Save The Narmada, Save Humanity! NBA Press Release                                                                                 16 July 2000


"The struggle in the valley too is a war but much different from the war at Kargil. This is a war against injustice and it is bound to win against all odds" declared Admiral Ramdas, the former Chief of Indian Navy, while inaugurating the Satyagraha in the Narmada valley, on Saturday (July 15). In an impressive program, the monsoon Satyagraha of 2000 against the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) in the Narmada valley was inaugurated at Jalsindhi (Madhya Pradesh) and Domkhedi (Maharashtra) , with a resolve to confront the unjust submergence and displacement imposed by the government.

Nearly a thousand representatives from the far-off villages in the valley in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat along with the representatives from the Rehabilitation and Resettlement sites, colony, canal and sanctuary affected of Gujarat, with many supporters from different parts of the country thronged the function held at both Jalsindhi and Domkhedi. The atmosphere was vibrant with slogans and songs.

A huge Mahua tree was converted in 'Tree of Resolve' by nailing the plates with village names on it near the Satyagraha hut in Domkhedi. Hundreds of people have inscribed their and villages names, symbolsing their assertion of right to stay where they have been living for generations. While in Jalsindhi on the northern banks, people immersed the effigy of the Demon of the Dam in Narmada, after the ceremonial start of Satyagraha.

In his inaugural speech Admiral Ramdas said, "The struggle in the valley will continue till rivers flow. This too is a war, with slogans like "we will fight, we will win", but much different from the war at Kargil. This is a war against injustice and it is bound to win against all odds".

With the main theme of Satyagraha se Nyayagraha tak (from the insistence on truth to insistence on justice), the monsoon-long Satyagraha also emphasise on the Nav Nirman (Constructive work) with experiments on alternative energy sources, health, tribal medicines, village planning, resource mapping, education etc. The inauguration would be followed by the Youth Camp from July 16-23, the Day of Swadeshi, Samata and Svavalamban (indigenousness, equality, self-reliance) on August 1, Peace Day by the children in the valley on August 6, Martyrs' Day on August 9 and Independence Day for New Independence on August 15.

Senior village leaders summarized the essence of the struggle. Noorji Padvi declared that "we are ready to sacrifice our lives to right to LIVE". Baba Muvariya of Village Jalsindhi, in his speech said that the they own their lands since generations and at any cost they will not leave it. He further said "the unity of the affected people in three states is the foundation of Andolan. It is again and again proved that Government doesn't have land to rehabilitate the people." Dedlibai from Domkhedi was the most articulate. She said, "It's our land, forest, river and life. Not only Governments but even foreign companies are also trying to snatch this away. We have taken the challenge the challenge to save human life, protect human rights. Our Rehmal has sacrificed his life for us. We too are ready for that".

Medha Patkar made it clear that the Satyagraha has to be continued due to the still hanging sword of the submergence and the displacement with unjust means. She alleged that the governments are out to displace people with hook or crook, by submitting false affidavits, by bringing in the submergence when the people have not moved out. "We want the rule of law and assert the fundamental rights given by the Indian Constitution and the universal Human Rights. All these demand that the people should not be submerged and all the work on the dam be immediately halted for a comprehensive and participatory review." The activists and villagers rebuked the Gujarat politicians for playing up on the false hopes of SSP waters in the drought areas and asserted that the local, decentralised water harvesting and decentralised planning along with the sustainable utilisation are only the real, long-term solution for the water problem in Kutch, Saurashtra and other drought prone areas of Gujarat - not the Sardar Sarovar. Ironically, the supporters from Gujarat could not arrive at satyagraha place due to heavy rains in the state, which was reeling under severe drought barely a fortnight ago.

Among the dignitaries, who support the cause of Narmada Bachao Andolan for the last several years, apart from the Admiral and Mrs. Lalita Ramdas, renowned environmentalist Mohan Kumar from Kerala, senior political activist Sukhendu Bhattacharya from Calcutta and others were present. Supporters from Bombay, Malegaon, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, apart from Netherlands, Australia and United Kingdom too were present.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that, the Government of Maharashtra has decided to 'ignore' the Satyagrahis this year. As a result, for the first time since 1991, there are no police camps, nor wireless sets in the villages. Learning this, the people said, "We have resolved to confront the rising waters, thus confront the injustice. The Satyagraha is not a drama and we don't want the police to repeat the drama of saving us. If they are sincere let them take a truthful stand."

It may be recollected that the dam has submerged several houses and hundreds of fields, at the height of 88 mts. last year, even that being a drought year, causing extensive damage to the belongings and crops. This year with a predicted better monsoon, the damage will be much more. The Governments continue to take false stands on the number of people getting affected and the availability of land for their rehabilitation.

It may be recalled that the Apex Court has concluded the final hearing of the petition filed by NBA and has asked the Grievance Redressal Authorities (GRAs) to appraise them about the ground realities of the condition of rehabilitation of those already displaced and availability of land both quantitatively and qualitatively for the remaining Project Affected, up to the full dam height. The GRAs were to submit the report by July 1st, the status of which is not yet known. The final judgment of the Court is reserved.

With a resolve of "Doobenge par Hatenge Nahi" (Will face submergence, but will not move) the people are prepared to face the worst, to save their land, villages, forest and the river. The Satyagraha will be continuing till the end of monsoon. Like last year, hundreds of the project affected people's organisations, youth groups and experienced political, social activists, academics etc are expected to join the village representatives at the place of Satyagraha during the coming months.

Kesav Vasave
Joe Athialy