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Press Release July 14, 1999


Hundreds of people from all over India observed a day's fast along with holding a variety of programmes to express solidarity with the struggle in the Narmada valley against the Sardar Sarovar Project, and particularly with the Satyagraha that is going on against impending submergence.

From the larger cities like Calcutta, Bangalore, Trivandrum, Mumbai, Delhi to the smaller towns like Malegaon, Nandurbar, Badwani the people came out against the violation of the rights of the tribals and peasants in the Narmada valley. They asked the state governments and the centre to stop the work on the dam and have a comprehensive review of the entire Narmada Valley Development projects.

In Kerala, at least in five cities the dharana and solidarity programmes took place. In Trivandrum, Tiruvalla and Ernakulam the students, representatives of organisations observed fast. Justice (Retd) Krishna Iyer participated in Ernakulam. In Kozhikode and Thrissur too the meetings were held. In Trivandrum, noted political activist K.V. Surendranath, noted literateur and president of Kerala Women's Commission Ms. Sugathakumari addressed the meetings. Thomas Kocherry, president of World Fisheries Organisation and National Co-ordinator of the National Alliance of People's Movements felicitated the activists visiting the Narmada valley.

In Tamilnadu, programmes were organised in Madurai, Nagercoil and Coimbatore in support of Satyagraha. In Madurai, youths from number of organisations have observed a day long fast and a dharna. The National Alliance of People's Movements, has organised the video-programmes at various places in Tamilnadu.

In Andhra Pradesh, at least in seven districts, the programmes were organised in solidarity. On July 21st, a large torchlight procession is organised in Hyderabad. In Bangalore, despite the prohibitory orders in the city, the youths and representatives of various organisations held a daylong dharna and fast and distributed pamphlets in support of the people's struggle in the valley.

In Calcutta, about 200 people from 17 organisations, including the trade unions, hawkers' and displaced people's organisations held a dharna and observed fast opposite the Sealdah station, braving heavy rains. They sent a memorandum to President, Prime Minister and the three Chief Ministers about the impending crisis in the Narmada valley and need to stop all the work on the dam. In Delhi, a Dharna was held by organisations with fast. Swami Agnivesh, noted painter Vivan Sundaram participated in the event.

In Mumbai (Bombay), the supporting organisations carried out a signature campaign. Hundreds of people appealed to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra to present the real situation regarding the displacement and resettlement in the Supreme Court. They also demanded that the state government to call for a stoppage on any further work on the dam. In Pune, representatives of organisations observed a day fast and children wrote the letters to the President of India. They appealed him to "save the Narmada valley for their generation".

In Malegaon, a number of organisations observed fast and held dharna. Dr.Sanjay Joshi ended his five day long fast on 12th. In Nandurbar, the district headquarters of the submergence area in Maharashtra, 'Punarvasan Sangharsha Samiti,' an organisation of the already displaced people in the valley, and other organisations held rally and demonstrations, sit-in with the fast on 12th. The organisations pointed out that those who have already been displaced could not be resettled properly, the government has no right to submerge and displace the other tribals.

In Jaipur, Rajasthan, Sarva Seva Sangh, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) and various organisations held a daylong dharna. The representatives observed the fast. The organisations sent the memorandum to the President asking him to intervene as he is the protector of the tribals' rights according to the Indian Constitution. Letters were sent to three Chief Ministers too.

In the Narmada valley, people are gearing up against the submergence and displacement. About a thousand people took out rally in Badwani, submitted a memorandum to the Collector and went to the office of the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) office. The officials confessed that there would be six villages of Nimad region in this year's submergence. And, none of these were resettled. The people got this from him in writing.

There were similar rallies in Manawar, where the project affected people of Man and Veda projects joined the Sardar Sarovar affected people in the protest. The Maheshwar dam affected people held a rally in the town of Maheshwar and demanded scrapping of the dam. They collected Rs. 5001 for Kargil Victims Fund and gave Rs. 2001 for the family of Rajendra Yadav, a soldier from Nimad, who died on Kargil front.

Abroad, in Ann Arbor, USA, volunteers of the Association for India's Development (AID) held a 'candle light vigil' near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi on the University of Michigan campus. AID volunteers in several other cities of the US including Dallas and Washington, DC observed a one-day fast in solidarity with the Satyagraha. They have also collected signatures appealing the Indian President to protect the rights of the tribals, and met with the Indian Embassy officials to put forward their concerns.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of supporters are arriving at the Satyagraha places of Jalsindhi and Domkhedi as the Satyagraha enters the 25th day, to be with the people facing the submergence. A number of project affected people's organisations too participated in the Satyagraha. The latest contingent was from Vidarbha area of Maharashtra where people have been struggling against the Gosi Khurd dam and urban displacement. Senior Socialist thinker and president of Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Kishan Patnaik, Sunil from Kisan Adivasi Sangathan from Kesala stayed at these places in solidarity. In Jalsindhi, people from the number of tribal villages in Alirajpur tehsil have been participating in large numbers. The villagers have decided to confront the waters in case the submergence occurs.

Sanjay Sangvai