NBA Press Release
  08 May 2004
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

NARMADA TRIBALS START LAND-RIGHT SATYAGRAHA; MAHARASHTRA POLICE MAKES IT
LAW & ORDER ISSUE, PROJECTS AS INTRA-ADIVASI FEUD

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Badwani,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-22464
Email: badwani@narmada.org

Over 200 tribal families from the nine villages on the banks of Narmada, affected by the 110 meters of the Sardar Sarovar dam, have launched the Bhoomi Hakk Satyagraha (Land right Satyagraha) by occupying the denuded forest land in Nandurbar district (Mahartashtra) on Saturday (May 8). This was in response to the repeated failure on the part of government to provide them with land-based resettlement, despite repeated assurances, committees and written declarations. And as the monsoon approaches with the danger of yet another submergence looming large, the Narmada tribals are left with no option or otherwise face destitution for sixth consecutive year.

The displaced tribals are determined to get the land based resettlement at least at this juncture and establish the Narmada Jeevan Gaon (Narmada Village for Life, as the government of Maharashtra failed to resettle them despite the number of attempts. Apart from the tribals from the Narmada valley, number of supporters from other parts of Maharashtra and India are joining them to help them to re-start the life. The villagers of Somaval resettlement site, the earlier re-settlers from the Narmada valley, have been providing all solidarity and support for their brethren from their own villages and are part of their struggle for gaining their rights.

The Maharashtra administration and police, however, are making it only a law and order problem. Moreover, they are encourage another set of tribals, led by the armed BJP worker of Taloda area Mr. Rupsingh Padvi, making claim on the oustees land. NBA made it clear that they do not wish to fight with their tribal brethren and together we should fight with the government for the land rights. Though these other tribals have no right in the land, which was a part of 1500 ha. Forest land, earmarked for Narmada oustees. Yet, the Narmada oustees would be occupying the land leaving off the cultivated area of other Adivasis.

The Narmada people declared that they would not cut a single tree or occupy the land of previous tribal settlers. They are determined to re-create their own life by raising the temporary shelters of tarpaulin and bamboo. They are going to build the Jeevan Gaon (Village of Life) with the novel and alternative processes in house building, water, health, education and other aspects of life. Their first priority is to prepare the land ready for cultivation in this monsoon, as they lost all their crops on the Narmada-bank villages due to the repeated submergence. Even the tribals in Somaval were not satisfactorily resettled. The government of Maharashtra had ceded only 2760 hectares of land out of total 4200 ha. Deforested land for resettlement of Narmada oustees. Even out of these 2760 ha., Over 100 families from Somaval have to get the land as yet. Now the Narmada families demand land-based resettlement of these earlier ousted tribals too, along with their own immediate resettlement.

Background

Over 1, 500 from Maharashtra and 10,000 families from Madhya Pradesh are in the submergence zone of 110 m. Despite the repeated attempts by the Andolan like like dharna and indefinite fast in Nashik in May 2003 or in January 2004 at Mumbai, and inspite of recommendations by state government appointed committees like Justice Daud committee, Task Force Committee, there is practically no progress on resettlement count. Maharashtra government has avoided implementation of the Cabinet^s own decisions taken on 21st and 28th of January, whereby the state was to update its records including the left out families and not to allow the dam height to go beyond 100m unless rehabilitation work was completed. When adequate land is not yet identified, records not updated, and roads not built, there is no way the governments could save the affected families, houses, villages, markets, and monuments, from drowning and devastation in this very monsoon.

It is now certain that the lands and houses of at least 10, 000 tribal and peasant families will be drowned this very monsoon due to raising the height of in the Narmada valley. In Maharashtra houses and farms of about 1500-2000 adivasi families in 33 villages from Manibeli to Bhadal (District Nandurbar) will be destroyed and submerged due to the raising the height of 110 meters of the Sardar Sarovar by June this year. And while the ministries and officials have been in heated activity with the elections, they are cool about the greatest human tragedy that is bound to occur in the Narmada Valley. The Madhya Pradesh government has simply written off thousands of families in the densely populated villages in the plains of Nimad and the adivasis in the Vindhya ranges.

Narmada valley people are determined to assert and gain their rights and to usher in the new life, alternative development. The people in the Narmada valley call unto all the people and organizations, who have faith in humanity, equality and democracy, to support them from various parts and join the new endeavour of Jeevan Gaon in the various facets of life.

Philip Mathew

Shyam Patil