NBA Press Release

02 July 2001

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity! NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh
Tel: 07283-33162
Email: nobigdam@vsnl.com

Satyagraha of Maan Dam affected people begins in village Khedi
If there is no land to sustain generations, then people will brave the rising waters

Hundreds of Bhils and Bhilalas affected by the Maan dam being constructed on the Maan river in the Narmada valley in District Dhar in Madhya Pradesh began their monsoon satyagraha against the illegal and unjust submergence of their villages in Village Khedi today. The tribals gathered in a large public meeting in village Khedi expressed their anger that the government had neither the agricultural land nor the political will to rehabilitate the tribals on resources that will sustain them for generations. Despite this the Madhya Pradesh government increased the height of the dam with such callousness and premeditated cruelty that this monsoon itself half the total lands of the 17 villages scheduled to be submerged and a large number of houses will be fully submerged. In such a situation, the tribals affected by the Maan dam express their resolve that they will not move from the lands of their ancestors and will face the impending watery destruction and deluge, even if it means sacrifice of lives.

Despite the rains and the impending submergence within a few days there was a festive air in village Khedi Balwadi today- a festival of struggle. A large number of people from the other villages affected by this Project such as Villages Khanpura, Jharan, Badlipura, Garhaghat, Golpura, Sangwi, Meenakhedi and Rehtiaon were part of the gathering at Khedi. Also present at Khedi to express their solidarity on this occasion were people affected by the Sardar Sarovar and Maheshwar Projects as well as supporters from all over the country and abroad. In the entire Narmada valley, this year affected people will hold satyagrahas at four different places. The Khedi satyagraha that was begun today is one of them. The others will begin at Domkhedi and Jalsindhi in the Sardar Sarovar tribal area on the 5th of July and that at Kasrawat in the Nimad plains of Madhya Pradesh home to respected Baba Amte will begin on the 9th of July this year.

The people gathered at Khedi circumbulated the entire village. At each house in the two hamlets that will be fully submerged this year , the householders came out and expressed their resolve to be part of the satyagraha this year and brave the rising waters. They hoisted the flags of the Andolan on the house tops. The other dam affected people resolved to support this struggle till their last breath.

It may be noted that the 17 villages to be affected by the Maan Project in Dhar are almost wholly tribal. Yet, despite the fact that the rehabilitation policy of the Madhya Pradesh government for the oustees of Narmada dams requires that the state government rehabilitate the tribals on a land for land basis ,the government gave them a pittance in cash compensation in and around 1994, thus violating the policy and denying the tribals their legal entitlements and the possibility of a full life. It was only in 1997, when the villagers became aware of their rights to land that they began their struggle with the support of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. In April, 1999, after a month long dharna and fast in Bhopal the Madhya Pradesh passed an order that stated that the rehabilitation of the tribals would be done so as to precede submergence and that the affected people would be rehabilitated on the agricultural lands of the command area.

Despite this at the end of 2000, without having done any of the above, the Madhya Pradesh government suddenly accelerated the work on the dam and increased the height of the dam to 272 m mean sea level before the onset of this monsoon. At this height of the dam , most of the houses of Villages Kacchauda and Khedi and half of the total lands slated to be submerged will be inundated by the waters of the reservoir. Yet, the affected people are yet to be given agricultural land for their rehabilitation .As a result when the submergence comes this monsoon these people will have no alternative but to come on to the streets .

Addressing the gathering, Bondribai of Village Khanpura said the Madhya Pradesh government is drowning and killing tribals every where. The callousness of this government is more than that of a butcher. The state government has closed down the school and crèche in Village Khedi this year and has issued orders to shut off the electricity and take away the hand pumps in order to intimidate the villagers and cause them to flee. But we are firm that we will stand and stay and fight for our rights.

The gathering was also addressed by senior leader of the Sardar Sarovar affected area Jagannnath Kaka and Sitaram Baba as well as Ramchandra bahai and Bhuwaniram Patidar from Maheshwar. They said that the Madhya Pradesh government is thoughtlessly constructing large dams throughout the valley which will destroy this valley and Mother Narmada herself. So we have to unite to fight against this wanton destruction and if this struggle requires sacrifice , we will not step back.

The gathering was also addressed by Senior activists of the Andolan Alok Agarwal, Chittaroopa Palit , Vineet Tiwari of Sandarbha Kendra , Indore and Niti Dewan from Hoshangabad.

Parli, Village Khedi
Govind Rawat, Village Khanpura
Chittaroopa Palit