Save The Narmada, Save Humanity! NBA Press Release                                                                                 18 July 2000


Youth groups and organisations in various parts of India are expressing the solidarity with the monsoon Satyagraha in the Narmada valley against the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), while the week-long "youth camp" has started in Domkhedi to understand and learn the tribal culture and alternative development. With the apprehension that this years monsoon and submergence will be much more than that in the previous year, the villagers and activists have been undertaking various activities and village meetings during the Satyagraha. 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).

Large number of students and youths, representatives of other organisations staged demonstrations in Pune and Bangalore. In Pune, the students and organisations held an evening demonstration on July 15, near the staue of Senapati Bapat, in the heart of city, with songs, placards and distributing pamphlets and booklets about the Narmada struggle and people's demand. Senapati Bapat was the leader of the first anti-dam struggle, against Mulshi dam, in India in 1920s.

In Bangalore the protest was held under the banner of the Narmada Solidarity Forum, Bangalore. Various groups participated in the protests including environmental groups, trade unions, democratic rights groups, women's groups, legal activist groups, dalit groups and NGOs. They include, NAPM - Karnataka, Samvada, Vistar, Dalith Mahila Chaluvali, Vimochana, Domestic Servants Union, National Law School, Raman Institute Of Research, Students Christian Movement and others.

Following the launching of Satyagraha, the youth camp started on the July 16 to July 23, with youths participating from different parts of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Bengal and other places. The resource persons include, Mohan Kumar, renowned environmentalist from Kerala, Dr.Sugan Baranth, senior Sarvodaya activist from Maharashtra, Dr.Ravi Kuchimanchi, Scientist, apart from tribal chiefs, village representatives and Medha Patkar. The youths are understanding the tribal culture and history, history and process of people's movements across the boundaries and participating in alternative and sustainable ways of harnessing water and production of power, tribal medicines etc.

Supporters from different parts of the country continue to pour in. Representatives from different people's movements and student organisations form Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka and other places have already reached Jalsindhi and Domkhedi.

The Satyagraha

The Satyagraha 2000 was inaugurated on the 15th of July by Admiral Ramdas (Former Chief of Navy). In his inaugural speech, Admiral Ramdas opined that the big dams were an obsolete development paradigm and even the Americans, the largest dam builders in the world have dumped the technology. He declared that, "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." The Satyagraha began at Jalsindhi (Madhya Pradesh) and Domkhedi (Maharashtra) against the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) in the Narmada valley, with a resolve to confront the unjust submergence and displacement imposed by the government.

Nearly a thousand men-women 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 attended the function held at both Jalsindhi and Domkhedi, which was vibrant with slogans and songs.

The huge Mahua tree, providing shade to the Satyagrahis in Domkhedi, is now a "Tree of Resolve" with hundreds of plates nailed on it, with village 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. Supporters from West Bengal, different parts of Maharashtra including Bombay, Malegaon, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, apart from Netherlands, Australia and United Kingdom too were present, for the inaugural function.

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.

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 wire-less 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, upto 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.

Joe Athialy