NBA Press Release
  22 June 2002
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Saluting your Solidarity

B-13, Shivam Flats
Ellora Park,
Tel: 0265-282232

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-22464

Dear friends,

Ramkuwar,Mangat,Vinod Patwa and I were discharged from the hospital last evening. The Ketone/Acetone levels in our blood had gone down from positive to negative during the 24 hours in the ICU, total three days of our stay in the hospital and after application of 10-14 bottles of glucose per person. But the weakness persists and will vanish gradually in the days to come, we guess. Vinod and Ramkuwar needed more medical attention than Mangat and me.

Mangat in fact clearly had a secret pact with Ma Narmada, he remained so well all through the 29 days. The physical explanation for his good health is probably that Mangat is a very fit and active fisherperson and also that he was drinking something like 12 litres of water every day during the fast , when the other three of us were developing a marked antipathy to drinking any more water. Ramkuwar despite her critical condition at several points was able to push through to the last because of her steely determination and also because of her general high level of activity.(If there is a tree anywhere in the vicinity, Ramkuwar will always be found on it- rather than below it- a predilection that did not endear her with the jailer in Dhar jail when we were all there for a number of days last year). Vinod suffered enormous pain in the last three to four days of the fast because of extremely high levels of acidity. On the last day, my jaw and neck muscles had begun to fail and my palms were curling up, but it was found to be calcium deficiency because of the fast and could be reversed with injections and oral tablets.

As per reports none of us have suffered organ damage. But really and truly, our own bodies and minds surprised us as they pushed beyond what we had imagined would be their normal limits. As all of us sitting on fast are extremely ordinary people, who normally become tense and angry if we have to miss a single meal, it was very clear that it is the deepest aspiration of the people of Maan and the Narmada valley - for land and for life, the anger and the determination of their struggle, as well as the tremendous concern and solidarity that we received from all of you expressing, the prayers and the good wishes - that was the force unleashed that kept us afloat.

We have never met personally many of the people, who were thinking of us, writing, calling, fasting for the last number of days, but we know and can feel the bands of solidarity with which we are bound to each other. This amazing solidarity of hundreds of individuals and struggles humbled all of us, yet challenged us to see the inherent unity of all people's struggles and deepened our responsibility towards much larger constituencies.

In contrast what hurt us and yet taught us some very important lessons was the attitude of the state- harder than we have ever seen it, unwilling to respond and in fact determined not to respond to the pressure of the people's struggle or to concede to their demands. We have learnt that as the processes of globalization and privatization deepen, the state will refuse to take any stand to reverse resource alienation from the adivasis, the poor, the farmers, whether of their lands, waters or forests. After all it is in the commodification and the transfer of these resources that will be the main currency and hall mark of today's economy and tomorrow's.

We have also learnt that after Narendra Modi has set the new moral standard, the new parameters of human rights in this country or its vicious mockery, and because he could continue to remain in power despite generalized outrage, that all governments in this country, even those belonging to different persuasions have become less accountable and more tyrannical. And that in the last six months, the value of human life and of democracy has gone down. You can imagine depite the Governor's having intervened four times and having personally talked to the CM, the Deputy CM and the officers , the state refused to take any action. In fact on the evening that the agreement finally came through, the Governor had to send a very harsh letter insisting on land for land for the oustees and warning that he would take action under the Fifth Schedule if the Government refused to act.

And although as a result of the protracted struggle, the government has been compelled to meet some of the basic demands of the people in the last 35 days of the struggle of the Maan affected people, the limits to the extent that local struggles can influence the state has become very clear.For example in Madhya Pradesh, with even the BJP in the Congress pocket and with no opposition worth its name, there is no political threat to the present government, and no force that can halt it from becoming completely unaccountable and tyrannical. Therefore the need for alternative political forces to emerge, alternatives that are not only secular but also democratic and reflect the aspirations of the common people is very important.And if people's organizations are to transform themselves to a political force, how do we conceive of the challenge of the transformation - theoretical, political and organizational?

But to get back to the gains of the last one and half months struggle, as all of you know, what the struggle has succeeded in doing is to have the government constitute a committee that will consider the demands of the adivasis of Maan for land and rehabilitation and the other allied demands and ensure that rehabilitation takes place by 31st July, 2002. The process has been set in motion but the legal entitlements and natural resources that must form the basis of actual rehabilitation are still not with the people.

Meanwhile, the government is still upto all its old games - a rally was held yesterday at Jeerabad near Khedi with trucks of people (anganwadi workers and such like) carted in by the state. One of the slogans at this rally was to throw out the outsiders - and to burn down the people of Khedi - Balwadi. Even ignoring all this,in the Maan struggle, the next important land mark will be the recommendations of the Grievance Redressal Authority after a series of public hearings in Dhar and in the villages(being planned tentatively from the 1st of July for a week- 10 days but is yet to be confirmed), and the challenge will be to ensure that the recommendations are in the interest of the adivasis, and to have the state government accept and implement them.

In this context, to ensure that the gains of this struggle, that we, all of us have together have fought so hard for, are not lost or negated by the government , continuous vigil is imperative. We count on all of you flung all over the country and the world to keep this vigil with us. The Narmada Support Group in Bangalore have very succintly put together a list of demands around which we need to maintain this vigil. We will be very grateful if you could please write to Shri Digvijay Singh , Chief Minister, GOMP and to Sonia Gandhi stating that the following conditions must take place in order to ensure the minimum human rights of the affected adivais of the Maan area-

    1. Proper and time bound rehabilitation based on agricultural land, of the Maan Dam oustees as per the June 18th , 2002 Governmnent orders of the GOMP.

    2. Steps to ensure that water of Maan dam is not filled until the complete rehabilitation is ensured.

    3. Repair of all civic amenities , including water, in villages in Maan so as to enable villagers to resume normal life.

    4. Compensation to Maan dam oustees for hardship suffered as a result of the forcible eviction actions of the state.

    5. Moratorium on all large dams in view of the inability of state to handle the consequences of mega-dam projects.

It would also be very valuable if you could write to the Governor thanking him for his interventions and asking him to monitor the developments closely.

As you are aware, there will be enormous submergence in the Sardar Sarovar in the coming monsoon. On the other hand, the people of Bargi and Tawa are struggling to keep for their survival the vital resources: the draw - down land, the fish in the reservoir but are facing government callousness and indifference or loaded agreements in the process. In Maheshwar, the state is still trying to mobilise resources despite the utter and complete bankruptcy of the Project, its promoters and the government. The entire Narmada valley has its back to the wall and in the coming days will be counting on your support and solidarity. It is difficult if not impossible to thank all of you , but that is what we would like to do...

With warm regards to all of you friends everywhere,

Chittaroopa Palit
Mangat Verma
Vinod Patwa