NBA Press Release
  29 March 2006
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Three people on indefinite hunger strike to protest destruction of lives and livelihoods in the Narmada valley

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Badwani,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-222464
Email: badwani[at]narmada.org

We will not accept the government’s silence!

We will put our lives on the line to stop the destruction of the Valley!

Since the 17th of March, the adivasis, farmers, of the Narmada Valley have been sitting on a peaceful dharna in Delhi. On 8th March, 06, the Narmada Control Authority gave clearance for the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam to be raised from 110.64m up to 121.92m. This clearance, given on the basis of untrue reports and false claims of the government, will cause the destruction of the homes, fields and lives of about 220 villages in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. This decision is not just a blatant violation of the orders of the Supreme Court, but most of all, it has made a mockery of the human rights of lakhs of people still living in the submergence villages. As per the law, the governments were required to ensure that every single affected family was resettled at least 6 months before submergence, offering cultivable land for land and resettling them in resettlement sites provided with all civic amenities. However, in clear and inhuman violence of this it has not resettled atleast 35,000 families. It is to challenge this injustice and illegality that we have, for the last 12 days, been on this dharna, speaking out against this continuing injustice and challenging the Centre to use its powers and not to give in to the dirty politics and pressure of the Gujarat BJP government. We have met all concerned, from the Union Minister of Water Resources and Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment to the Prime Minister and President.

In all these meetings we have repeatedly exposed and proved the illegalities in the processes and the falsity of resettlement claims of the governments and the authorities. We also have proven that the authorities like the NCA and its sub – groups are just not capable of ensuring just resettlement and are mere pawns before the politics that determine when the construction of the dam can progress. Rehabilitation has been reduced to a paper exercise in the process. This decision, made possible by the political nexus between Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh governments, will not only murder the lives and futures of affected people but will also submerge a culture, a heritage, a civilization that is centuries old.

The cruelty with which the natural resources including land, water, minerals, of adivasis and farmers are being snatched away by governments, using brutal force in most instances, in violation of Constitutionally guaranteed rights needs to be stopped immediately. Those who will dare to measure these practices and policies, against human values are not to be found amongst the power wielders. This is the experience of the Narmada Valley, of every river valley, of all determined struggles of those displaced. Who does one explain to that the meaning of development is not social uprootment, destruction of nature and economic ruination. Or that true development the consent and participation of those to be displaced is paramount. Or even at the very least displacement must promise a just and better life through resettlement? Even one when ventures to say this, who is listening?

In the last 20 years, we have seen a great game unfolding in the Narmada Valley, which involves a mockery of figures. With this project of 50,000 crore rupees, the generations-old villages are being taken away from us by using water as a weapon. We cannot bear this. With our struggle and reconstruction for 20 years, we take up the challenge yet again. This is the final frontier of every struggle and the voice of displacement everywhere, from the death of farmers in villages to large-scale uprootment of bastis. In our eyes, this development that is based on capital investments from large Multi National Corporations, is leading to the massacre of our workers. Even the public sector is going in the same perverted direction. The principles of the capital market and political contractors are pushing this process forward. Sardar Sarovar Project best epitomizes this.

Those in power probably imagine that the resilient sathyagrahis of the Narmada valley, the adivasis and farmers, will be destroyed by mercilessly submerging. They also imagine that the throttling of the courage and resilience of those struggling in the Narmada Valley will open the path for an reckless and inhuman development.

... And this struggle is not just for the Narmada. It is for every valley, every village, every community under threat. And is the voice against the snatching away of sustenance and livelihood.

- Our pledge is that, while stopping the Sardar Sarovar project, any form of forced displacement without consent and participation is unacceptable. - We are pained and ashamed by the use of force and arms to displace people - We want that the planning of development projects must be in the public interest and within the democratic framework and through scientific processes - we believe that where a dispute has been raised by people, it should be resolved through dialogue and consent, and not through monetary inducements and threats of violence - The development planning must start in the gram sabha at the village level, and the basti sabhas at the city level - The Government of India should change the colonial Land Acquisition Acts and changes in the National Resettlement Policy must be introduced - We announce that peoples movements from every corner of this Country, raising such questions to come here, join this struggle and seek answers to the fundamental questions we all pose together

Therefore, from today, three representatives from the Narmada Valley, Jamsing Nargave from village Amlali in Badwani district (Madhya Pradesh), Bhagwatibai Jatpuria from village Nissarpur in Dhar district (Madhya Pradesh) and Medha Patkar begin an indefinite hunger strike at Jantar Mantar.

Dipti Bhatnagar
Clifton
Medha Patkar