast in Jalsindhi, another Satyagraha centre on the opposite
banks in M.P.
Afterwards, the villagers and activists from various organisations
formed a human chain around the nearby Khad river, a tributary of
Narmada as a symbol, to protect the river. The people, particularly the
youngsters , then enthusiastically demolished a replica of the Sardar
Sarovar dam chanting slogans against the dam and displacement. The
programme was attended by, among others, Mr. Bhai Vaidya, Secretary of
Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Prof Sanjay M.G., National Coordinator of
National Alliance of People's Movement (NAPM), Ms. Juliete Maggot of
International Rivers Network, representatives of Nari Samata Manch,
Girangao Sangharsha Samiti, Students Christian Movement, Association for
India's Development, Lok Samiti and students of Tata Institute of Social
On July 12, Solidarity programmes are being held at various places all
over country including Calcutta, Mumbai, Delhi, Dhule, Malegaon,
Nandurbar, Trivandrum, Madurai, Kochi, Bangalore, Nagpur, Benaras,
Jaipur. The supporting organisations will be sending memoranda to the
President, Prime Minister and the three concerned Chief Ministers of
Gujarat, Maharashtra and M.P. Meanwhile Dr. Sanjay Joshi of Malegaon
Support group, has ended his five day long fast in solidarity on
Monday. In the valley, the main towns of Anjad and Badwani will remain
closed on 12th, with large public rallies.
While addressing the meeting Medha Patkar made it clear that the
people would be confronting the unjust submergence at the place of
Satyagraha and in their own houses, even at the cost of their lives. The
government "should not repeat the farce of 'saving the Satyagrahis' and
should not make false promises, while conspiring to drown the people and
their land", she said.
"We would also give an opportunity to the President of India to
intervene in the matter to save the tribals, as a part of his
constitutional obligation. We would expose the destruction caused by the
dam and submergence before the nation , we could not be silenced".
While raising issues regarding the judicial processes, she asserted
that "the incoming submergence would violate the decision of Naramda
Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT), the Constitutional provisions and the
previous orders of the Supreme Court itself. In such a situation, the
judicial process and system should not prove unjust merely due to the
machinations of the powerholders."
The judiciary will have to find a true, new way of justice about the
contentious issues between the political elite and the depressed
and victimised people. The judiciary will have to assess the
comprehensive issues raised by the tribals and peasants about the
development projects. She said that the Court must hold the Public
Hearing on the issues
affecting the hundreds and thousands of depressed classes and common
people. There is a need to change the colonial legacy of the judicial
process. The projects which affect large number of people must be
adjudicated with staying all the work on the project.
She wondered whether the order by the court, in violation of law,
constitution and its own previous orders in the issues like Narmada,
should strengthen the hands of the state to suppress the
people's power and wishes? Why can not the Court itself rescind
such an order, like its order of allowing the SSP work to go ahead 81.5
to 88 meters?
In such a context, Medha Patkar and the people declared that if the
dam work is allowed further without any decision about the
reviewing the SSP with the constitution of a new tribunal and with the
public hearing, without the just and full resettlement of those already
displaced people due to the reservoir, the oustees of canals,
colony, sanctuary with a proper policy, then the people will have to
pose an ultimate non-violent challenge to the system with
'Jal Samarpan' (Dedication in water). The decision about this ultimate
step would be taken if the work on the dam starts at appropriate time
and situation, she said.
JAN SAMARPAN (DEDICATION TO PEOPLE)
She made it clear that the decision of the 'Jal Samarpan' in the extreme
case of injustice, was not a sign of frustration, exhaustion or defeat.
Nor it is the sign of escaping from the struggle. This is accepting a
challenge and responding to it. Otherwise, according to the statement ,
there is a challenge to work for the alternative system without
exploitation, injustice and inequality; for the right to life and right
over resources for tribals, dalits, landless, peasants, workers, women
with the sustainable technology and people based decision making
development. For such a long work, accordingly, another tapa (twelve
years) of Jan-Samarpan ( dedicated to the people) is necessary. She
appealed the youth to rise to the occasion and dedicate a year of their
life to such work in Narmada valley and elsewhere.
The Satyagraha was launched on June 20 at villages Jalsindhi (M.P.) and
Domkhedi (Maharashtra). From 15 to 17th July a meeting of the project
affected people's organisations from different parts of country will be
held at the Satyagraha site.