NBA Press Release
  29 May 2007
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Sea of Narmada dam oustees protest in Khargone: Demand to scrap destructive Maheshwar Project

2, Sai nagar, Mata Chowk,
Khandwa,
Madhya Pradesh
Tel/FAX: 0733-2228418, 09425394606, 09425928007
Email: nobigdams[at]sancharnet.in

Declaration of struggle against injustice and repression

All of Khargone resounded with the voice of thousands of oustees from the Maheshwar and Upper Beda dams who marched through the district town yesterday. In the public meeting held after the rally, oustee after oustee demanded that the destructive Maheshwar dam should be scrapped and that the oustees of the Upper Beda dam should be rehabilitated and resettled much in advance of their uprootment. The gathered people condemned the repression that had been wreaked on the struggling villagers of Lepa and the lathi charge and tear-gassing of the 16th of May 2007, and declared that they would struggle against this injustice unceasingly. Representatives from Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar and Man as well as people from different organizations in the state and outside took part in the rally and public meeting.

Around 10,000 women and men began the rally from Kila maidan in Khargone and marched through all the main roads of the town up to TIT complex, where the rally turned in to a public meeting. Addressing the public meeting, senior activist of the NBA – Shri Alok Agarwal said the movement had established with the help of facts and figures that the Maheshwar dam was financially suicidal not only for the Nimad area, but also for the entire state. The State and the Company have failed to provide agricultural land to the farmers and landless labor alike as required by the environmental clearance of the Project and instead in desperation to gag the voice of the people, they resorted to lathi-charging the villagers on the 16th of May 2007. He said that we are winning our struggle which is proceeding on principles of truth and non-violence, and our persistence will yield a decisive victory.

Ms. Chittaroopa Palit of the NBA said that cases have been filed against the S.Kumars on grounds of fraud and willful default, and the CAG of India has also found very grave irregularities with regard to public money in their reports. Large –scale purchase of land by the promoters also appears to be in the violation of law. In the circumstances, the continuing support to the promoters appears to be a case of collusion. Only a strong and organized struggle can protect the rights of the oustees. She appealed to women's power and said that they must fight the new freedom struggle and in order to protect the coming generations.

Ms. Madhuri from Jagrut Adivasi Dalit Sangathan Badwani and representing Jan Sangharsh Morcha – the forum of 17 organisations of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh expressed solidarity with the struggle in the Narmada valley. Ms. Tara Barkade of Samajwadi Jan Parishad and Guliya Bai of Tawa Bandh Visthapit Sanghatan and Kisan Adivasi Sanghtan Hoshangabad told the gathered villagers about the struggle of the oustees of the Tawa Project against the Government that wanted to discontinue the reservoir fishing rights to them, and said that they were in total solidarity with the struggle and with the communities dependent for their survival on the riverine economy. Ms. Hamida Bee of Bhopal Gas Peedit Udyog Sangathan, Vineet Tiwari of Sandharb Kendra, Indore and Shri Shankar Tadawala of Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sanghat Jhabua also expressed their solidarity with the struggle of the oustees of the Maheshwar and Upper Beda Projects.

Advocate of the Mumbai High Court Ms. Usha Peri, Shri Amardev of Allahbad Paryavaran Raksha Sansthan, Ram Sagar of Human Welfare Association, Benaras and Jitendra Prasad, activist of Raibareilly and Ms. Rehmat from Kerala were also present and addressed the meeting.

Sushila bai – dam oustee of Village Mardana, Radheshyam Patidar of Village Pathrad, Dinesh Kewat of Village Behgaon, Devram Kahar and Radheshyam Vrrma of Village Lepa, Jagdish Patidar of Village Gogawan and many other oustees challenged the State and the Company and said that they would launch satyagraha in order to stop the dam work.

Banabai of Upper Beda Project said that the adivasis and Banjaras affected by the Upper Beda Project are demanding rehabilitation on the basis of agricultural land, and they were prepared for a determined struggle to secure the same. Shri Vishram Mandloi of Omkareshwar Project, Krishna bai of Indira Sagar Project, Ramkuwar of Man Project and several others said that the struggle of the people of the Narmada valley was one and we would jointly fight for our rights.

At the end of the public meeting, the villagers went to the Collectorate and raised issues related to the lathi-charge of the Lepa villagers and the use of force by the SDM Kasrawad himself, the damages to the houses by blasting, the urgent need to stop the Maheshwar dam and the demand to re-survey the entire area up to FRL and its back-waters by the Central Water Commission. They also stated that the State Government and the Project authorities would have to prepare a Rehabilitation Plan on the basis of agricultural land to be given to the farmers, their adult sons and daughters and to the landless oustees, and till such time, the no dam construction could proceed. The issues regarding provision of alternative employment to the fisher-people in the months when there was a prohibition on fishing, and the impact of the Indira Sagar releases on the draw-down cultivation downstream were also raised. The villagers waited for nearly two hours for the District Collector to give some reply to these issues, but the Collector who was standing there gave no reply whatsoever. The written petition was handed over to him with an ultimatum for necessary action in 7 days.

Jagdish Patidar,
Bhagwan Birla,
Yogendra Chauhan