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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 Sciences.

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.


THE EXPECTATIONS

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.



Sanjay Sangvai